US embassy cable - 02ABUJA235


Identifier: 02ABUJA235
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA235 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-01-25 17:03:00
Classification: SECRET//NOFORN
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 000235 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 1.6X5, 1.6X6 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; Reasons 1.6X5, 
1. (S/NF) The following are Embassy,s comments on the CIA 
Assessment dated December 28, 2001 and entitled &Nigeria: 
Avoiding Counterdrug Reforms.8   We understand the 
assessment was first distributed at a January 4, 2002 
INL-chaired interagency meeting on Nigeria,s certification. 
The Embassy welcomes the opportunity to comment o nthe report 
and its conclusions. 
General Observation 
2.(S/NF) The Embassy believes the assessment,s conclusion 
that the GON lacks commitment to counter-narcotics law 
enforcement is unsubstantiated and paints a misleading 
picture of GON efforts during the past year.  From our 
perspective, a more appropriate conclusion would have been 
that Nigeria continues to move in the right direction but 
does, in facto, have a long way to go in overcoming serious 
institutional and resource obstacles to a vigorous and 
effective counter-narcotics strategy.  However, given the 
myriad demands on the GON,s finite resources, the degree of 
progress and the level of resource allocation indicates 
political commitment to counternarcotics that, albeit 
incomplete, should be encouraged, not dismissively treated as 
3. (S/NF) In portraying the Obasanjo Administration as either 
reticent or opposed (due to corruption) to improved drug 
control efforts, the assessment has selectively culled from 
open sources and Embassy reporting instead of weighing the 
entirety of reporting to get a more accurate picture.  The 
notion that President Obasanjo has not supported 
counter-narcotics reforms in the last year is simply not 
true.  In many meetings with the President, we have raised 
our anti-drug concerns and Obasanjo has always responded 
positively and quickly.  Though the President seemed unaware 
of the precise requirements of certification during an early 
July meeting (Abuja 1547), he nonetheless responded 
positively to the reforms that we encouraged, and 
subsequnetly increased the budget of the NDLEA. 
4. (S/NF) The following are comments linked to specific 
points raised in the assessment: 
--One Anti-Drug Agency.  The assessment portrays the NDLEA,s 
role as the sole law enforcement agency with an express 
counter-narcotics mandate as a weakness in Nigeria,s 
performance.  This is not the case.  We have never considered 
this a deficiency and we have not encouraged the GON to 
enlist other agencies in the anti-drug effort.  Thus, the 
assessment faults the GON for a perceived lapse of which they 
have never been put on notice.  Moreover, the NDLEA has a 
dedicated staff far superior to that of Nigerian Customs, 
Police or any other law enforcement agency.  The NDLEA 
receives greater resources and better training because of its 
exclusive mandate.  We support this specialization in drug 
control efforts ) it is resource-efficient, limits potential 
corruption, and it has been effective.  Moreover, we should 
not forget that we have the best access and relationship with 
the NDLEA in the history of the Mission; only three years ago 
we had difficulty meeting with the Chairman of the NDLEA, let 
alone getting NDLEA to act. 
-- The Vice President:  While the Vice President,s alleged 
corruption while in the Customs Service is common knowledge, 
we  have no evidence that Atiku was ever involved in abetting 
drug smuggling.  Nigeria,s ridiculously high tariffs make it 
easy for Customs officers to get rich without involving 
themselves in the drug trade.  Moreover, we have never seen 
any overt or covert attempt by the VP to undermine the NDLEA. 
 To the contrary, he has been helpful in pushing forward 
NDLEA Chairman Lafiaji,s FY2002 request for an additional 
two billion naira in capital expenditures for the NDLEA. 
--Counter-Drug Positions:  The assessment,s statement that 
&In 2001 key positions in Nigeria,s counter-drug 
bureaucracy went unfulfilled8 needs explanation.  Ibrahim 
Lame, for two years the Senior Special Assistant to the 
President on Drugs and Financial Crimes, was relieved of his 
duties in mid-2001.  The position was subsequently abolished 
because it was redundant and its utility was marginal.  The 
Senior Special Assistant had no control over resources or 
personnel.  He added little to policy formulation, and was 
not a key player.  A Director will head the far stronger 
Financial Crimes Commission, which will control significant 
resources and will have both policy coordination and 
operational roles. 
--Similarly, the statement that &promises to increase the 
counter-drug budget were not kept8 is also inaccurate.  The 
Chairman of the Senate Committee of Drugs and Financial 
Crimes, Lawal Shaibu, working closely with Chairman Lafiaji, 
in early 2001 drafted a proposed supplementary budget request 
of two billion naira (at the time about USD 20 million). 
This was not/not the Federal Government,s request, but 
rather a proposal emanating from the National Assembly. 
Senator Shuaibu and other National Assembly supporters of the 
NDLEA made this substantial request with the full expectation 
that the Presidency could only grant a portion of it given 
overall budgetary constraints.  (Note:  Shuaibu has again 
made such a request for the FY2002 budget now being 
considered )- 1.3 billion naira for the NDLEA. End Note) 
--Lafiaji: Strong Staying Power.  Chairman Bello Lafiaji has 
already outlasted his past two predecessors and shows no sign 
of leaving the job or waning in his enthusiasm, commitment 
and performance.  He has a high integrity rating.  We have 
seen no credible reports indicating any ties to suspected 
drug traffickers, and as far as we know,  Lafiaji is beyond 
reproach.  This stands in stark contrast to Lafiaji,s 
predecessors.  President Obasanjo has told us that he is 
pleased with Lafiaji,s performance and he has repeated 
expressed his support for the Chairman,s leadership, most 
recently on National television December 18, 2001, when he 
bestowed one of Nigeria,s highest honors ) the Order of the 
Niger ) on the Chairman for his work. 
--There has been no corroboration of the sensitive 
intelligence report that Lafiaji is under threat of being 
ousted by officials in the Presidency.  Even if some in the 
Presidency oppose Lafiaji, he clearly still enjoys the 
President,s support.  And that,s the point that should be 
made.  In fact, Lafiaji,s role and authority are likely to 
grow with the passing of Attorney General Bola Ige from the 
scene. (Ige was a very strong supporter of Lafiaji,s NDLEA 
--Extradition:  Nigeria has never extradited a U.S. fugitive 
for drug trafficking ) the reference to U.S. extraditions 
under the Abacha regime in 1994 is in error.  Nigeria has, 
however, rendered into USG custody several important USG 
fugitives, including drug traffickers sent to U.S. trials in 
1994 under General Abacha,s rule and international terrorist 
(Egypt Air highjacking) Rezaq under Babaginda,s rule.  Most 
recently, in November 2000 President Obasanjo ordered the 
rendition of four fugitives, including two drug traffickers 
on the U.S. President,s list of 12 International Drug 
Kingpins.  The GON carried out these renditions with 
considerable political risk because they wanted to meet our 
requirements but knew that they could not comply under 
current judicial arrangements, with corrupt judges in place. 
The GON offered additional renditions, but we said that we 
could not accept its methods in doing so. 
--The Obasanjo administration has been and remains committed 
to cooperation in turning over fugitives from U.S. justice. 
The President and the late Attorney General often expressed 
their conviction that Nigeria should not become a haven for 
international criminals.  Yet they conceded, and we have 
acknowledged, that Nigeria cannot develop and 
institutionalize an efficient extradition process that 
provides all the adequate due process safeguards in the near 
term.  Sixteen consecutive years of military rule destroyed 
the judiciary.  We should not pressure a two year-old 
democratically elected government to effectuate extradition 
without due observance of the rule of law. 
--The paramount importance of the rule of law is something 
that we have been telling the Nigerians.  Previously we 
encouraged, even demanded, that Nigeria hand over -- using 
whatever means necessary -- at least two fugitives in 2000. 
Because we recognize the long-term importance of building an 
appreciation for the rule of law, we no longer want to see 
U.S. fugitives handed over in the way accepted before; we now 
correctly encourage the Nigerians to develop a process that 
observes procedural and substantive due process much like we 
have in the United States.  Thus, because of the balancing of 
these rule-of-law and law enforcement considerations, we must 
give the current Administration a more reasonable amount of 
time before concluding that they are non-cooperative 
regarding extradition. 
--Corruption:  The Obasanjo Administration has clearly 
improved the fight against corruption in the past year.  The 
Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses 
Commission (ICPC) celebrated its first birthday in September 
2001.  The Commission,s first group of dedicated staff ) 
investigators, prosecutors, and administrators ) was hired 
in December 2001 and starts work on February 1, 2002.  A 
second batch of 200 will be hired in June 2002.   Just last 
week, Obasanjo reportedly approved a 2002 budget request for 
the ICPC of one billion naira (USD 9 million) in capital 
expenditures and 400 million naira (USD 3.6 million) in 
operating expenses.  Though this budget request must be 
approved by the National Assembly, it represents a 250 
percent increase over the USD five million given to the ICPC 
for all of its expenses in 2001.  Corruption 
5.(S/NF)Comment:  The end-of-the-year assessment of 
Nigeria,s counter-drug performance does not give a complete 
picture.  Some of the report,s inaccuracies could have been 
avoided if the report had been shared in draft with the field 
prior to publication.  Moreover, field visits by relevant 
analysts should be encouraged in order to &ground truth8 
reporting otherwise evaluated from a distance in Washington. 
Certification in Perspective:  Improvement since 2000? 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
6.(S/NF) As Washington readers are aware, in the recently 
passed Foreign Operations Bill, Congress established a new 
standard for narcotics certification -- those countries that 
have not &failed demonstrably8 in their counternarcotics 
efforts.  Nigeria was granted full certification by the 
President on March 1, 2001, passing a higher certification 
standard.  As detailed above and in many Embassy reporting 
cables including reftels, the Obasanjo Administration has 
made limited but substantial reforms on the counter-drug and 
law enforcement fronts.  While the significance of these 
reforms ) some of them limited to pledges as of this writing 
) can be debated, the argument that Nigeria has lost ground 
in its anti-drug efforts since January 2001 is just not 
7.(C) The Ambassador also notes that if the Department of 
Justice and DEA had strong concerns about the GON,s drug 
control performance, these were not apparent during Chairman 
Lafiaji,s November 8 meeting at DEA Headquaters, which the 
Ambassador attended.  Instead, DEA officials praised the 
NDLEA for improvements in its performance. 
You Bet Things Look Better 
8.(C/NF) Here,s our perspective on the last year of 
counter-drug efforts.  During the past year: 
--Federal resources devoted to the anti-drug effort have 
increased substantially; 
--the NDLEA,s operational writ has expanded to all sea 
--the amount of hard drugs seized rose 40 percent; 
--arrests of drug traffickers rose 26 percent; 
--drug-related convictions rose 51 percent; 
--there were no acquittals in the 2,400 drug cases prosecuted; 
--airport drug interdiction efforts are now so successful 
that more seizures of heroin in U.S. ports of entry are made 
from flights originating from Ghana rather than from Nigeria; 
--The late Attorney General led a GON team to a Rome meeting 
with the FATF to address international concerns over 
Nigeria,s money laundering controls; 
--the GON has moved quickly to strengthen money-laundering 
legislation and form a centralized authority to fight 
financial crimes ) all in response to USG and FATF concerns; 
--the Joint NDLEA-DEA Task Force has been re-energized and is 
now investigating a major Nigeria based trafficker; and 
--the year-old Anti-Corruption Commission is gaining strength 
and receiving more federal resources. 
9.(S/NF) We set out certification benchmarks for the GON to 
meet during 2001.  All of these were either met fully or met 
with a good faith effort.  We should not make a certification 
decision on the basis of whether we think many Nigerians are 
&bad8 or whether the country has a large drug and organized 
crime problem.  These are not the criteria; the benchmarks 
are.  Nigeria has made the grade.  It should be certified. 

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