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03ABUJA1012 2003-06-09 19:42:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001012 



E.O. 12958: 6/10/03


Classified by: Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: During a May 2 meeting to deliver the
non-paper on narcotics and law enforcement
certification to the Minister of Justice Kanu Agabi
(Reftel), Ambassador Jeter took the opportunity to
discuss the April elections with the Minister. The
blunt, straight-talking Agabi decried the manipulation
and vote tampering that affected the elections in some
states. Agabi opined that the electoral tribunals
should overturn some of the most egregious actions.
For the longer term, he said that the Independent
National Electoral Commission needed a major overhaul
to improve its political impartiality and technical
competence. End Summary.

2. (C) Minister Agabi thanked the Ambassador for the
congratulatory message from the White House to
President Obasanjo. Agabi said Obasanjo was very
pleased. Ambassador Jeter replied the United States
recognized the elections were occasioned by serious
irregularities in some areas of the country but still
the process yielded some positive results. He pointed
out that Nigeria has a growing consensus on the
electoral law, there is now the beginnings of a
computerized voter roll, eligibility requirements for
political parties are now clear, voter turn out was
encouraging, and the conduct of the elections was
generally peaceful. He pointed out, however, that
INEC needed significant reform, starting with the
appointment process. (INEC National and State
Commissioners are appointed by the President). Agabi
agreed but predicted INEC reform would be unlikely
because the election had further weakened the
opposition in the National Assembly that would have
been the element to advocate this reform. Ambassador
Jeter responded that "a PDP super majority in the
Assembly may not be such a good thing either." The
Ambassador expressed hope the new National Assembly
would perform better than its predecessor. He
observed that some of the newly elected lawmakers were
"reformers" who could improve the Assembly and that
the Embassy would try to work with them. Agabi
responded by saying, "democracy is an experiment in
Nigeria, 75 percent of the resources are spent on 10
percent of the people." The National Assembly is too
large and the Cabinet is bloated with too many
Ministers, he asserted. When asked to assess the
prospects for reforms in the second Obasanjo
Administration, the Minister responded that one of the
President's problems was that he followed the last
advice given; this was compounded by the fact that he
had too many advisors.

3. (C) The Ambassador asked the Justice Minister for
his thoughts on the next President of the Senate and
Speaker of the House. Agabi replied that under the
current arrangement of zoning key positions to
specific geopolitical regions, the Senate Presidency
would go to the Southeast, but he then complained
"there are no viable candidates from that region". He
continued, "there are very inexperienced people in the
National Assembly. They are often very active but on
the wrong subjects."

4. (C) The Ambassador expressed deep concern regarding
electoral irregularities and hoped the electoral
tribunals would look seriously at the results of
elections in several States, including Rivers, where
there were allegations of widespread irregularities
and fraud. He recounted seeing photographs of full
ballot boxes that had been thrown into a ravine.
Ambassador Jeter also mentioned Cross Rivers, Anambra,
Enugu, Edo, and Plateau States as other places where
gross irregularities occurred. He further stated that
the tribunals should look at the gubernatorial and
National Assembly contest or problems could be
expected, especially in the Southeast and part of the

5. (C) At this point, Agabi said that he would
"insist" to the President that action be taken. He
stated that there were "instances of gross malfeasance
because no elections were held in Cross Rivers".
"Crimes have been committed by high officials", he
asserted. He also stated that there were similar
reports from foreign observers. He commented that the
observers were invited to observe and their opinions
should be heard. When asked if the President could do
anything about this, the Minister replied that he
would tell the President to instruct the Tribunals
that some election results should be thrown out.

6. (C) Agabi briefly mentioned the status of GON
efforts to recoup stolen government funds from the
family of the late Head of State Sani Abacha. So far,
efforts to recover approximately 1.5 billion dollars
have been futile, Agabi said. While the funds have
been frozen, the GON is no closer to getting them
returned. Ambassador Jeter asked Agabi about the
assassination case of former Justice Minister, Bola
Ige. Agabi's only remark was that the people
currently on trial were probably not the real killers,
an admission that he said he would not make public.