INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Senate Bribery Scandal Follow-Up

Published: Wed 29 Oct 2003 11:57 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
291157Z Oct 03
UNCLAS ABUJA 001864
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM NI
SUBJECT: SENATE BRIBERY SCANDAL FOLLOW-UP
REF: ABUJA 1728
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR PUBLICATION ON THE
INTERNET OR INTRANET.
1. (SBU) On October 9, 68 members present of the 109-member
Senate unanimously voted to drop consideration of bribery
accusations by FCT Minister Malam El-Rufai against Deputy
Senate President Ibrahim Mantu and Majority Leader Jonathan
Zwingina. The vote came after receipt of the report on the
probe by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges into
the FCT Minister's allegations that Mantu and Zwingina asked
him for a bribe to confirm him as Minister (reftel). Only
seven of the Senate Committee's eleven members signed the
report; the other members were said to be "unavailable" to
sign it.
2. (SBU) The Committee report, published in the press,
explicitly exonerated the 107 Senators not cited in
El-Rufai's and others' testimony to the Committee. Several
Senators have since publicly claimed that this exoneration
was proof they are not corrupt (COMMENT: a dubious
proposition in every sense). The Committee report noted that
El-Rufai did not provide any documentation that the two
Senators asked for the bribe, and therefore "in the strict,
legal sense of proof, Malam El-Rufai did not directly prove
his allegations." The report also stated that
"Circumstantially, however, there are grounds to believe that
the allegations are probably true." The report also noted
that both Senators voted in favor of El-Rufai's confirmation.
Senator Mantu has made public claims that El-Rufai was
trying to defame him in revenge for an earlier slight, but
the Committee noted the cordial relationship between the
three men and found no motive why El-Rufai would choose the
two Senators in question unless the allegations were true.
3. (U) Several groups and parties have already called for
further investigation. The Conference of Nigerian Political
Parties has asked Vice-President Atiku about his discussions
with the Senate leading up to the confirmation. The AD and
ANPP parties have petitioned the Independent Corrupt
Practices Commission to investigate. The Arewa Consultative
Forum (a Northern socio-political organization) and Afenifere
(a South-West socio-political organization) have called for
the two Senators to step down.
4. (SBU) Senator Mantu has commented in the press since the
October 9 Senate vote to drop consideration of charges
against him, but Senator Zwingina has not. Mantu publicly
"forgave" El-Rufai, but darkly claimed that pressure was
placed on him by the ruling PDP party leadership not to file
a lawsuit against El-Rufai. El-Rufai has not made any
further press statements. The PDP then formally invoking a
party gag rule on the three individuals October 16, and that
may be the end of the issue in public. For now.
MEECE
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