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2001-04-26 07:42:00
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

Crime and Punishment in the Nigerian Senate

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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 03 ABUJA 000884 


E.O. 12598: 4/25/11
SUBJECT: Crime and Punishment in the Nigerian Senate


C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 000884


E.O. 12598: 4/25/11
SUBJECT: Crime and Punishment in the Nigerian Senate


1. (C) Summary. The Nigerian Senate leadership faces a
bitter rearguard struggle from deposed leaders, led by
former Senate President Chuba Okadigbo and former Deputy
Senate President Haruna Abubakar, both anxious to revive
their own fortunes and to punish their successors.
Allegations of corruption against Senate President Anyim
and his supporters swirl in the press and behind the
scenes, with most senators weary of the bad press and the
distractions of continual infighting. Anyim plausibly
claims to be acting in the best interests of a reformed
Senate and to be "decentralizing" Senate finances, while
petty chiseling, at the very least, appears to continue
unabated. While Anyim appears for the moment to be in
control, the personality-driven scrapping over allegations
of both present and previous fraudulent practices risks
politicizing the Obasanjo administration's disjointed anti-
corruption efforts, as well as continuing to unsettle the
Senate. End summary.

2. (SBU) Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim has faced
continual, although relatively minor challenges to his
leadership, particularly since the turn of the year. His
predecessor Chuba Okadigbo and other Senate leaders,
toppled last summer in a corruption scandal, have never
reconciled themselves to their loss of position and perks.
Recently, they orchestrated a press campaign aimed at
exposing alleged corrupt practices by Anyim and his
colleagues. Okadigbo and his small band of loyalists
wished to force these allegations to a public hearing, but
Anyim supporters instead tabled a long-pending (and
purposefully delayed) report on last summer's scandal.

3. (C) This "Kuta" report (named for the senator who headed
last summer's investigatory committee), had been examined
and "harmonized" by a second committee. Both reports were
highly critical of Okadigbo and other former leaders for
their irregular contracting practices and general
mishandling and diversion of public funds while running the
senate. Anyim had told Emboffs more than once that the
Kuta report had been kept in "reserve," to be used only if
Okadigbo and the other deposed leaders proved irremediably

4. (SBU) On April
10, Anyim supporters quickly adopted the
"harmonized" report, including its recommendation that the
Kuta conclusions be forwarded to "appropriate Federal
Agencies" for "further action," and that the named senators
(Chuba Okadigbo, Haruna Abubakar, Evan Enwerem, Abubakar
Girei, Rowland Owie, Florence Ita Giwa, Gbenga Aluko) be
barred from Senate Committee Chairmanships. In an
accompanying "confidence" ballot, the Senate voted 86-1 in
support of Anyim's continuing tenure as Senate President.
Twenty-two senators did not vote or were absent. Okadigbo,
deserted by his supporters, cast the sole vote against

5. (SBU) On April 20, police arrested an SSS security
officer, attached to Haruna Abubakar's office, in the act
of offering a bribe to National Assembly accounts staff for
internal financial documents. On April 25, in the wake of
a continuing behind-the-scenes campaign by Okadigbo and
others to trumpet the accusations, the Senate adopted a
motion calling upon Okadigbo to apologize or face
suspension from the Senate. Senators Haruna Abubakar,
Abubakar Girei and Roland Owie abjectly apologized to their
colleagues, and disavowed any involvement in the

6. (C) The allegations of corrupt practices against Anyim
center on the recent purchase of automobiles for Committee
Chairmen and Vice Chairmen, as well as travel voucher abuse
and over-invoicing of supplies. There are 63 committees,
so 126 vehicles were purchased for the 109 senators.
Essentially, everyone got at least one car. Accusers claim
that an (unsolicited) 300,000 naira (about $2500) cash
rebate accompanied each delivered automobile Senate
leadership stoutly deny the accusations in public, but in
private they tell a slightly different tale regarding the
automobiles. In separate discussions with Poloff over the
last several days Senate President Anyim, the chief of
staff to Deputy Senate President Mantu, and Bala Adamu, the
new Chair of the Senate Services Committee (charged with
the provision of cars, houses, office space and other
accoutrements to all senators), made clear that each car
did come with a "discount," supposedly to be discussed and
"negotiated" between individual senators and the dealers
delivering the cars.

7. (C) Anyim termed the "discount" as something in which "I
am not involved," but an option for each senator "if he
chose to pursue it." He restated his public and private
position (largely accurate) that he has successfully
"decentralized" Senate finances, and freed his colleagues
to spend allotted funds as they wished (a major and welcome
reform from the inveterate cronyism of Okadigbo). Adamu
framed the "discount" in terms of "extras" to be purchased
for upholstery and other upgrades of the cars, according to
the tastes of the individual senators. The Chief of Staff
frankly stated that "everyone collected the 'discount' with
the car," and noted that these sorts of transactions were
the sort of everyday "dirty linen" that no one in the
senate really wished to see reach the attention of the

8. (C) In recent conversation with senators from all three
political parties in the Senate, the level of dismay and
fatigue regarding continuing leadership struggles is
readily evident. While some note that any substantive
evidence of corrupt practices by the new leadership could
not be ignored, few seem anxious to pursue the sort of
tempestuous and very public investigations conducted last
summer. Senators generally regard the accusations as the
selfish acts of deposed leaders unwilling to accept their
fall from power, and bent on exacting revenge on those who
now rule the Senate.

9. (C) Former Senate Deputy President Haruna Abubakar
delivered copies of several apparently genuine payment
vouchers to the Deputy Chief of Mission on April 16. These
papers appear to document a number of corrupt or otherwise
less-than-transparent practices. These vouchers were
distributed to a number of media houses as well; Senate
leadership subsequently denounced these papers as fakes.
Examination reveals what appears to be over-invoicing of
office supplies and receipt of advances for travel
supposedly never undertaken, without subsequent refund of
the advance, among other dubious practices. Payments to
some officials add up to relatively large sums ($50,000 or
more in some cases). Abubakar also alleged to us that the
official purchase price of the hundred-odd cars, discussed
in open Senate session, was in fact doubled, with Anyim and
other leaders skimming off nearly four million dollars for
themselves, leaving a modest $2500 "discount" for the other
senators. The arrest of Abubakar's security operative
offering money for documents, and his subsequent apology in
open Senate session suggest he may in fact have lacked
clear proof of this core allegation, but do not prove him

10. (C) Anyim told Poloff April 20 that the approved Kuta
report had been sent to President Obasanjo for examination,
but that he had advised the President to "keep it without
action" for the time being. Presidential Liaison Officer
for the Senate Kashim Ibrahim told poloff April 23 that the
report had not yet been officially communicated to the
Presidency, although an "unofficial copy" might have "come
over." Kashim also signaled some distancing of the
Presidency from Anyim (previously regarded as a very
welcome change from Okadigbo), saying the situation in the
Senate was "fluid" and that Anyim was not doing a good job
of "reaching out" to other senators. "He does not consult
well," said Ibrahim. "We are taking a waiting attitude."
He also noted considerable irritation among Presidential
advisors with Anyim, who recently proclaimed his public
opposition to the President's planned deregulation of
subsidized fuel. "Many of us are very upset," said
Ibrahim. Further, Ibrahim indicated that, given that the
Senate Presidency had been zoned to the Igbo South-East,
advisors to President Obasanjo had begun to consider who
among Igbo senators might best take Anyim's place if he
should fall.

11. (C) Comment. Stories of travel voucher abuse, over-
invoicing of supplies, and built-in "discounts" for
National Assembly members, House and Senate alike, in the
purchase of furnishings, cars, etc, are the common currency
of the legislative branch. Petty chiseling appears
endemic, and most elected members and staff turn a blind
eye. Senate President Anyim will face continuing
challenges to his authority so long as personality-based
politics predominates, and those out of power scheme
continually to topple those who are in positions of
authority. For example, the first two Senate Presidents,
Okadigbo and Enwerem, each of whom worked ceaselessly to
effect the demise of the other, have temporarily united to
unseat the third occupant of the office, Anyim. Ammunition
for accusations is always close at hand, so long as petty
(and perhaps not so petty) thievery continues. Seasoned
observers comment that many Executive branch officers
misappropriate far larger sums, hinting that it is
difficult to blame legislators for wanting a piece of the
action. However, executive branch malfeasance seems to
take place amid fewer fireworks, and less public notice.

12. (C) Comment continued. The previous practice in the
Senate had been to keep allegations of corrupt practices
"in-house," and punish errant members through temporary
suspension, dismissal from committees, and loss of high
Senate office. Both those caught with their hands in the
till, and those who embarrassed the Senate by making the
allegations in the first place, faced similar punishments.
With the transmittal of the Kuta Report to the Executive
Branch, and the potential referral of the allegations to
such bodies as the new Anti-Corruption Commission,
President Obasanjo's nascent anti-corruption campaign could
easily be embroiled in the Senate's political war of all-
against-all. The prospect of continued strife and
distraction in the Senate appears virtually certain.