Cablegate: Nigeria: Vice President's Senior Special Assistant

Published: Fri 28 Nov 2008 05:48 AM
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Classified By: Ambassador Robin R. Sanders for Reasons 1.4 (B,D)
1. (C) Summary: Senior Special Assistant to the Vice
President Oronto Douglas (strictly protect throughout) told
Pol-Econ Chief November 22 that Delta State Governor
Uduaghan, with the support of the Vice President, has brought
peace to the troubled Warri South and Burutu local Government
Areas (LGAs); that Bayelsa Governor Silva has obtained the
agreement of the South-South Governors to coordinate their
activities with respect to militants; and that Rivers State
Governor Amaechi had made great strides in improving
education, skills training and rural agriculture in the
State. Newly elected Action Congress Governor Adams
Oshiomhole has been "well received" by the South-South
Governors, who recognize his standing earned as a national
labor leader and as the recipient of popular support in his
state. President Yar'Adua has promised to implement swiftly
the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Commission and
the Niger Delta Technical Committee, both expected to issue
in December; and the allocation for the Niger Delta, relative
to the allocation for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), in
the new budget is more important than whomever is chosen to
head the new Niger Delta Ministry, according to Douglas.
Discussions in Abuja about amnesty have not yet resulted in a
policy, or even a decision to have a policy, but a consensus
is emerging that criminals will be distinguished from
militants by whether they have committed murder, kidnapping
for ransom, or some other crime against persons; distinctions
will be drawn based "on intelligence", Douglas said. (Note:
Mission has reported what appears to be increased
intelligence gathering activities by the military Joint Task
Force (JTF)(Refs), as has the press. End Note) Former
Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) Chairman Ribadu's
problems result from "police politics" not presidential
mandate, according to Douglas. Although Douglas paints a
picture that is, as he describes it, "cautiously optimistic",
it is clear that he is well aware of the many challenges that
must be overcome before the Niger Delta crisis is resolved.
End Summary.
2. (C) Pol-Econ Chief met on November 22 with Oronto Douglas
(strictly protect throughout), Senior Special Assistant to
the Vice President for Research, Documentation and Strategy
during a visit by Douglas to Lagos. Douglas noted that the
President's deliberate approach to the Niger Delta had begun
to pay off. He noted that the President believes that there
must be dialogue over the issues in the Niger Delta. In
concert with that dialogue, there must be a process to sort
out the criminal elements from the ordinary people who are
not engaged in criminal acts.
Uduaghan Brings Peace to Two Troubled LGAs
3. (C) The situation in Delta State has come along nicely;
there is scarcely any problem at the present time, Douglas
said. Governor Uduaghan, with the support of the Federal
Government through the Vice President, has adopted a strategy
of engagement and inclusion. There are two Local Government
Areas, Warri South and Burutu, that have had serious problems
in the past. In 1997, there were a series of violent clashes
in the Warri South LGA between the Itsekiri and the Ijaws,
the Urhobos and the Itsekiri and the Ijaws and the Urhobos.
The majority of the population in that LGA is Ijaw, he said.
Therefore, Governor Uduaghan, who is himself of the Itsekiri
ethnicity, arranged that the LGA Chairman be an Ijaw man,
while the Vice Chairman is an Itsekiri. Other positions were
arranged with a similar ethnic balance, he said. The
candidate for the Chairmanship happened to be Government
Ekpemupolo's (Tom Polo) brother, George. In light of the
history of ethnic violence, and in part because he is Tom
Polo's brother, the South Warri LGA chairman is very aware
that he must perform in the position and bring development to
the community. In the second LGA, the Burutu LGA, the
Chairman is Frank Izukumor, a well-educated individual who
was put forward by the people of the community. His
candidacy was then backed by the Governor and by Tom Polo.
This backing, by the people, the Governor and Tom Polo, gives
this LGA Chairman the freedom to focus on development for his
people, not on illicitly "sharing" the funds which pass
through his hands. Delta Governor Uduaghan himself took
charge of establishing peace in these two previously
troublesome LGAs.
4. (C) Pol-Econ Chief noted that Chevron had been attacked
in the last week, and asked how Douglas interpreted that.
Douglas said that he was not clear where the attacks took
place, but he believes that they did not take place in Delta
State. There are bound to be renegades in any peace deal, he
said. Governor Uduaghan is to be commended, Douglas said;
he has performed in the face of great pressure and has
achieved peace in his state.
Bayelsa Governor Promotes Common Strategy for Peace
--------------------------------------------- ------
5. (C) Douglas has spoken with Von Kemedi, who is on
Governor Silva's staff. From what he knows from Von, the
Governor has adopted a policy of persuasion, and is
attempting to get the militants to forsake militant activity
and come on board. Some of the militants have agreed.
Governor Silva has also taken the initiative to organize the
Governors of the South-South geopolitical zone to coordinate
their efforts to bring peace; they can't all have different
approaches, Silva believes. At a meeting held in Yenagoa
during the week of November 17, the Governors agreed to take
a common approach so as to tackle the problem of criminality
in their states. They will begin to work out the details
through their Secretaries to the State Governments, Douglas
Rivers State Scores High on Development
6. (C) Asked how he views developments in Rivers State,
Douglas said he sees the Governor as scoring very high in
promoting education. To date, the Governor has sent 600
people out of the state to pursue college and masters
degrees. Douglas has spoken with the Governor's wife about
the work of her non-governmental organization (NGO), the
Education Support Initiative. The NGO is building nursery
schools throughout the state. She believes that by beginning
early to give children a proper education, their success in
later life is assured and militancy can be avoided. The
schools also benefit the parents, especially women, who are
free to go about fishing or farming activities while children
three to five are in school. To find teachers to staff the
nursery schools, the Governor's wife sent a message to every
village asking for nominations of individuals with the
requisite education and skills to staff the preschools. The
nominees were all sent to two months of Montessori training.
7. (C) Governor Amaechi has excelled in another area, that
of skills training, Douglas said. Like Bayelsa Governor
Silva, Governor Amaechi has already sent out 60 youths to
India for training in information technology (IT). The
Governor has also made a concerted effort to improve the road
system in the state. To improve rural agriculture, he has
appointed a former Shell Director to head his Rivers State
Agricultural Development Board. The Governor is under
considerable pressure form former Governor Peter Odili, who
wants Amaechi out of the way, whether through judicial
challenges or as a result of failure to perform, by 2011,
Douglas said. As a result, Amaechi sees his best chance in a
strategy that gets the support of the masses, not the elites,
behind him.
Challenges to Akwa Ibom, Cross River Tourism
8. (C) Douglas said that, in his opinion, Akwa Ibom (AI)
was doing very well; of the South-South states, AI is the
only state in which the German construction firm Julius
Berger has continued to work. The planned cargo airport in
Uyo is under construction, and the tourism corridor between
the new 5-star Le Meridian resort in Uyo, and the Tinapa
shopping area in Calabar in Cross River is a good idea,
Douglas said. (Note: Econoff, visiting Calabar during the
week of November 17, noted that Tinapa was open and several
shops doing business. End Note) However, the road between
the two locations is now impassable; in addition to repair,
it will have to be dualized in order to make it an effective
means of transportation between the two locations. Even that
alone will not be sufficient to jump-start tourism, he said.
The area will still have to be connected to the large
population centers in the more easterly parts of the country.
Among the ways to do that, he said, could be to extend a
rail line from Aba, in Abia State, to Uyo, in Akwa Ibom. A
second major consideration in generating tourism is assuring
security. If Calabar and Uyo experience a tourism boom, they
will attract criminals; security must be bolstered in both
places. That is why it is essential that the entire
South-South be secure in order for the individual areas to
develop, Douglas said.
Edo AC Governor "Well Received" by PDP Colleagues
--------------------------------------------- ----
9. (C) Asked how he thinks the new Action Congress (AC)
Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, will work with the other
South-South Governors, all of whom are from the People's
Democratic Party (PDP), Douglas said that "party is just a
label" with no ideological underpinnings. As a result, PDP
Governors will have no problem working with Oshiomhole.
Oshiomhole has a national support base, owing to his years as
a national labor leader. Moreover, he has a truly popular
mandate, Douglas said. Both elements assure him of the
respect of his PDP governor colleagues. At the meeting of
South-South Governors held in Yenagoa during the week of
November 17, Oshiomhole was well received, he said.
Nonetheless, Oshiomhole will not have a big purse to work
with, not because of anything the former PDP Governor
Oserhemen Osunbor did, but because of the actions of former
governor Lucky Igbenedion. The state is still paying back
loans from that era, Douglas said. That will make it
difficult for Oshiomhole to deliver on his campaign promises
to provide services to the people such as free education and
health care. Douglas said he did his National Youth Service
in Edo State, where he set up his first NGO, the
Environmental Rights Action group, and knows the state well.
Edo State is plagued with north-south tensions, he said.
Ogba, in the south-west, has oil, and that has generated
conflicts with the Benin monarch. However, Douglas said,
Oshiomhole is an activist and his activism will carry people
along with him. In addition, Oshiomhole will no doubt want a
second term, so he will need to produce results in order to
be reelected.
Niger Delta Budget More Important Than Minister Pick
--------------------------------------------- -------
10. (C) Pol-Econ Chief asked Douglas what he was hearing
about who would be the new Minister for the Niger Delta.
"The President plays things close to his chest", Douglas
said. Unlike the Chairman of the Niger Delta Development
Committee (NDDC), the Minister does not have to come from the
Niger Delta. More important than who is appointed minister,
he said, is how much money is in the budget for the Niger
Delta, and how that amount compares with the amount allocated
to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Having just returned
from a brief vacation, he will be scrutinizing the budget to
determine that in the upcoming week. Key projects include
the Warri to Akwa Ibom road, for which funding was so long
delayed under the previous regime. now that Julius Berger
has returned to work, the road must be completed, he said.
The Niger Delta Technical Committee report, which may issue
during the first week in December, may require submission of
a supplemental budget request, he said.
11. (C) Despite the advances made by individual governors,
development in the Niger Delta states is going more slowly
than anyone desires, Douglas said. Douglas is confident,
however, that by 2011 the governors will have stanched all
militant activities and achieved their development goals.
The runup to the 2011 elections is likely to be a
distraction, Douglas said; things are unlikely to change
completely in the space of one election cycle, he said.
Despite this fact, Douglas himself is a "cautious optimist".
One reason for his optimism is that the Election Reform
Committee is due to submit its report to the President in
December, and the President has promised to implement swiftly
those recommendations related to the Presidency and Executive
Branch over which he has control. In addition, he thinks
that the "right message" is getting through and will assure
that change is inevitable.
12. (C) Another reason to be optimistic is that the
Technical Committee on the Niger Delta will submit its report
to the Presidency soon, probably during the first week of
December, Douglas said. Although he has not seen a draft of
the report, he met recently with Ledum Mittee, the Chairman
of the Technical Committee, who was finalizing the draft.
The President will move swiftly on the Committee
recommendations to the Presidency and other Federal
Government agencies. However, recommendations that require
amendment of the Constitution will fall within the purview of
the legislative branch, he said.
Distinguishing Militants From Criminals for Amnesty
--------------------------------------------- ------
13. (C) Pol-Econ Chief drew Douglas back to his earlier
point, and asked how he would go about distinguishing
militants from criminals. He characterized the militants
into three categories: 1) Conscientious militants, driven by
ideology and interested in the survival of their communities
and their people; 2) Sympathetic, aligned, or opportunistic
militants, who had worked for the discredited governors or
other politicians, then when they realized the political game
was over, adopted the name militant; and finally 3) Criminals
who style themselves militants. Pol-Econ Chief pressed
Douglas to indicate how one could possibly distinguish
between the three categories. "Through intelligence
gathering", he said. (Note: Although Douglas did not expand
on this point, Poloffs have reported what appears to be
increased intelligence gathering activities on the part of
the JTF. (Refs) In addition, the Saturday, November 22
Guardian reported "A new security approach, which entails the
secret monitoring of families suspected to have links with
militants" is causing tension in some Delta State LGAs. End
Note) There are fewer and fewer conscientious militants, he
said. Whether they engage in kidnapping is an essential
criterion for distinguishing between the three groups, he
14. (C) Pol-Econ Chief asked whether the Federal government
is considering granting amnesty to militants. Douglas said
that some discussion have already been held in Abuja about
amnesty, and a consensus is emerging around three principles.
First, amnesty is appropriate for a person who gives up his
arms, eschews violence and is reintegrated into society.
Second, that person must not have committed murder,
kidnapping for ransom, or other act which causes harm to
persons. If a person were to give up his arms, but later be
found to have been engaged in hostage taking, for example,
that individual would be tried in a court of law. A fair
trial would provide him with the opportunity to defend
himself against the allegations. Third, the individual must
not have been a mastermind or ringleader of a murder,
kidnapping or other act against persons. Douglas cautioned
that there as yet no decision has been taken with respect to
amnesty, nor is there a policy; these three points are just
those which have come forward in the context of discussions
about how best to establish a just and enduring peace.
Ribadu's Troubles "Police Politics"
15. (C) Douglas commented that the Vice President had been
present at the National Institute for Policy Strategic
Studies (NIPSS) graduation from which former Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Nuhu Ribadu had
been excluded. The actual exclusion took place before the
Vice President's arrival, but the VP has asked Douglas to
look into the matter on his behalf. Ribadu's plight is the
result of "police politics", Douglas averred, and is not
driven by the Presidency.
16. (C) Comment: The issue of what to do about the
militants appears to be taking the same slow trajectory as
other issues related to the Niger Delta. According to
Douglas, the commission of crimes against persons, as opposed
to attacks on pipelines and other oil installations, is being
considered as the litmus test for distinguishing between
criminals and militants. In light of the in camera
prosecution of Henry Okah for treason, it would appear that
the government considers the importation and sale of guns
either to militants or criminals as treasonous. Sales of
military weapons by the military to militants or criminals
are also being handled in camera by courts martial, with
severe penalties being handed out. How these distinctions
will apply to well-known militant commanders is as yet
unclear. Although Douglas paints a picture that is, as he
describes it, "cautiously optimistic", it is clear that he is
well aware of the many challenges that must be overcome
before the Niger Delta crisis is resolved.
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