Cablegate: Nigeria: Scenesetter for Codel Johnson (August

DE RUEHUJA #1593/01 2241438
P 111438Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
18-20, 2008)


1. (SBU) U.S. Mission Nigeria warmly welcomes Congressman
Henry "Hank" Johnson, Jr. and his delegation to Abuja. Your
visit comes three months into President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's
second year in office. Though the President came to power
through deeply flawed elections, he was initially praised by
many Nigerians and the international community for his
pledges to reform Nigeria's political system, improve the
economy, and instill a culture of respect for the rule of
law. However, after more than a year of his administration,
observers have grown restless to see Yar'Adua's positive
rhetoric translate into tangible results. A May 2008 opinion
poll indicated that President Yar'Adua's popularity had
dropped to approximately 48% from its high of over 70% in
September 2007. The Yar'Adua government inherited many
serious challenges. Decades of unaccountable rule suppressed
Nigeria's democratic institutions, eroded health and
education infrastructure, failed to combat HIV/AIDS, allowed
polio to reemerge as a transnational health threat, and
impoverished the population. Revenues from crude oil, by far
the country's most significant export, amount to just a
dollar a day for each of Nigeria's 145 million people, and
most of this has disappeared into the hands of a very small,
corrupt elite. An ongoing crisis in electricity generation
and delivery has crippled the tiny manufacturing sector.
Despite successful macroeconomic reforms in recent years,
most Nigerians live in poverty. Stability and security in
the North (where most of Nigeria's estimated 70 million
Muslims live) and the oil and gas-producing Niger Delta
region are challenged by poor governance, corruption, and
communal conflict. The people of Nigeria are starting to
lose patience, and the Yar'Adua administration is under
significant pressure to make needed reforms soon.

Politics of the Moment
2. (SBU) Nigeria had its third consecutive general election
in April 2007, and in May 2007 President Yar'Adua of the
ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) assumed office. The
transition from Olusegun Obasanjo to Umaru Yar'Adua was the
first successful civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in
Nigeria's history: a noteworthy achievement. However, most
independent foreign and domestic observers agreed that the
election which brought Yar'Adua to power was deeply flawed.
Two opposition candidates filed challenges to the outcome,
and although President Yar'Adua's election was upheld in
February 2008 by the Presidential Election Tribunal, his
challengers have appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.
It is not certain when the Supreme Court will rule on the
case, though many observers suggest it may be as late as
October 2008. Until the conclusion of the election
challenge, President Yar'Adua's tenure in office is not truly
secure, and this may be affecting his government's

3. (SBU) The President himself has admitted that his election
was flawed, and in August 2007 he established a 22-member
Electoral Reform Commission (ERC) which is charged with
making recommendations to improve future elections in
Nigeria. The USG as well as several other donor partners
have helped fund technical assistance workshops for the ERC.
The ERC was somewhat quiet during its first six months, but
has become more visible during the past four months and
conducted a series of public hearings around the country in
June. The ERC is expected to present its findings this
month. However, many observers believe that even if the
President is genuinely committed to electoral reform, he will
not take any significant actions on that front until the
challenge to his own election has concluded and his tenure is

4. (U) Both the National Assembly and the courts have enjoyed
greater freedom from executive interference under Yar'Adua
than his predecessor. The National Assembly has used this
freedom to hold hearings on areas of concern, including

ABUJA 00001593 002 OF 005

suspicious sales of land by the government in the Federal
Capital Territory (FCT) and lack of improvement in the power
supply despite the previous government's allocation of
billions of dollars for power projects. The National
Assembly seems to be taking its oversight role more
seriously, though the institution is still quite weak in
comparison to the executive branch. The Assembly is very
interested in building relationships with the U.S. Congress
as it looks to develop institutional capacity. The Nigerian
judiciary has been lauded by the public for its increasing
independence. Courageous judges have overturned ten
(counting Cross River) gubernatorial elections and dozens of
National Assembly seats. However, some cases are still
before the courts, and there are some credible allegations of
bribery of certain judges in other cases; in addition, all of
Nigeria's criminal courts are seriously backlogged.

5. (SBU) Part of President Yar'Adua's pledge to instill
respect for the rule of law is continuing Nigeria's
anti-corruption efforts, which are most visibly led by the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Though many
observers were pleased that the EFCC seemed invigorated in
the early days of the administration, bringing charges
against six former governors and investigating many other
former governors and high-ranking former public officials,
progress has slowed since early 2008. The government removed
the internationally recognized head of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu,
in late December 2007. The President appointed a new EFCC
Chairwoman, Farida Waziri, in May 2008. Although two former
governors under former President Obasanjo have been charged
since Waziri took the helm, lack of action on some of the
cases noted above have called into question the GON,s
commitment to pursue corrupt officials.

Nigeria's Role on the World Stage
6. (U) Nigeria is a major contributor to African
peacekeeping initiatives. It currently has troops in Sudan
and Liberia externally and internal deployments to the Chad
border and Niger Delta areas. The GON has also pledged to
send a battalion to Somalia, though discussions on the
modalities of making this happen continue. Nigeria is the
major African player in the Economic Community of West
African States(ECOWAS), and the headquarters of the regional
organization is in Abuja. On the other hand, Nigeria is also
the greatest impediment to ECOWAS-led trade liberalization.
Nigeria has the largest population in Africa (current
estimate: 145 million) and rightly sees itself as a leader
not only in the continent but in world affairs. Nigeria has
campaigned for United Nations reform and believes it deserves
a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. President
Yar'Adua had a very positive visit to Washington in December
2007, which included a White House meeting with President
Bush. He visited France and South Africa in June 2008. Both
President Yar'Adua and Foreign Minister Maduekwe also
traveled to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for an African Union
Summit meeting at the end of June 2008. Both the President
and the Foreign Minister made public statements in June 2008
calling for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and on July
21, President Yar'Adua was quoted in press reports saying
that Nigeria did not recognize the June 27 run-off election
of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. According to the
media reports, Yar'Adua stated that Nigeria is committed to
rule of law within the country and throughout the continent.

Africa Command in Nigeria
7. (U) Press coverage of DoD's Africa Command (AFRICOM) in
Nigeria was markedly negative until early this spring. In
the months immediately following the announced establishment
of AFRICOM, local media repeatedly described the Command as a
USG effort to militarize Africa, and more specifically,
Nigeria. AFRICOM was also described as a sort of security
cooperation agreement similar to NATO. On January 30, the
Ambassador held a press briefing to engage the media and help
clear up any misperceptions about AFRICOM. The response from
the press was substantial, generating significant positive
media coverage on the U.S. policy priorities of AFRICOM.

ABUJA 00001593 003 OF 005

Since the January 30 press briefing, there has been a
positive shift in the media about the perception of AFRICOM's
mission, from a view of the Command as solely for offensive
military operations, to now seeing it as more of a
cooperative engagement between partners on overall
military-to-military activities, humanitarian assistance,
capacity building and technical assistance programs. Although
senior officials in the GON have quietly expressed support
for AFRICOM; they also highlighted the need for the USG to
educate the Nigerian public and other government officials on
the specifics of the Command. Members of the Nigerian House
of Representatives Committee on Defense have shared similar
misconceptions about AFRICOM, claiming approximately 85% of
the legislators in the current National Assembly do not
understand what the Command is intended to do. The
legislators, however, have expressed interest in a dialogue
on the subject of AFRICOM and have urged the USG to build a
stronger bilateral military relationship with Nigeria.

Niger Delta
8. (U) For several years, armed groups have attacked
individuals and property in the volatile Niger Delta region.
Upon assuming office, President Yar'Adua pledged to make
resolving the Niger Delta crisis a top priority. He
acknowledged the need for greater security, infrastructure
development, and job creation in the oil-producing region and
pledged to hold a Niger Delta summit early in his
administration. One year later, that summit has not yet
happened, though plans are under way for a "Consultative
Steering Committee" to begin discussions on the Niger Delta.
UN official Ibrahim Gambari, a Nigerian citizen who agreed to
take leave from his position as UN Undersecretary General to
lead the discussions, ended up withdrawing from the position
of Committee Chairman on July 10 due to pressure from Niger
Delta stakeholders. A new Chairman has yet to be appointed
and it is unclear when this Committee will begin to meet. In
the meantime, attacks by criminals or armed groups (some of
whom claim to be part of an amorphous umbrella group called
MEND ) the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta)
on pipelines, oil platforms, and other infrastructure as well
as kidnappings of both Nigerians and expatriates continue to
disrupt oil production. On June 19, a group of militants
attacked Shell's Bonga field 75 miles offshore of Bayelsa
State. The attack shut-in the field's production
(approximately 200,000 barrels per day); in a related
incident, the same group kidnapped an American citizen.
(Note: The American was released by his captors the next day.
End Note.) Another group blew up an oil pipeline near
Chevron's Escravos terminal on June 21, temporarily halting
120,000 barrels per day of production. Reports are that
Nigeria is losing approximately $84 million per day on
shut-in oil production. On June 23, a spokesman claiming to
represent the fractious MEND sent a message to the press
claiming it is ready to begin a "unilateral cease fire" until
further notice.

The Economy/Global Food Crisis
9. (U) The Yar'Adua administration inherited solid
macroeconomic figures and over the last 12 months those
figures have stayed steady. According to the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), Nigeria's real GDP growth was 6% in
2006, and 6.3% in 2007, with 9% forecast for 2008. Inflation
remained in the (high) single digits until last month, when
it hit 12% due to increases in food and fuel prices. The
Central Bank and Finance Ministry are looking to an expected
bumper harvest to dampen food prices and return inflation to
below ten percent by the end of the year. Fiscal restraint
has been maintained in the 2008 budget. Despite strong
macroeconomic figures, the trade regime and investment
climate have not improved. Nigeria has failed to uphold its
commitments to the World Trade Organization and continues to
have high tariffs and bans on a number of imports, including
agricultural products and packaging materials. Job creation
and new investment are still hampered by infrastructure
problems, legal barriers to market access, high interest
rates and lack of investor confidence in the rule of law.

ABUJA 00001593 004 OF 005

10. (U) Though there have not yet been major food shortages
in Nigeria, prices for staples such as rice, maize, and
millet have doubled since December 2007. High world prices
for commodities are compounded by shrinking production in
Nigeria due to lack of fertilizer, and trade policies that
either ban outright the import of staple food items or impose
high import tariffs on agricultural products. However, in
May 2008 the GON agreed to lift the duty on imported rice for
a six month period and released funds for the purchase of
500,000 metric tons of rice. As expected, this has improved
supply and at least temporarily reduced rice prices in the

PEPFAR Nigeria
11. (U) Nigeria is the third-largest focus country for the
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
PEPFAR/Nigeria is jointly directed by USAID, CDC, and DOD and
the program is implemented by over 40 partners. In 2008,
PEPFAR/Nigeria is receiving nearly $450 million to increase
access to anti-retroviral therapy, prevention activities, and
HIV-related care throughout the country. As of April 2008,
USG-funded implementing partners are providing treatment to
150,000 Nigerians. Over the last 5 years, more than 2.5
million Nigerians have received HIV counseling and testing
services from PEPFAR-supported programs. The PEPFAR/Nigeria
team has put significant effort into building the capacity of
local NGOs and proudly counts 10Nigerian NGOs among its
partners. PEPFAR/Nigeria and its partners work in close
collaboration with the GON to implement PEPFAR and helped
prepare the recent submission of the country's Global Fund
Round 8 proposal.

Other Foreign Assistance Priorities and Activities
--------------------------------------------- ------
12. (U) The U.S. foreign assistance program in Nigeria is
crafted to meet the strategic goals of accountable
governance, economic growth and prosperity, a healthy and
well-educated population, and peace and security through best
practices development programs that enhance the image of the
United States. To establish firmer foundations for
democratic governance in Nigeria, the USG promotes
partnerships between state and local governments and civil
society to improve public expenditure management, public
procurement, and service delivery at the local level;
strengthen legislative institutions and build their capacity
to combat corruption; support the Electoral Reform Committee
to consult with Nigerian stakeholders and draft electoral
reform legislation; and increase the capacity of civil
society organizations and the media to press for targeted
policy reforms, focusing on extractive industries and
anti-corruption. To grow the economy and build livelihoods,
the USG program promotes Intellectual Property Rights and
strengthens the international framework that supports trade
and investment. The program expands the pool of credit and
investment open to individuals and small enterprises;
improves the policy environment for agriculture; increases
market-driven agricultural productivity and rural incomes to
reduce dependence on food imports; and supports policy
reforms to ensure that constraints affecting micro and small
enterprise operations and competitiveness are eased.

13. (U) Given high child mortality rates, soaring population,
and poor educational quality, assisting Nigeria to improve
the lives of its people is central to the USG program.
Tuberculosis and malaria prevention and treatment, routine
immunizations against childhood illnesses, including polio,
and increased access to maternal and newborn health
interventions help reduce the annual burden of a million or
more preventable young child deaths. (Note: Nigeria is one
of only four remaining countries with endemic polio, and this
is of particular concern because Nigeria's rate of infection
is growing, many transmissions are of the more virulent "type
1" strain, and Nigeria is exporting cases to other African
countries. President Yar'Adua and many other political and
traditional leaders are aware of the problems with polio
eradication and are engaged on the issue. In addition to

ABUJA 00001593 005 OF 005

supporting vaccination programs, the USG continues to engage
the government and traditional leaders to encourage Nigeria's
polio eradication efforts. End Note.) USG programs expand
access to quality voluntary family planning services to
reduce population growth. USG assistance improves the
quality of basic education by training teachers, providing
instructional materials, and engaging community institutions
such as parent-teacher associations. We also address poor
enrollment and attendance rates for girls in Northern
Nigeria, and support the integration of secular subjects into
the curriculum of Qur'anic schools.

14. (U) Nigeria plays a significant role in African regional
affairs through its leadership in the African Union, ECOWAS,
and other regional efforts. USG investments in peace and
security help Nigeria sustain oil production, conduct
peacekeeping operations, and deal with potential and actual
threats from terrorism, narcotics, and money laundering
activities. Conflict mitigation and reconciliation
activities target vulnerable youth and provide for interfaith
mediation, focusing on the volatile Northern and Niger Delta
regions of the country.

15. (U) Partnership and collaboration with the GON, the
private sector, civil society, and the donor community is a
cornerstone of the USG approach. In the coming year, the
U.S. Mission to Nigeria will sign Memoranda of Understanding
with reform-minded states and will focus development
interventions primarily in those states, integrating our
efforts and our strategic approach with those of the World
Bank and the UK's Department for International Development.
Over the next five years, we expect to leverage both private
sector resources and host country contributions to achieve
our foreign assistance objectives in Nigeria.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN: Bachelet Calls On Mexico To Step Up Efforts As Tragic Milestone Reached Of More Than 100,000 Disappearances

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday called on the Mexican authorities to step up efforts to ensure truth and justice for victims of disappearances, who now number more than 100,000, according to official data... More>>

ADC: Statement On The Assassination Of Shireen Abu Akleh

Early this morning in Jenin, Occupied Palestine, revered Palestinian voice Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist for Al Jazeera, was assassinated by Israeli Occupation Forces snipers...

Ukraine: UN Rights Office Probe Spotlights Harrowing Plight Of Civilians

Almost 76 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, countless civilians remain caught up in the horror and destruction of war, UN rights investigators said on Tuesday... More>>

Access Now: Elon Musk’s Twitter Buyout Must Not Come At The Expense Of Human Rights

Following today’s announcement that Elon Musk will acquire complete ownership of Twitter in a cash sale of around 44 billion USD, pending shareholder approval, Access Now urges Twitter’s Board, employees, and shareholders... More>>

UN: Biodiversity And Ecosystem Protection Highlighted On Mother Earth Day

Marking International Mother Earth Day, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid urged on Friday, for collective action to safeguard biodiversity and protect ecosystems... More>>

Ukraine: Hundreds More Reach Safety After Fleeing Besieged Mariupol
In Ukraine, humanitarians said on Wednesday that hundreds of people have managed to reach safety after fleeing Mariupol, where there’s also been condemnation for the killing of Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius... More>>