Cablegate: Nigeria: Ngo Democracy Roundtable: 40 Ngos Give Mixed Views

DE RUEHUJA #2521/01 3590735
R 240735Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Nigeria: NGO Democracy Roundtable: 40 NGOs give Mixed Views
on GON Democracy in 2008

1. (U) Summary. On December 16, the Ambassador hosted a roundtable
discussion called "Looking Back on Nigeria's Democracy in 2008" with
stakeholders from 40 civil society organizations ranging from NGO
groups on electoral reform, democratic principals, human rights,
faith-based organizations, media representatives, and private sector
development. The purpose of this roundtable was to hear the NGOs
views of the challenges and successes of Nigeria's democratic
process in 2008, and to discuss what the democracy frontier for
Nigeria will look like in 2009, including the role NGOs can play.
Discussions focused on democracy and governance, human rights,
religious tolerance, press freedom, and private sector issues.
There was a general consensus that the GON has not provided adequate
governance or leadership, that there was a reverse of
anti-corruption efforts and that without infrastructure development
economic welfare and safety of Nigerian citizens will still be weak.
There was a sense that Nigeria needs some type of "non-violent
popular revolution of ideas" to spark better leadership, a change in
the cultural paradigm and move the country out of its political and
economic doldrums. However, in response to the Ambassador's direct
question on the potential for a military coup or intervention, given
Nigerians' level of disappointment in the government, all the
representatives said a resounding, "NO", highlighting that the
country has moved past this phase in its history. Ambassador
offered to hold a series of these NGO roundtable on going forward.
End Summary.

2. (U) NGO Report on GON Democracy
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Efforts: The general consensus by the NGOs was that corruption is
endemic through all levels of government and that there is a lack of
good governance and accountability. The demotion and continued
harassment of former EFCC Chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was described
as sending a message to committed public servants that they will not
be rewarded for honesty and dedication. Fraud in vote counting was
perceived as a key factor in the lack of citizen participation in
the electoral process as their vote is seen as not affecting the
outcome. Violence occurring during elections and the concurrent
lack of security evoke fear and intimidation among the electorate
when they attempt to participate. The upholding of the Yar'Adua
presidency by the Supreme Court was seen by some as evidence of the
lack of accountability in elections. Certain sectors of society
(re: the elites) are believed to control the key elements of
election process and power in Nigeria, leading to a frustrated and
disenfranchised electorate. Remedies suggested were that the GON
needs to fully implement the existing laws against corruption,
enforce those laws and sensitize the Nigerian public to the cost
that corruption levies upon their country in investment, lost
revenues and the misuse of funds. Participants also said the GON
needs to provide security during elections and hold accountable
those politicians who attempt to incite disturbances.

3. (U) Religious Tolerance/Diversity. Most of the participants
believed that the religious tensions which have lead to conflict in
Nigeria have been politically or tribally instigated. Christian and
Muslim leaders at the forum agreed that the various religions
coexist peacefully in Nigeria, suggesting that religious or tribal
factors are only used to cause dissent when some political advantage
can be reached. Participants suggested poverty, ignorance, poor
leadership, and political manipulation of the electorate as key
factors provoking religious intolerance. They suggested that the
government enforce existing laws, add religious tolerance to
educational curriculum, and continue to promote the idea of being
Nigerian first and foremost, above tribe, region or religion.

4. (U) Human Rights. Participants identified numerous abuses in the
present structure towards marginalized groups including, women,
people living with HIV/AIDS, children, victims of human trafficking,
and activists and journalists who attempt to report on controversial
issues. The courts are generally seen as corrupt, with justice
"depending on the amount of money you give to the court." GON
actions in the Niger Delta were specifically mentioned during this
segment, being reported as extremely punitive and brutal. Human
rights activists expressed grave concern over the lack of
documentation and reporting of human rights violations and cases,
the police perception that trafficked women and children in the sex
trade were criminals rather than victims, weak legislative oversight
in monitoring and funding those agencies that attempt to monitor

ABUJA 00002521 002 OF 002

human rights, and a complete lack of political will to change the
present atmosphere. On children in particular, there was grave
concern that in all cases involving youth, they are not seen as
victims but a key factor in the problems in conflict sensitive
areas. Participants recommended that the GON develop a comprehensive
plan of action for Nigeria, rather than relying on the states to
develop their own policies, which rarely get implemented. They also
said agencies responsible for implementation of a federal plan would
need to be fully funded and protected against political pressure.
One activist suggested that international aid be tied to human
rights adherence. Many argued strongly for better training and
accountability for the Nigerian police and security forces, seen as
some of the most egregious violators of human rights.

5. (U) Media and Press Freedom. Participants reported that press
freedom is diminishing in Nigeria, citing increased harassment of
journalists and other media representatives as clear evidence. The
media is seen to be resisting thus far, but there was great concern
that as pressure mounts and frustration grows, more professionals
will opt to leave the country when possible. Politicians are
increasingly filing legal cases against media who report on
allegations of corruption. These cases have not been resolved, but
present a continuing threat against reporters and those media
outlets who are trying to do investigative reporting. The police
have blocked access for reporters in several areas, most recently
during the disturbances in Jos, allowing entrance to only selected

6. (U) Private Sector and Democracy. Participants expressed
concern over the lack of an open relationship between the private
and public sectors. Representatives from several private sector
firms said the GON had not provided favorable policies or the
infrastructure needed to support private business in Nigeria. Poor
roads, the lack of a railway system, high taxes and interest rates,
and inadequate power and water supply were seen as critically
damaging to private sector development and investment. It was noted
that the existence of small scale industries dropped from eight
million to two million in Nigeria from 2006 to 2008 due to stringent
procedures, high interest charges and fees and documentation
required from banks in order for these small businesses to obtain
capital. Private sector representatives recommended that the GON
provide adequate training for vocational programs to build the
capacity of small and medium enterprises in Nigeria. Another
recommendation was that the Nigerian government put into regulation
that all multi-national companies operating in crucial industries
such as the oil sector of the Niger Delta must hire and provide job
training for a regulated proportion of residents of the community or
what is more commonly known as the local content issue.

7. (U) Comment: This forum ended with participants summarizing
their conclusions that the GON has not provided adequate governance
or leadership. There was reversal of anti-corruption efforts and
that the main challenge to economic development was Nigeria's poor
infrastructure. It was interesting to note that not one single NGO
thought that military intervention was possible at this point in
Nigeria's history. They saw their role as NGOs as trying to manage
or in some cases encourage a popular peoples' non-violent
"revolution" of ideas and cultural paradigm shift to move Nigeria
forward. The Ambassador offered to use her good offices to host
follow-on fora where these and other civil society organizations
could come together to develop a unified strategy or road map for
advocating change in Nigeria. Participants were very receptive to
the idea of continued dialogue and further meetings of this type.


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN: COVID Contributed To 69,000 Malaria Deaths WHO Finds, Though ‘Doomsday Scenario’ Averted
Disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in considerable increases in malaria cases and deaths between 2019 and 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday... More>>

Save The Children: World Leaders Urged To Halt Escalating Hunger Crisis

A group of 120 non-governmental organisations has joined forces in an open letter calling on world leaders to do more to halt a devastating global hunger crisis as new analysis shows the number of people likely to be in need of humanitarian aid in 2022 could rise by 17%...More>>

WMO: Another La Niña Impacts Temperatures And Precipitation – But Not Climate Change
La Niña has developed for the second consecutive year and is expected to last into early 2022, influencing temperatures and precipitation. Despite the cooling influence of this naturally occurring climate phenomenon, temperatures in many parts of the world are expected to be above average because of the accumulated heat trapped in the atmosphere...

Cook Islands: First COVID Case "historical"

The 10 year old child who provided two ‘weak positive’ covid test results after arriving in Rarotonga last Thursday, has returned a negative result in his latest test. That means he’s not infectious and this is an historical case... More>>

Oxfam: Failure To Vaccinate The World Created Perfect Breeding Ground For Omicron, Say Campaigners

Campaigners from the People’s Vaccine Alliance say the refusal of pharmaceutical companies to openly share their vaccine science and technology and the lack of action from rich countries to ensure access to vaccines globally have created the perfect breeding ground for new variants such as Omicron... More>>

World Food Programme: Millions More In Need Of Food Assistance As A Direct Result Of Conflict In Northern Ethiopia

The number of people in need of humanitarian food assistance across northern Ethiopia has grown to an estimated 9.4 million as a direct result of ongoing conflict, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today... More>>