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Cablegate: Ambassador's Visit to Kano August 4-6, 2004

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ABUJA 001519

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT PLEASE PASS TO AF/PD FOR A. JOHNSON
IIP/G/AF- TJDOWLING
LAGOS PLS PASS TO IRO W. SIMMONS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ETRD ECON NI
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S VISIT TO KANO AUGUST 4-6, 2004

REF: ABUJA 825
1. (U) Summary and introduction. Ambassador Campbell made
his first visit to Kano as US Ambassador August 4-6, 2004.
The Ambassador dedicated an American Corner at the Kano
State Library, met with the Governor, the Emir, and the
Deputy Governor, and hosted a major reception for northern
dignitaries. Three months after the riots (reftel) in Kano,
the city appeared quiet and on the mend, but the erosion of
the state's manufacturing base is reducing economic
opportunities and could fuel further unrest. End Summary
and introduction.

2. (U) The reception brought together business leaders and
other notables in Kano, a city of eleven million people and
Nigeria's second largest. Kano is Nigeria's Chicago, a
major manufacturing center and historically the market
crossroads of northern Nigeria and other Sahel countries.
That crossroads makes it an important post for outreach to
the Muslim community. Essentially for the same reason, it
played a role in re-infecting several other African
countries with polio when Kano's governor banned the
immunization effort there for several months this past year.
The Ambassador's speech touched on both these issues, and on
our efforts to expand Nigerian exports under AGOA, on the
need for Nigerian democracy, transparency and anti-
corruption efforts to succeed, and on our standing with
Nigerians against ethnic/religious conflict in their
country.

--------------------------------------
Meeting with Governor Ibrahim Shekarau
--------------------------------------

3. (U) The Ambassador said he is happy that the scars of
the May violence seem to be disappearing, and to see the
polio vaccination program finally getting underway. He said
he would mention these positive developments and the AGOA
textile visa for Nigeria in his remarks at a reception the
next evening, and he asked how Kano State's economy is
doing.

4. (U) Governor Shekarau said he welcomed the textile visa
and offered to do anything he could to get Kano textile
manufacturers to take advantage of it. He added, "We (Kano
State Government) want to support such programs."

5. (U) Shekarau then painted a dismal picture of the state's
economy. He said Kano's industries have all been going
downhill since before his election. The Nigerian Electric
Power Authority (NEPA) cannot provide power, and his request
to NEPA to give priority to industries has gone nowhere.
Oil-related product prices are too high and still rising.
Fuel oil is hard to get, even at high prices, to run the
generators that the textile and other industries need in the
absence or unreliability of NEPA electric power. Higher
transportation costs have raised prices at each stage of
production, including of agricultural goods. And inflation
fed by all of the above is causing workers to continually
ask for higher wages, which prices many industries out of
Kano.

6. (U) Shekarau noted that his predecessor had started work
on an independent power project for Kano state. His
administration is now putting out a request for proposals.
It is also considering recycling rubbish to produce electric
power, and is working with an American company in Texas on a
generating plant.

7. (SBU) The Ambassador asked about Islamiyyas (Koranic
schools), and specifically if their graduates are finding
jobs. Shekarau said they are, because Kano state introduced
vocational training into the Islamiyyas' curriculum
following state funding of the Islamiyyas. He later
contradicted himself, however, by saying that while
vocational training aims to make Islamiyya graduates self-
employed, it will be a year or more before vocational
training is introduced in some but not all of the
Islamiyyas. (Comment. All other sources say that graduates
of Islamiyyas are finding it as difficult as graduates of
secular schools to find jobs, if not harder, and most are
unemployed or underemployed. End comment.)

8. (SBU) Shekarau also said the Kano State Government had
been doing "reconstruction and enlightenment" even before
the May riot, and that its reconciliation program is moving
forward. (Comment. Every other interlocutor in Kano,
including his Deputy Governor and an Imam who is involved in
the reconciliation movement, said Shekarau and the state
government had merely met with members of the Christian and
Muslim communities, and had not achieved reconciliation. End
comment.)

--------------------------------------
Meeting with Deputy Governor Abdullahi
--------------------------------------

9. (U) The Ambassador met with Kano's Deputy Governor,
Engineer Magaji Abdullahi, and asked about the impact of the
federal government's NEEDS program and its state government
SEEDS counterpart. (NEEDS stands for Nigeria Economic
Empowerment and Development Strategy.) Abdullahi replied
that what had been 300-500 light industries in Kano state a
few years back is now down to fewer than 200. For every
5,000 jobs lost in the textile industry, 15,000 people have
lost their livelihood through a ripple effect. The state's
electric power and other infrastructure is very bad, and the
"Dutch Disease" effect of high world oil prices on exchange
rates has priced Nigerian textiles out of of the Nigerian
market. Abdullahi added to Shekarau's remarks of the day
before (he had been in the same meeting) that Kano is
seeking U.S. investors for independent or state-owned power
projects in the state. Abdullahi said U.S. companies would
be coming to Kano with block-making machinery to build urban
housing, and probably a plant to convert waste to energy.

10. (SBU) Abdullahi also added to Shekarau's remarks on
Islamiyyas. He said the Kano government would divide them
into three categories based on their readiness to cooperate
with the state government. Only the Islamiyyas that will be
prepared to accept state funding will be offered vocational
training. He said this tactic would break the "mallams
(teachers) dependence on their students begging." (Comment.
Abdullahi was referring to the "majire" problem of poor
students coming to study under a scholar who teaches them
perhaps a few hours a day, after which they are turned loose
to beg on the streets. End comment.)

11. (U) Abdullahi also said he attended the National
Institute of Public Management in Washington in 1979.

---------------------------------------------
Meeting with the Emir of Kano, HRH Ado Bayero
---------------------------------------------

12. (U) The Ambassador made a courtesy call on Kano's
traditional ruler, His Royal Highness Ado Bayero, the Emir
of Kano. The Emir apologized for the few minutes delay in
seeing the Ambassador, as many people seek him out to
resolve disputes. In response to the Ambassador's inquiry
about rainfall, the Emir said the rains had started early
and had been adequate this year in most parts of Kano. He
regretted that many people have abandoned agriculture, the
result being lower food production and emigration from the
rural to urban areas. The Ambassador replied that one of
USAID's major focuses is facilitating development of
Nigerian agriculture.

13. (U) The Ambassador also mentioned U.S. assistance in
combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in conjunction with the
federal Ministry of Health, the State Government of Kano,
and various NGOs. The Emir agreed that HIV/AIDS is a
scourge, but noted that Nigeria has had better luck in
checking its spread than South Africa. The Ambassador
expressed pleasure that Kano has resumed polio vaccinations.
The Emir expressed relief that we could now put recent
events behind us and said the Kano State government is
encouraging traditional rulers to support vaccination. The
Ambassador replied that we have an opportunity to eliminate
polio from the face of the earth and our collective efforts
are essential to reach this goal.

------------------------------------
American Corner and Press Roundtable
------------------------------------

14. (U) The opening of the American Corner was the
cornerstone of the Ambassador's program and an important
gesture of goodwill to the Kano community. There is much
criticism of U.S. foreign policy in Kano (there has not been
an American presence in the area since the closure of the
USIS library a generation ago). The opening of the American
Corner was a crucial opportunity both to re-engage the Kano
community, as well as to provide the embassy a chance to
meet local leaders and the press in a positive setting.

15. (U) The Kano State Library Board hosted a large and
enthusiastic crowd at the event. Deputy Governor Abdullahi
attended the ceremony and gave remarks on behalf of the Kano
State Government. The American Corner event received
positive press coverage and featured prominently in the Kano
press. Much reportage repeated quotes from the Ambassador's
speech on the need for increased mutual understanding. The
Triumph, a state-owned newspaper, ran a front-page banner
article headlined "US, Kano Sign MOU on American Corner,"
with a photo of the Ambassador and the Deputy Governor
signing the MOU. The language was positive, and there was
also a center-page photo of the Ambassador's call on the
Emir; the Ambassador and Deputy Governor shaking hands at
the American Corner; and the State Commissioner of
Education, Hajiya Balaraba Bello Maitama, giving her
remarks. The News Agency of Nigeria's wire service also
reported positively on the event; its wire was picked up and
distributed across Nigeria by the Federal Radio Commission
of Nigeria (FRCN). (Radio is the most widely followed news
medium in Northern Nigeria.)

16. (U) Besides the opening of the American Corner, the
Public Affairs Section hosted a press roundtable. The
roundtable had two goals: to inform the Kano community of
the true American position on certain issues, and to allow
the Ambassador to introduce himself to the senior editors of
important print and electronic media in Kano. The intimate
set-up appeared to diffuse press hostility, and though the
questions were as sharp as PAS had anticipated, the overall
tone was not hostile.

17. (U) The Ambassador's points on immigrant visas were
reported in a wire by the News Agency of Nigeria and
broadcast by the FRCN. The latter also ran the News Agency
of Nigeria's wire on textile visas and AGOA.

-------------------------------------------
NEEDS and SEEDS in Kano: No Implementation
-------------------------------------------

18. (U) While doing advance work with the Kano State
Government, Econoff and Pol Specialist asked Governor's
Permanent Secretary Fagge how state implementation of SEEDS
(State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy) was
progressing. This is the envisioned state-level
implementation of the National Economic Empowerment and
Development Strategy (NEEDS), Nigeria's much-vaunted
economic reform and poverty reduction program.

19. (U) In the presence of Econoff and Pol Specialist,
Permsec Fagge phoned the Permsec of the Kano State
Government Secretariat and then informed us that the Federal
Government had not provided information about how it is
implementing NEEDS to Kano State. As a result, the Kano
State Government has not developed a SEEDS implementation
plan. From Kano's perspective, NEEDS remains largely an
abstraction.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Private Sector in Kano: Discouraging Environment
--------------------------------------------- ----

20. (U) Econoff and Pol Specialist talked with many other
established businessmen and women during the advance work
for the Ambassador's trip. Most expressed pessimism about
short- and long-term prospects.

21. (U) Alhaji Bashir Borodo, the National Vice President of
the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, related how he had
gone into and then out of the ice business. First, he had
had to truck in water because of unreliable public supply
and its low quality. Then the Nigerian Electric Power
Authority (NEPA) had cut the area's power supply so severely
that whenever Borodo's plant was operating, neighbors
complained about power failures. Finally, Borodo ran the
plant during only one shift, at night. Since it takes ten
hours to make one batch of ice, he finally concluded it was
not worth it and so closed the plant.

22. (U) Similarly, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, the former chairman
of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee,
related how he had tried to go into the soft drink business.
He and his partners had bought the rights to bottle two soda
brands, and he had taken a loan against his house to pay for
his shares in the venture. Soon they had to set up their
own treatment plant to bring the water up to standard. Then
they had to install a large diesel fuel generator for
electric power. They had to import their concentrate from
India, their bottles from Israel, and steel sheeting for the
crown caps from yet another foreign country. They also
discovered that the poor condition of the roads required
heavier budgeting for truck repairs, and security added a
significant cost because of armed bandits on the roads.
After revising their initial calculations, they found
themselves 150 percent over budget. The project was pursued
five years without producing a single bottle. The partners
finally sold off the assets of the firm.

23. (U) Various textile entrepreneurs, most of them Kano-
born Lebanese, generally believe that AGOA will not confer
major advantages. Although Nigerian wages are competitive
with those in East and South Asia and elsewhere in Africa,
Nigeria's cost of production ultimately is higher because of
lack of infrastructure. Only one entrepreneur in the
leather tanning business, a Mr. Visioni, thinks that AGOA
will improve his company's prospects. He manufactures
leather, fine leather dyed in seasonal colors, which he
ships to China by air, where it is made into Italian
designer shoes. His main Italian client is investing in
production in Kano, he stated. Still, even Visioni opined
that no one could make a go of production in Kano unless he
is willing to live there full-time and work hands-on.
Visioni himself was born in Kano, as were his children.

24. (U) Econoff and Pol Specialist also stopped by the
offices of the Kano Chamber of Commerce and met several
members of its board and acting managing director. One
board member expressed interest in developing alternative
energy sources in Kano, particularly biomass power generated
from municipal waste. Since Kano has little electric power
and much refuse, this option could address both problems.
Other members hope that AGOA will boost the textile industry
in Kano but conceded that, because of inadequate roads,
electric power, and water supply, their production cost
structure is uncompetitive compared to that of other low-
wage countries. Several members expressed hope that foreign
firms will take part in the twenty-fifth Kano International
Trade Fair November 27-December 6. They also said the Kano
Chamber of Commerce performs due diligence on potential
members before allowing them to join the chamber. If true,
our Foreign Commercial Service and U.S. firms might benefit
by working with the Kano Chamber of Commerce to gauge the
bona fides of potential business partners in Kano.

CAMPBELL

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