US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1547

NIGERIA: AFTERNOON TEA WITH PRESIDENT OBASANJO

Identifier: 01ABUJA1547
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1547 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-07-05 13:32:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PREL PGOV SNAR ETRD BEXP KCRM MASS NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ABUJA 001547 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2011 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, SNAR, ETRD, BEXP, KCRM, MASS, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: AFTERNOON TEA WITH PRESIDENT OBASANJO 
 
 
REF: A. 00 ABUJA 1783 
     B. ABUJA 1531 
     C. ABUJA 1449 
     D. ABUJA 1446 
     E. LAGOS 1755 
 
 
(U) Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; Reasons 1.5 (b) 
and (d). 
======================== 
SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION 
======================== 
 
 
1. (C) After a several-week hiatus, Ambassador Jeter met with 
President Obasanjo for a relaxed, Saturday afternoon tea at 
the President's residence on June 30.  A very positive and 
wide-ranging discussion ensued which included security 
assistance (Operation Focus Relief and MPRI), law enforcement 
issues (crime in Lagos, FATF, counter-narcotics and 
extradition), the Delta, inter-communal violence in Nasarawa 
State, Obasanjo's planned September travel to the U.S., new 
leadership for the OAU and ECOWAS, AGOA. 
 
 
2. (SBU) Ambassador Jeter was accompanied to the meeting by 
his Staff Assistant (notetaker).  The President's Principal 
Secretary Stephen Oronsaye was also in attendance. 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
================================= 
36 STATES: THE GOOD, THE BAD. . . 
================================= 
 
 
3. (C) Ambassador Jeter began the discussion by noting that 
he had just visited Sokoto and Kebbi State (Ref C and D). 
The President noted that the Governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji 
Mohammed Aleiro, had recently been to see him, complaining 
that he was losing control of the mallams (Islamic religious 
leaders).  President Obasanjo, chuckling, recounted that he 
had suggested that Governor Aleiro stop giving them money 
while explaining to them that the President was coming to 
visit, and the money had to be put toward projects.  The 
excuse would be that the President wanted to commission as 
many projects in Kebbi as he had in Sokoto.  "After my 
visit," the President said he told the Governor, "just don't 
resume giving them any." 
 
 
4. (C)  President Obasanjo, jovially noting that it was good 
that the Ambassador was "getting out to visit Nigeria's 
different regions," began to order the States he believed the 
Ambassador should visit, based on his view of the quality of 
State leadership.  The President listed, in descending order, 
Katsina (Governor Yar'adua), Kaduna (Governor Makarfi - "he's 
a good boy"), Adamawa (Governor Haruna), Rivers (Governor 
Odili), Cross Rivers (Governor Duke), Bauchi (Governor 
Mu'azu), Plateau (Governor Dariye), Oyo (Governor Adesina - 
"Lam is the best of the AD governors"), and Benue (Governor 
Akume). 
 
 
5. (C) Huffing, President Obasanjo then added that Delta 
State (Governor Ibori) and Edo State (Governor Igbinedion) 
were "the worst." 
 
 
================ 
Nasarawa Update 
================ 
 
 
6. (C) Ambassador Jeter raised the recent communal violence 
in Nasarawa, that reportedly had displaced tens of thousands 
of people.  The President said he too had heard that 40,000 
people had been displaced as a result of inter-communal 
violence (Ref B).  He further added that three police 
officers had been killed, and three were missing.  President 
Obasanjo said that if he were asked to explain the reasons 
for the conflict, he would not be able to do so, except that 
it was a very old conflict between a people who see 
themselves as indigenous to the land (Jukun) and see the Tiv 
as invaders.  The President further noted that the Tivs were 
an aggressive people, who had the reputation of taking over 
wherever they went.  Ambassador Jeter elicited a 
knee-slapping laugh from the President when he rhetorically 
noted that General Malu was a Tiv.  President Obasanjo 
concluded by characterizing Nasarawa State Governor Adamu as 
one who "behaves and talks maturely," and indicated that he 
believed the inter-communal violence would be brought under 
control. 
 
 
==== 
AGOA 
==== 
 
 
7. (SBU) Ambassador Jeter noted that he had met recently with 
the Minister of Commerce, and had attended the Vice 
President's opening of the Ministry's AGOA office on June 29. 
 Nigeria had not yet met all of the requirements of AGOA, 
such as establishing a visa regime but there was clearly 
interest and efforts being made to do so.  The President 
stated that Minister Bello wanted to begin selling inputs to 
countries that had already qualified under AGOA, and asked 
the Ambassador if that was acceptable.  Ambassador Jeter said 
that as far as he knew it was, but that it was also important 
that Nigeria finish meeting the requirements to receive the 
full benefits of AGOA.  The President agreed, and explained 
that he had set an output target for goods under AGOA.  In 
response to Minister Bello's request to sell inputs to 
qualified countries, the President had agreed but had doubled 
the target Minister Bello had to meet. 
 
 
=================== 
Security Assistance 
=================== 
 
 
8. (C) TRUCKS:  The Ambassador informed the President that 
cooperation between the Embassy and the Army on Operation 
Focus Relief (OFR) had improved greatly in recent months, and 
that 1 Battalion (Birnin-Kebbi), 20 Battalion (Serti) and 222 
Battalion (Ilorin) had been selected for OFR P3 training. 
However, there were several issues that needed quick 
attention and resolution.  Ambassador Jeter informed the 
President that the trucks delivered to Nigeria during OFR P1 
had still not been sent to Sierra Leone, and that the two 
"missing" trucks were still, in fact, missing.  A visibly 
upset Obasanjo stated that he had wanted to deal personally 
with the issue of the missing trucks, but that NSA Mohammed 
had urged the President to allow him to resolve the issue. 
Turning to his Principal Secretary, the President proceeded 
to dictate a memo to the NSA.  His composition to the NSA 
stated that he was upset that the issue had not been resolved 
as promised, and demanded resolution and a report by July 4. 
Turning to the Ambassador, President Obasanjo said that if 
the NSA did not report resolution by July 4, he would deal 
with the missing trucks personally.  The Ambassador 
emphasized that unless all of the trucks from OFR P1 were 
delivered to Sierra Leone, the U.S. could not send new trucks 
for the units training in Phase 3.  The President agreed, 
saying, "Naturally," and added that shipping the trucks was 
easy to accomplish and would be done. 
 
 
9. (C) FOB: The Ambassador raised the need for a decision on 
a forward operating base (FOB) for OFR P3, and noted that the 
Air Force Base in Abuja had been discussed for many months; 
however, the Embassy had yet to receive a confirmation that 
the Abuja base would be acceptable to the military.  The 
President asked Oronsaye to make a note for him to raise the 
issue with Minister of Defense Danjuma. 
 
 
10. (C) MPRI:  The Ambassador explained that the MPRI payment 
had been made, but that it had come up short by approximately 
USD 320,000.  The President asked if that was due to 
fluctuating exchange rates, and waving his hand, said that it 
would be resolved.  The more fundamental concern regarding 
MPRI, the Ambassador said, was that counterparts had still 
not been assigned for all of the team.  This could be a very 
useful program for the Ministry and the military, Ambassador 
Jeter emphasized, but not until real cooperation existed. 
President Obasanjo firmly agreed that the program could be of 
great benefit, but said, "I don't think our people understand 
it well."  He noted that he had discussed the program with 
members of the Services during a military retreat in Kaduna, 
and it was clear from the questions that there was a lack of 
understanding.  However, he would meet the week of July 2 
with the new Chief of Army Staff (Major General Ogomudia), 
whom he described as "a man you can work with," unlike 
Lieutenant General Malu who "had a chip on his shoulder" and 
had "outgrown his shoes."  "Just don't worry," he told the 
Ambassador. 
 
 
=========================== 
DRUGS, THUGS AND LAUNDERING 
=========================== 
 
 
11. (C) FATF: Turning to law enforcement issues, Ambassador 
Jeter raised the FATF finding, and noted that he wanted to 
make sure the President was aware of the seriousness of the 
issue to Nigeria's image.  A visibly consternated Obasanjo 
said that the Minister of Justice had failed to act, and that 
he had reprimanded an apologetic Bola Ige during a recent 
Council of State meeting.  (NOTE:  After the meeting 
concluded, Oronsaye reiterated to the Ambassador the level of 
the President's frustration over the confusion and lack of 
action by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of 
Finance.  END NOTE.) 
 
 
12. (S) NDLEA SUPPLEMENTAL: Ambassador Jeter noted how 
pleased we were with the cooperation we were experiencing 
with the NDLEA.  However, the Ambassador also told the 
President that the Embassy was concerned that the NDLEA had 
only received 350m Naira in the supplemental budget, instead 
of the requested 2.2b Naira.  It was clear, the Ambassador 
noted, that the agency could not do its business without the 
resources, and that the size of the expected supplemental 
(2.2b Naira) had helped push Nigeria over the top during the 
2000 annual narcotics certification process.  A surprised 
Obasanjo, in reference to certification, said, "We're not 
done?  We have to do it again?"  The Ambassador explained 
that certification was an annual process.  The President 
rolled his eyes, and said, "God must be God of Obasanjo. 
After what I did last time (in reference to the renditions), 
if the press had found out they would have torn me apart." 
He then said that NDLEA would get more money, and asked, "If 
I give them another 350 million --  Is that okay?"  The 
Ambassador responded that the key was that NDLEA be able to 
operate effectively. 
 
 
13. (C) EXTRADITION: The Ambassador noted that, in terms of 
counter-narcotics certification, the Embassy was working with 
the Ministry of Justice and others to develop a workable 
extradition process.  One piece would include training for 
prosecutors, and perhaps some judges, to serve on an 
extradition court.  However, Nigeria would have to create 
such a court.  Ambassador Jeter asked if such a court could 
be created.  President Obasanjo responded that he would 
create it if allowed by the NDLEA enabling act.  However, he 
said, Nigeria needed assistance in the form of training.  In 
a dismissive response to a reference to AG Ige's and Chief 
Judge Belgore's statements that such a court could be created 
(Ref A), an animated Obasanjo said "Belgore is the most 
corrupt judge in Nigeria.  I will have to be very careful 
when I replace him in July." 
 
 
14. (C) LAGOS CRIME: Ambassador Jeter said he recently had 
seen Lagos State Governor Tinubu on the crime situation in 
Lagos.  The situation had our people, and many other 
diplomats in Lagos, very afraid.  There had been two 
carjackings of Embassy vehicles, and one Nigerian police 
escort had been killed.  President Obasanjo said he was aware 
of the situation, and that it would be taken care of.  (NOTE: 
The President implied that he had a solution in mind, but did 
not reveal his plans.  END NOTE.) 
 
 
================ 
THE OIL BUSINESS 
================ 
 
 
15. (C) DELTA AND OIL:  The Ambassador noted that recent 
events in the Delta had raised some concern, particularly the 
hostage situation at the Exxon-Mobil Bonny Island facility 
(Ref E).  The President said, "Leave it with me," implying 
that he had some action in mind, but not giving any hint of 
what it might be.  The Ambassador then raised the oil block 
production sharing contracts (PSC) bidding process, and noted 
that some of the companies had expressed concerns the process 
seemed to have stalled.  The President stated that he did not 
deal with commercial issues except to approve or disapprove a 
recommended action.  Gruffly waving his hand, he told the 
Ambassador that he too should not get involved. 
 
 
========================== 
OAU, ECOWAS, AND DELE-COLE 
========================== 
 
 
16. (C) The President stated that Nigeria would support the 
Namibian candidate, Foreign Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab, in his 
bid for Secretary General of the OAU.  Ambassador Jeter noted 
that Ambassador Kouyate was also seeking the post.  President 
Obasanjo said that Kouyate was a good man, but that before 
Salim-Salim, all of the Secretary Generals had been from West 
Africa and had been Francophone, so Nigeria was supporting a 
candidate from southern Africa.  Turning to ECOWAS, 
Ambassador Jeter said that he hoped a replacement for Kouyate 
could be found who could match Kouyate's skills, drive and 
stature.  Praising Kouyate, the President said that if he had 
his way, Kouyate would stay on in his present post.  However, 
he noted, Kouyate had decided to leave.  That being the case, 
Obasanjo said that the Chairmanship should remain 
Francophone, but that the Executive Secretary could be an 
Anglophone. 
 
 
17. (SBU)  Ambassador Jeter asked the President if he had 
selected a replacement for Patrick Dele-Cole, the President's 
former Special Advisor on International Affairs and Nigeria's 
former Ambassador to Brazil (who was released during the 
cabinet shake-up in early June).  The President said he had 
not yet decided if he would replace Dele-Cole, but if he 
decided to, the replacement would be Ad'obe Obe.  Obasanjo 
described Obe as relaxed, bright and forthcoming.  (COMMENT: 
Obe presently serves as the President's Personal Assistant 
and Speechwriter.  While lamenting the departure of 
Dele-Cole, Embassy has a similar impression of Obe to that of 
the President, and believes he will be accessible and a close 
confidant.  END COMMENT.) 
======================= 
MESSAGES FOR WASHINGTON 
======================= 
 
 
18. (C) Ambassador Jeter asked the President if he had any 
messages he wanted to convey to Washington.  President 
Obasanjo said he had little to convey, except that he was 
"really satisfied" with the state of the bilateral 
relationship.  He then noted that he was anticipating an 
invitation from President Bush to visit Houston in September, 
where he expected to meet with former President Bush (the 
Elder), host a meeting of "Nigerians in the Diaspora" and 
speak at the Baker Institute.  The President also noted that 
he planned to attend the Corporate Council on Africa Summit 
in Philadelphia in September, and to speak at Johns Hopkins 
on health care during that same trip. 
 
 
================= 
SAA FLIGHT ISSUES 
================= 
 
 
19. (C) SAA FLIGHT ISSUES: After the meeting with the 
President concluded, Ambassador Jeter raised the high number 
of turn-arounds on the South Africa Airways flight from Lagos 
to New York with Oronsaye.  The Ambassador noted that the MOU 
on INS presence at MMIA was presently being cleared through 
the GON and that the Embassy was looking into INS training 
for Nigerian Immigration.  In the meantime, however, there 
was a clear need for additional NDLEA presence at the airport 
to monitor the flight.  Ambassador Jeter strongly emphasized 
the importance of the flight for Nigeria's image and any 
future hope of a U.S. carrier establishing a direct flight 
between the U.S. and Nigeria.  Oronsaye resolutely agreed, 
thanked the Ambassador for informing him of the issues at 
hand, and promised to inform the President. 
 
 
======= 
COMMENT 
======= 
 
 
20. (C) The Ambassador and President had not met since the 
President's trip to Washington.  The intent of the meeting 
was to catch up on various issues of mutual concern. 
President Obasanjo was interested, friendly and animated, 
particularly on security assistance.  However, we were 
surprised by his continued lack of understanding of the 
certification process, and his lack of detailed knowledge on 
the conflict in Nasarawa State (Ref B and previous). 
However, the President appeared engaged and cooperative on 
nearly every issue.  Ambassador will meet with NSA Mohammed 
on July 2 and raise a different set of issues following on 
President Obasanjo's May visit to Washington (septel). 
Jeter 

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