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Cablegate: Demonstrators Allege Impropriety by Edo State

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ABUJA 001181

SIPDIS

DS/IP/AF, DS/ICI/PII

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KCOR ASEC NI
SUBJECT: DEMONSTRATORS ALLEGE IMPROPRIETY BY EDO STATE
GOVERNOR REGARDING BURN VICTIM ASSISTANCE

1. Summary: A group advocating for Edo State burn victims
delivered a letter to the Embassy accusing the Edo State
governor of improper handling of burn victim assistance
funds. End Summary.

2. On Tuesday morning, June 29, about 50 demonstrators
disembarked from a bus and assembled in a traffic circle
about 100 meters from the embassy, where mobile police
prevented them from approaching. When RSO told the
demonstrators they couldn't protest there, they presented RSO
with a letter "for the ambassador."

3. The letter is from the Kerosene Fire Victims Welfare
Association (KEVA), a group acting on behalf of the over
1,000 victims of a series of explosions and fires in Edo
State in 2001. Background: The explosions are recounted on
a Lagos-based NGO's website:
. End Background.

4. In the letter, KEVA objects to a Memorandum of
Understanding between the Edo State government and the Body
Enhancement Annual Reconstructive Surgery (BEARS) foundation,
to carry out plastic surgery for about 50 burn victims.
BEARS will arrange for a group of American plastic surgeons
to visit Nigeria to perform the surgery, at a total cost of
N106 million (about $752,000).

5. KEVA alleges that the Edo government will pay the BEARS
foundation from a fund of donations that the government has
received as a trustee for the victims. The victims,
therefore, essentially will be paying for their own surgery,
contradicting the BEARS Foundation's mission that all
surgeries performed through BEARS are at no cost to the
victims.

6. KEVA accuses Edo State Governor Chief Lucky Igbinedion of
arranging the surgeries at Igbinedion Hospital in Okada, Edo
State, which is owned by the Governor's father. KEVA further
claims that Igbinedion Hospital was built on land that was
illegally confiscated from the community.

7. The World Health Organization (WHO), says KEVA, has
offered to perform the surgery overseas for free, helping 200
patients at a total cost of N26 million (about $185,000) for
transportation only.

8. Comment. The demonstrators arrived and departed quietly
after presenting their letter to RSO. When Emboff went to
discuss the matter, the group was already leaving the area.
End Comment.
CAMPBELL

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