C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002729
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2012
TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV SENV ECON NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN LEGISLATORS HOST CODEL DASCHLE
REF: ABUJA 2665
Â¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On August 31, CODEL Daschle met Senate
President Anyim, Deputy House Speaker Nwuche, and other
members of the National Assembly Leadership. Discussions
touched on democracy and rule of law in Nigeria, trade
relations and expanding Nigeria's economy, natural gas
production issues, Executive-Legislative branch disputes
and the campaign against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Some of the
Nigerian legislators were curious about the inner workings
of a more established democratic system and how they could
adapt these lessons. However, while they voiced many of the
right platitudes, the Nigerian lawmakers did not appear
well-versed on key public policy issues; they seemed more
interested in safeguarding their powers and privileges than
in improving the performance of their Chambers. END
Â¶2. (C) Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and Deputy House
Speaker Prince Chibudom Nwuche welcomed Senators Daschle
(D-SD), Reid (D-NV), Nighthorse-Campbell (R-CO) and
Bingaman (D-NM) to the Senate Chambers during the Codel's
visit on August 31. Ambassador Jeter, Codel staff members
and other Embassy and USAID staff were also in attendance.
Opening the session, Anyim welcomed the Codel, highlighting
the improvement in US-Nigerian relations over recent years.
Daschle commented that making Nigeria the final stop on the
trip was appropriate, given its importance, both regionally
and internationally. The Codel then toured the Senate's
new information center (a NDI project) and the Senate
Chambers before returning to Anyim's office for a closed
session to allow for an exchange of ideas among the
Â¶3. (C) Senator Reid questioned Anyim about the impeachment
threat against President Obasanjo. Anyim flippantly
contended that the stand-off was "merely democracy at work
and no reason for alarm." He said the Senate was
responsible to the people of Nigeria and that "the basic
tenets of democracy must be allowed to develop and
function." He suggested that "electoral issues" were at
the core of the disagreement between the two branches but
did not elaborate what those issues were. The Deputy
Speaker threw in that "parliaments throughout Africa are
under assault." He said he had been warning the Presidency
and anyone else who cared to listen about the necessity of
respecting the Constitution and the importance of rule of
law for the past two years, and believed that other
improvements would follow from these two foundations.
Â¶4. (C) When Senator Campbell asked about trade between
the U.S. and Nigeria, Anyim replied that the security of
Nigeria was more important. He worried that the recent
State Department travel warning on Nigeria was
"counterproductive to trade." Nevertheless, he expressed
his support for diversifying Nigeria's economy and
lessening reliance on the oil sector, commenting vaguely
that Nigeria has to "empower the people to expand trade."
He agreed the fundamental program envisioned in NEPAD was
sound, but without good governance, NEPAD would fail.
Daschle seconded Anyim's sentiment, commenting that rule of
law, free enterprise and democracy were all keys to
guaranteeing international support for NEPAD. Daschle told
the Nigerian lawmakers the USG was committed to increasing
trade with Africa, as evidenced by AGOA. The Deputy
Speaker advised the Senators that Nigeria is aware of the
importance of transparent governance and commented that
"what is good for Africa is good for the West."
Â¶5. (C) Senator Bingaman asked about Nigeria's plans for
developing its natural gas sector and curbing gas flaring.
Anyim mentioned that a natural gas and anti-flaring bill
was currently before the Assembly; without providing
specifics, he said there had been "progress on it." Anyim
noted the growing worldwide consciousness of environmental
issues and said that Nigeria was no exception to the trend.
The Deputy Speaker erroneously commented that AGIP was the
only company working to curtail flaring. "The U.S.
companies are not pushing for a solution," he averred. He
offered that the pending legislation would require new
exploration to re-inject the gas at the wellhead in order
to capture more crude oil while eliminating the flaring.
(Comment: The Deputy Speaker was wrong about the American
companies. He probably did not care about the veracity of
his statement -- because he likely said it for effect.
Later that day, Senator Bingaman met with American oil
company executives who summarized for him their plans to
end gas flaring. They also told him that there would not
be any gas flaring at any of their newly developed wells
(reftel). End Comment)
Â¶6. (C) Anyim asked the CODEL how the Nigerian Legislature
should deal with a President who refused to spend funds as
budgeted by Legislators. Daschle responded, "Welcome to
democracy." He reminded the legislators of the crisis that
shut down the USG several years ago and mentioned President
Bush's refusal to spend $5.5 billion recently budgeted by
Congress. He pointed out that the two most contentious
issues for a democracy were budgets and war. Advising the
Nigerian legislators to negotiate with the President rather
than fight him, Daschle stressed that "the institutions are
more important than the little fights." Nighthorse-
Campbell added that the real authority is with the people
and "when they call you should listen."
Â¶7. (C) The Nigerians asked about USG support for HIV/AIDS
prevention and treatment programs, commenting that the U.S.
had not provided adequate funding in this area. Daschle
said that the USG recognizes its responsibility, expressing
his opinion that the $500 million in recent U.S. budgets
was still insufficient and that support for expanding these
programs was growing in the U.S. Senate.
Â¶8. (C) COMMENT: The atmosphere during the meeting was
collegial. The Nigerians appeared eager to hear Codel
Daschle's experiences in reconciling the competing
interests of the Executive and Legislative branches. While
this interest indicates some Nigerian politicians' efforts
to chart a course in Nigeria's new democratic environment,
the focus and tone of the Nigerians' questions show that,
for now, political bickering over the balance of power
between the Presidency and the National Assembly remained
the preferred course of action.