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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
01ABUJA3273 2001-12-27 12:50:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIAN JUSTICE MINISTER ASSASSINATED

Tags:   PGOV PINS OIIP NI 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 003273 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2011
TAGS: PGOV PINS OIIP NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN JUSTICE MINISTER ASSASSINATED

REF: A. STATE 220109

B. ABUJA 2878

C. ABUJA 3228


(U) Classified by CDA Andrews; Reasons 1.5 (b/d).




1. (U) 71-year-old Nigerian Minister of Justice and Attorney
General Bola Ige was assassinated in his Ibadan (Oyo State)
home on 23 December around 2100. According to press reports,
Ige had just released his security detail so they could get
something to eat. Four or five individuals entered the home,
took control of Ige's family, and then shot Ige, who was
alone in his bedroom. Some newspapers report that the single
gunshot wound to the chest featured a "disintegrating bullet"
(perhaps a reference to a hollow-point round). The assassins
then departed. Nothing was reported stolen, and no one else
was injured. Ige reportedly died en route to the hospital.




2. (SBU) The attack followed other violence surrounding
political infighting in Osun State between Governor Adebisi
Akande (an Ige protege) and Deputy Governor Iyiola Omisore.
Ige was highly influential across the Southwest as one of the
two last surviving governors elected in 1979 from the ranks
of Obafemi Awolowo's UPN. The other, Lateef Jakande,
compromised himself during the Abacha years and on longer
enjoyed the same stature as Ige. Moreover, Ige played an
important role both in the Southwest-centered Alliance for
Democracy (AD) party and Afenifere, the Yoruba
politico-cultural group. With the AD officially in the
Opposition but Ige serving as a Minister, the late Attorney
General was an important voice in Abuja for Southwestern
interests. The conflict between Akande and Omisore had ten
days before notched up in intensity when an unruly crowd
linked in the media to Omisore jostled Ige at Ile-Ife, the
spiritual center of Yoruba traditional beliefs. A few days
later, Osun State Lawmaker Odunayo Olagbaju, an Omisore
partisan, was killed in the same town, after which a
dusk-to-dawn curfew was declared in Ile-Ife. Two other
lawmakers are reportedly wanted for questioning in respect of
Olagbaju's death.




3. (U) In response to Ige's death, President Obasanjo
cancelled his 24 December trip to Harare, and called a
meeting on the security situation in Osun. Attendees
included the Vice President, the Deputy Senate President, the
Minister of State for Justice, the Inspector General of
Police, and others. After the meeting concluded, military
forces were deployed to portions of Oyo and Osun (in what is
reportedly a police-led action to contain tensions).
Meanwhile, the Osun government declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew
throughout the state.




4. (C) COMMENT: Ige's death appears to be the latest in a
cycle of violence born of Alliance for Democracy (AD) party
in-fighting, particularly between the Governor and Deputy
Governor of Osun. Some media are suggesting the AG was
killed to avenge Olagbuju's death. The Chief of Staff to
Lagos Governor Tinubu in a conversation with Consul General
sought to link the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to
the killing, saying that the PDP wanted to wrest control of
Oyo from the AD but could not do that as long as Ige was on
the scene. Others try to implicate the North, arguing that
Ige's recent public statements in opposition to the sentence
of death by stoning pronounced on Safiya Husseini had made
the late AG a target for Sharia proponents. The politics of
Nigeria are dense, but these latter two views strike us as
less probable than a connection to the bloody battle between
Akande and Omisore.




5. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: The murder of Ige, however, marks a
new low in a political cycle increasingly governed by
jockeying for position in anticipation of the 2003 elections.
Along with the PDP convention that almost fell apart before
it happened (Abuja 2878) and the electoral law that was not
handled properly (Abuja 3228) and is provoking an ever-larger
chorus of protest (septel), the senseless killing of
Nigeria's 71 year-old Minister of Justice shows the
regrettable willingness of Nigerian political actors to walk
the cliff's edge. With so much patronage linked to the
outcome of elections, many exhibit an unfortunate tendency to
test the exact limits of the brink, counting on their
adversaries to have less nerve and pull back first.




6. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: One would like to think that the
killing of "Uncle Bola" Ige would provide impetus to pull
back from the cliff's edge, not a temptation to test it
further: Although Ige is the first Federal Minister killed
for apparent political reasons, many other Nigerians have
died this year in conflict of an essentially political
nature. With the 2003 elections more than a year away and
many hurdles to cross before they can successfully be held,
the probability for further political violence is high.




7. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: It is critical for President
Obasanjo and civil authority to assert themselves. While
dispatching the military to yet another area of tension and
unrest may put a lid on violence for now, such action does
not offer much hope for the medium-term stability required to
restore the public sense of trust in its government's ability
to ensure their security. Rumors of an impending cabinet
reshuffle had recently been heard in Abuja. If there is
truth to these rumors, Ige's death will probably move the
date of the cabinet reshuffle closer. A change would likely
offer some initial encouragement to the body politic, but
real results will be required to sustain it. END COMMENT.




8. (U) The Embassy released the following statement on
December 27:


Begin text:
Statement by the American Embassy
On the Death of Minister of Justice and
Attorney General Chief Bola Ige


It was with a heavy heart that the Embassy learned of the
tragic and senseless murder of Minister of Justice and
Attorney General Chief Bola Ige.


Chief Ige was a fine gentleman, a warm and helpful
interlocutor for the Embassy and a superlative son and
representative of Nigeria. An eloquent and courageous
champion for the rule of law in Nigeria, he recognized the
serious threat posed by drug traffickers, organized crime and
corruption to Nigeria's stability and nascent democracy, and
used his position to push for reforms to strengthen Nigeria's
ability to counter these threats. In November, because his
legal and leadership skills were recognized around the world,
he was elected by an overwhelming majority to the United
Nations' International Law Commission.


We take this opportunity to extend the profound condolences
of the Government and people of the United States to his wife
and family and to the Government and people of Nigeria.


We will all deeply miss Chief Bola Ige. May his soul rest in
perfect peace.


End text.
Andrews