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Cablegate: Nigeria: Ministerial Screening Begins

VZCZCXRO9276
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1468 1921150
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111150Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0200
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0439
RUEHCD/AMCONSUL CIUDAD JUAREZ 0440
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 7361
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS ABUJA 001468

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DOE FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: MINISTERIAL SCREENING BEGINS

REF: ABUJA 1446

1. SUMMARY: The Nigerian Senate postponed its screening of
Ministerial nominees from July 10 to July 11 amidst
controversy over some candidates. At least three of the 34
nominees submitted by President Umaru Musa Yar,Adua have had
formal petitions filed against them, including Ojo Maduekwe,
Dr. Aliyu Umar Modibbo and Yayale Ahmed. Although it is
unclear how much attention the Senate will pay to the
petitions, they promised a thorough screening of all
nominees. The confirmation hearings will be broadcast live
on television for the first time in Nigeria,s history. END
SUMMARY.

2. Chief Ojo Maduekwe, the PDP National Secretary, was
nominated to represent Abia state. However, all three
Senators from Abia have declared their opposition to his
candidacy, which should make his confirmation difficult.
Critics say that confirming Maduekwe, who is from the state's
northern senatorial district, will further marginalize the
Ukwa/Mgwa people of the state who have yet to produce a
minister. Senators Enyinniya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) and
Nkechi Nwogu (PDP, Abia Central) forwarded their petitions
against Madeukwe to the President of the Senate alleging that
his nomination was against the zoning agreement that the slot
should be awarded to the Ukwa/Ngwa section of the state.
Senator Uche Chukwumerije (PPA, Abia North) did not sign the
petition but confirmed Sunday that he supported it. However,
Deputy Majority Leader Senator Ndoma-Egba reminded the press
July 10 that although the opinions of Senators from the
nominee's state are important and convention holds that at
least 2 of the 3 should approve nominees, "at the end of the
day when it comes to Ministerial screening, it is the entire
Senate that decides which way it goes."

3. Dr. Aliyu Umar Modibbo, from Gombe State, is the former
Minister of Commerce for past President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Gombe House of Assembly passed a resolution rejecting the
former Minister, reportedly due to the incumbent Governor,s
fear of Modibbo gaining too much power locally. The Governor
may fear that if Modibbo gains enough power he may challenge
him in future years.

4. Yayale Ahmed from Bauchi State is the current Head of the
Civil Service of Nigeria. A technocrat with no political
experience, it is widely believed that Ahmed received the
nomination due to his neutrality. The former Governor of
Bauchi saw his PDP party lose to the ANPP and decided to
nominate someone that all people would support yet allow him
to still govern from behind. Other politicians are said to
be balking at his nomination due to lack of experience and
credibility.

5. Deputy Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba said each nominee
and petition would go through a thorough screening one by
one. He also revealed that thus far only 17 of the 34
candidates have presented necessary documents to the Senate
to begin screening. Ndoma-Egba said that the screening would
be transparent because the hearings will be broadcast live on
local television. Senate leadership stated that the
screening exercise, scheduled to begin July 11, will ensure
only competent people are selected into the cabinet even if
the process takes weeks. However, the Senate also promised
that the screening would conclude within the shortest
possible time to avoid a constitutional provision that allows
the President to swear in ministers twenty-one days after
sending their nominations to the Senate.

6. COMMENT: Despite their promises of thorough screening and
transparency, it is unclear how seriously the Senate will
take the petitions against ministerial nominees. However,
the live broadcast of the screenings will demonstrate the
seriousness of the process. If the Senators do not ask
tough, relevant questions in regards to the petitions then it
will be clear that the exercise is just for show. END
COMMENT.
CAMPBELL

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