Viewing cable 03ABUJA816

03ABUJA8162003-05-02 19:26:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
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 000816 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/02/2013 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter for reasons 1.5 (b) 
and (d). 
1.(C) In an April 28 press statement entitled "The Ijaws of 
Warri," National Ijaw Leader Chief E.K. Clark appealed to 
President Obasanjo to postpone the May 3 state assembly 
elections in Warri's three local government areas (LGAs). 
Citing united opposition to the May 3 polls from the Ijaw and 
Urhobo communities, Clark asked for a postponement of the 
elections to prevent an outcome that would produce an 
exclusively "minority" Itsekiri representation from Warri to 
the State Assembly. 
2.(C) Clark and 13 other Ijaw leaders who signed the 
statement, pointed out that the "we single handedly worked 
strenuously to ensure that there was relative peace during 
the Presidential/Gubernatorial elections of 19th April, 2003. 
. . the Ijaws of Warri cooperated to ensure that there was 
maximum peace in Delta State during this particular elections 
in spite of the fact that there was no valid elections in the 
three Warri LGAs because of the crisis."  But in what has 
been interpreted by many including the Federal Government as 
a veiled threat, the statement goes on to say: " . . these 
elections should be suspended in the three Warri LGAs because 
it is obvious there is no way the Ijaw youths in these three 
LGAs will fold their hands and allow these elections to take 
3.(C) In an April 29 meeting with Clark at his village home 
in Delta State, Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO) heard 
more about Ijaw militancy and the inability of this 
traditional leader to bridle it.  Clark candidly admitted 
that his influence over the militant youth had diminished. 
"If I tell my children every day 'don't worry, everything 
will be okay' and nothing happens, one day he'll say 'damn 
the consequences' and act on his own," stated the Ijaw elder. 
 Clark implied that his hold on the Federated Niger Delta 
Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), the political group representing 
the armed Gbaramatu Ijaw of the Warri LGAs, was weakening. 
Clark rejected the interpretation of his press statement as a 
threat to the federal government, insisting that the 
statement was an attempt to warn the government of the 
profound  discontent in the Warri swamps and his inability to 
check its eruption. (Comment:  What Clark did not say 
explicitly but was evident between the lines was his fear of 
losing his mantle of Ijaw leadership.  Thus, he will be 
reticent to criticize the young militants and, increasingly 
he will be forced to take a more radical stand so that he 
stays on good terms with these armed youths who could well 
usurp his leadership position.  End Comment) 
4.(C) CRO had a separate April 29 meeting with Bello Oboko, 
President of FNDIC.  Oboko was strident that the federal 
government postpone the May 3 state assembly elections.  He 
also called for the continued cessation of oil operations in 
the Warri LGAs until the political impasse is resolved in the 
Ijaws' favor.  Oboko cited the FNDIC's March 3 press 
statement that carried an ultimatum demanding GON agreement 
that oil operations cease, elections be postponed, the Warri 
Southwest LGA's electoral wards be redrawn, and a national 
sovereignty conference be convened, lest the FNDIC embark on 
"mass action" in seven days.  Oboko claimed the FNDIC 
refrained from implementing its threat because of Chief Clark 
who persuaded the FNDIC to stand down.  However, the 
subsequent federal government lack of response and the 
heightened militarization of the swamps has pushed the FNDIC 
youths to act.  "we will not sit idle and be attacked; we 
will defend ourselves," Oboko warned.  (Comment:  Oboko's 
reference to the Ijaw need for self-defense was unconvincing. 
 He was simply mouthing the words he thought he had to say. 
Oboko and his fellow militants know that they have been the 
clear aggressors in this latest conflagration around Warri. 
End Comment) 
5.(C) During his April 28-29 visit to areas surrounding 
Warri, CRO was told by local residents that the army has 
begun deploying additional troops in the vicinity, 
supplementing the 1,500 deployed in Warri under a battalion 
command based in Effrurun (10 kilometers north of Warri 
town).  According to these locals, soldiers from an 
amphibious regiment in Port Harcourt and a regiment in Benin 
City have arrived in the area.  The Navy has deployed two 
small "gunships" to the port of Warri.  In an April 30 
meeting with the Ambassador, the Director General of the 
State Security Service (SSS) stated that an attack on the 
Ijaws is imminent. (septel)  Some observers are speculating 
the government may have augmented its troop deployments in 
order to ensure that the May 3 elections are not disrupted 
and to prepare for an eventual crackdown.  Sources in Warri 
reported a firefight along the Warri town waterfront the 
morning of May 2.  Ijaw militants arriving in motorboats 
attempted to attack the town and the Naval base at the town's 
waterfront.  The fight raged for almost two hours before the 
Ijaw were repelled and relative calm returned to the town. 
6.(C) The Ijaws are clearly the aggressors in the current 
crisis in Warri. Ijaw militants conducted many unprovoked 
attacks on Itsekiri villages starting March 20. 
Nevertheless, one of the underlying political grievances of 
both Ijaw youth militants and elder Ijaw leaders may have 
some validity.  The Ijaws are the majority group in Warri yet 
the Itsekiri control a disproportionate share of electoral 
wards and, consequently, dominate the area's political 
machine.  Several panels set up by past federal governments 
to review Warri, and an INEC report in 1999, recommended that 
the Warri Southwest LGA be re-delineated to reflect its Ijaw 
majority.  However, the Ijaw violence and their threats 
against the oil installations are wholly disproportionate 
responses to the alleged grievance.  The Ijaw youth have more 
in mind than local government boundaries.  Oil bunkering and 
extending control over the land where the oil is may be the 
real forces driving the youth. 
7.(C) Because of the nature of the Ijaw demands and the 
intransigence of Ijaw militants, there is little chance that 
the current crisis can be resolved through negotiation.  GON 
officials have told us that they will strike -- the only 
question is when -- now, before the President's inauguration, 
or after Obasanjo is sworn in.  However, at some point, the 
GON must address some of these difficult political and 
economic issues that have given rise to this new militancy. 
If not, crises will be recurrent.