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Cablegate: Nigeria: President Yar'adua's "Useful" London

DE RUEHLO #1916/01 2051103
P 231103Z JUL 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 001916


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2018
VISIT, JULY 16 - 17


Classified By: Political Counselor Richard Mills, reasons 1.4(b/d).

1. (C) Summary. Nigerian President Yar'Adua's "useful" July 16 - 17 visit to London focused on Nigeria-UK migration issues, corruption and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Niger Delta, according to FCO Nigeria Desk Officers Catherine Inglehearn and Fiona Grant. In addition to meetings with HMG officials, Yar'Adua had "good, productive" discussions about UK-Nigeria investment in the financial sector with Lord Mayor of the City of London David Lewis, London's official business promoter. Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander pushed Yar'Adua to personally take the lead on combating polio, and Yar'Adua promised to form a presidential committee to deal with polio vaccinations. Pleased with Yar'Adua's visit, FCO contacts say they are keen to coordinate follow-up plans with the USG, especially on the Niger Delta and the EFCC. End Summary.

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Migration: UK Seeks to Return Prisoners Without Their Consent -------------------------------

2. (C) During President Yar'Adua's 16 - 17 July visit to London, UK concerns over migration featured prominently. At present, there are over 1,000 Nigerian nationals in UK prisons, and HMG is seeking to establish legal arrangements that will allow the prisoners to be returned to Nigeria without the prisoners' consent, which requires a change to Nigerian law. In his meeting with Prime Minister Brown, Yar'Adua agreed that "arrangements on prison transfers needed to be made." Although several legal obstacles remain, Inglehearn said HMG is content that it "is finally getting some traction" on the issue and HMG plans to follow up aggressively.

Corruption and the EFCC -----------------------

3. (C) Inglehearn said the Prime Minister raised corruption and the UK's concerns about the direction the EFFC is headed. She said Yar'Adua seemed "keen to improve" the GoN's track record on corruption and acknowledged that the EFCC needed to do better. While the Prime Minister's conversation did not get into specifics, Inglehearn said it was clear that Yar'Adua understood the UK's message on corruption and the EFCC. She described the discussion as "something to build on."

The Niger Delta ---------------

4. (C) Brown spoke about the Niger Delta in terms of the U.S.-UK Niger Delta Engagement non-paper (without specifically mentioning the paper). In response, Yar'Adua requested security capacity support, specifically training and assets, for the joint task force. Yar'Adua said he was also planning to engage the USG on security issues, but also looked forward to working with the UK bilaterally. In addition to "re-invigorating the UN's role in the peace process," he said the GoN needed to improve its intelligence operations in the Delta. Mentioning the need to address "blood oil" and reducing the trade of small arms as possible ways forward, he suggested that the Gulf of Guinea Security Strategy be re-invigorated.

5. (C) In his meeting with Brown, and later at a reception with Nigerian expatriates, Yar'Adua acknowledged that the GoN was not paying its share of the joint oil venture agreements. He said it was vital to tackle corruption in the Delta in order to ensure that the GoN could properly fund the joint ventures.

UK-Nigeria Investment ---------------------

6. (C) Inglehearn said Yar'Adua had "good, productive" discussions about UK-Nigeria investment in the financial sector with Lord Mayor of the City of London David Lewis, London's official business promoter. Given the significant LONDON 00001916 002 OF 002 number of legitimate Nigeria business ventures in the City and an increasing UK appetite to do business in Nigeria, Inglehearn said officials from the Lord Mayor and Yar'Adua's offices agreed to create a working-group to explore ways to facilitate business investment.

Polio -----

7. (C) DFID Secretary of State Douglas Alexander called on Yar'Adua to personally take the lead on combating polio, and Yar'Adua promised to form a new presidential committee to deal with polio vaccinations. Yar'Adua said the committee will look at promoting vaccinations in districts previously unreceptive to the polio campaigns.

Engaging the Public -------------------

8. (U) At an open Chatham House think tank event, Yar'Adua said democracy is expanding in Nigeria. He termed the recent court decisions nullifying several provincial Nigerian elections as "good for Nigeria's democracy." He noted many of the candidates whose victories were overturned were from his own party, but stressed increased democratic governance depends not on court decisions but primarily on Nigeria's ability to develop its infrastructure and security apparatus. He explained that the country is in the process of easing restrictions on foreign direct investment. Yar'Adua said he has set a target for Nigeria to become one of the world's top 20 economies by the year 2020, and said that the energy sector must be the driving force behind the country's development. He also reaffirmed his support for privatization, if it provides employment and revenue for the country.

Yar'Adua's Health -----------------

9. (C) Inglehearn and Grant said that apart from noticeable skin grafts on his hands, Yar'Adua's health appeared good throughout the visit. He was not very energetic at most of the meetings, apart from the reception with the Nigerian expats, where he was uncharacteristically engaging.

Comment -------

10. (C/NF) After Yar'Adua's positive and useful visit to London, HMG is keen to move forward on plans to help address the situation in the EFCC and stabilize the Niger Delta. While the issue of "blood oil" attracted some attention in some quarters of HMG, the FCO continues to advocate internally for real and practical solutions. They are making specific efforts to ensure that the Nigerian idea of "finger printing" oil barrels does not distract attention from the real problems in the Delta. FCO contacts report HMG is willing to consider the idea of oil finger printing in order to build on a Nigerian solution to the problem, but that HMG efforts will be focused on more immediate solutions. They welcome the opportunity to dovetail their efforts and follow-on engagement with USG plans. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX TUTTLE

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