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Cablegate: U.S./U.K. Team Assesses Nigeria's Preparedness for National

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUJA #0116/01 0281942
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281941Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0098
INFO RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0001
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0001
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 0079
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0001
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA

UNCLAS ABUJA 000116

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
DEPT PASS TO USAID/AFR EARL GAST
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL EAID PGOV PINR NI
SUBJECT: U.S./U.K. Team Assesses Nigeria's Preparedness for National
Elections in 2011

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SUMMARY

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1. (SBU) In response to a request from President Yar'Adua to the
Ambassador and UK High Commissioner (reftel), USAID and DFID
assembled and facilitated an international, independent team of
experts to conduct an assessment of Nigeria's electoral system.
During its two weeks in Nigeria, the team met with a broad variety
of election stakeholders in Abuja as well as Lagos, Kaduna, and
Anambra states. The team concluded that while some legal reforms
of the electoral system are warranted, key administrative actions
under Nigeria's Constitution and the 2006 Electoral Act could
produce credible elections in 2011. However, the team also
determined that there is a serious public crisis of confidence in
the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission
that must be addressed in a timely and transparent manner when the
current chairman steps down in June. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On January 12, the team met Minister of Foreign Affairs
Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who reiterated his President's commitment to
strengthen the electoral process and promised the team unfettered
access to any government body or individual. Maduekwe stated,
"Your mission has great support within the ruling party. The
People's Democratic Party knows it has a lot to lose and nothing to
gain, if there is a perception that elections are not credible.
The perception of a flawed election robs us of genuine victory when
it is forced to explain all the time that it did not rig the
election."

3. (SBU) The team subsequently met with the Attorney General, the
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Deputy President
of the Senate, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) as well as key staff, state governors, political
party leaders, civil society organizations, academics, media
representatives, and members of the diplomatic community. Team
members conducted field visits to Kaduna, Lagos, and Anambra State,
where they also met with State Independent Electoral Commissions.

4. (SBU) INEC Chairman Professor Maurice Iwu promised the team full
access to INEC permanent staff and facilities. He discussed his
understanding of the major obstacles to credible elections in
Nigeria. First, the political parties cannot purport to strive for
democracy if they do not embrace democracy within their own ranks.
Second, the parties absorb huge sums of illicit money and foster
general mistrust of elections with their "must win at all costs"
mentality. Finally, the U.K., EU, and Canada contributed to the
donor basket following the 2007 presidential election, but the U.S.
did not. (Note: Ambassador highlighted to Iwu in a January 29
meeting (septel) that the USG cannot enter into joint financing
agreements because it cannot track its foreign assistance funds
adequately under such a mechanism. End Note)

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RECOMMENDATIONS

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5. (SBU) Following its stakeholder consultations, the team
developed several key recommendations:

-- A) The Executive should reconstitute the INEC Chair and Board
"based on broad, inclusive consultation with the National Assembly


and the judiciary" to increase public confidence in INEC's
independence and impartiality.

-- B) The National Assembly should pass electoral reform
legislation "as a matter of urgency." The team noted that "It
became clear time and again that the political parties lack
internal democracy," and that the parties should hold their
primaries in a democratic manner, promote non-violence, and
denounce the use of intimidation and hate-speech.

-- C) Civil society organizations "should undertake a Parallel Vote
Tabulation (PVT) to verify the accuracy of results, thereby
improving credibility." (Note: USAID has requested $9 million to
conduct a PVT in the next election. End Note)

6. (SBU) Regarding INEC, the team identified several areas that
need to be addressed to achieve credible elections. Most boiled
down to public trust. As one opposition party member remarked to
the team, "If INEC remains INEC, no change will take place." The
team observed that INEC's "lack of transparency is not traceable as
much to the law as it is to the way INEC goes about doing its
work." The team suggested that INEC should organize standing
multi-party liaison committees and civil society forums to address
INEC's lack of transparency and its poor relations with most of the
other election stakeholders.

7. (SBU) The team also stressed the importance of the GON's
starting now to identify a replacement for the INEC chair so that
he/she could be approved and in place when the current chairman
steps down in June 2010.

8. (SBU) In another critical finding, the team said that INEC
should address the inaccuracies and inefficiencies of the voter
register and undertake vigorous action to promote the accurate
compilation, maintenance, and continuous education of the public
regarding registration.

9. (SBU) Lastly, INEC, the team stated, should improve the
transparency and verifiability of election results at polling units
and collation stations.

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TEAM CONCLUSIONS

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10. (SBU) At a debriefing of U.S. and UK Mission staff on January
25, the team judged that "if the Government of Nigeria wants free,
fair, and credible elections, it could have them right now." It
explained that although there are certain legal reforms that would
improve the electoral process, "the laws already in place, if
followed, would result in credible elections. Even if electoral
reform is not done, there are certain actions that could be taken
in relation to existing law to achieve credible elections." The
President can sign the administrative recommendations contained in
the Electoral Reform Committee report, but the GON should take
steps to address the severe lack of confidence in INEC.

11. (SBU) The team took exception with several reforms proposed by
the Justice Uwais-led Election Reform Commission. Providing six
months for campaign losers to pursue judicial appeals was excessive


in terms of a judicial process and it would also allow departing
incumbents more time to abuse public assets. Also, the team felt
that the proposed proportional representation system would lead to
a diminution, not an increase, in minority representation.

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NEXT STEPS

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12. (SBU) The Ambassador and the U.K. High Commissioner agreed to
request a meeting with Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to brief
him on the team's findings and specific electoral assistance that
the U.S. and U.K. might be able to offer. A short press statement
will be released, and the executive summary and action plan of the
team's report will be posted on the USAID and DFID websites 30 days
after debriefing the Vice President.

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COMMENT

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13. (SBU) Prior to the team's arrival, the Ambassador had engaged
with the Foreign Minister and the SGF to ensure that the team had
unimpeded access to Nigerian interlocutors. Both affirmed their
full support, and the SGF delegated his senior permanent secretary
for political affairs to spearhead the team's logistical
arrangements, which he did with great effectiveness. However, when
INEC Chairman Iwu canceled two meetings with the team, it appeared
the team had hit a dead-end. Once the Iwu meeting occurred, the
team finally obtained access to INEC and its staff, and said the
meetings with Iwu and his staff were fruitful and that they were
forthcoming with information.

14. (SBU) As a practical matter, the GON's management of Iwu's
replacement is vital. If a credible successor is named and in
place to exercise effective leadership the day Iwu departs, the
team judged that INEC could be sufficiently transformed in time to
be a credible steward of the 2011 elections. The Mission will
encourage the GON to support the team's recommendations to
strengthen Nigeria's electoral process. END COMMENT.
SANDERS

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