US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1155

PROGRESS ON OFR BASING ISSUES

Identifier: 01ABUJA1155
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1155 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-05-18 12:02:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL MASS MARR NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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 001155 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
BRUSSELS FOR HINSON-JONES 
NSC FOR FRAZER, BYRNE, MCLEAN 
OSD FOR CIKINS AND PDAS-D MCCONNELL 
BANJUL FOR DCM 
AF/RA FOR BITTRICK 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2011 
TAGS: PREL, MASS, MARR, NI 
SUBJECT: PROGRESS ON OFR BASING ISSUES 
 
REF: A. ABUJA 702 
     B. ABUJA 796 
     C. ABUJA 873 
     D. ABUJA 1040 
 
 
(U) Classified by CDA Andrews; Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d). 
 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: AF/RA Bittrick, DATT and PolMilOff called on 
Minister of Army Batagarawa May 16.  Batagarawa was pleased 
to hear about the improved levels of cooperation from the 
Nigerian military on OFR and MPRI.  He thought basing 
alternatives for the 65th and 73rd battalions could be found, 
and reiterated the commitment he made to Ambassador Jeter to 
solve any emerging security assistance problems.  He 
indicated that locating a forward operating base (FOB) would 
not be a problem.  However, he emphasized the urgent need for 
an MOU on OFR.  Batagarawa was receptive to central basing 
for the 65th and 73rd battalions, agreed with the DATT's plan 
to discuss the issue with the Chief of Defense Staff (VADM 
Ogohi), and suggested Kaduna be considered as a central site. 
 Clearly frustrated the MPRI payment had not been sent, he 
asked his Special Assistant to set a meeting for him on May 
18 with the MOD Director of Budget.  Subsequently, Deputy 
Chief of Training and Operations General Zidon agreed to 
develop alternatives for the 65th and 73rd battalions, based 
on the DATT's suggestions.  Ogohi asked Zidon to do so in 
tandem with the office of the Chief of Army Staff.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
 
2. (U) On May 16, Minister of State for Army Lawal Batagarawa 
requested to meet with AF/RA LTC Bittrick.  Also in 
attendance were DATT, PolMilOff, and the Minister's Special 
Assistant.  (PolMilOff had informed the Minister's Special 
Assistant of Bittrick's presence in Nigeria, and said that, 
while the Embassy would not formally request a meeting with 
the Army Minister for reasons of protocol, Bittrick along 
with PolMilOff and DATT would be available should the 
Minister desire a meeting.)  On May 17, the DATT and 
PolMilOff briefed the Deputy Chief of Training and Operations 
Brigadier General G.T. Zidon and Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) 
Vice Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, on similar issues. 
 
 
=== 
OFR 
=== 
 
 
3. (C) Batagarawa stated that both the Operation Focus Relief 
(OFR) and the MPRI programs were, in his estimation, very 
good and important programs.  He started to address the issue 
of past problems with OFR, but as he was having difficulty 
finding the words, Bittrick asked if he could interrupt. 
Bittrick stated that it was clear there had been a change in 
the level of cooperation in the last month, and that 
Washington was very appreciative.  Batagarawa responded, 
"Good.  Then that's all I have to say about that."  He then 
reiterated his previous commitment to Ambassador Jeter that 
he would personally ensure that the OFR program progressed 
smoothly (Ref B).  However, he said, there was still a need 
to complete an MOU to ensure both sides were in agreement on 
Phase 3 modalities (Ref B). 
 
 
4. (C) The DATT said that in the last three weeks, the Army 
had been exceptionally helpful, enthusiastic and cooperative. 
 He explained that an issue had arisen, but he would brief 
the Deputy Chief of Training and Operations and the CDS on 
May 17, and expected it could be resolved.  He then explained 
that the proposed training sites for the 73rd battalion 
(Enugu) in Abakaliki and the 65th battalion (Lagos) in Owode 
did not have billets for the Nigerian soldiers.  Since there 
was billeting for the Nigerian soldiers in Birnin-Kebbi, that 
planning could presently go forward. 
 
 
5. (C) The DATT pointed out that the U.S. would find it hard 
to construct tent camps for the Nigerian soldiers in 
Abakaliki and Owode as the Nigerian Army had requested 
because of financial constraints.  Therefore, it might make 
sense to look at some other options, including: 1) 
centralizing training in Kachia, as had originally been 
suggested by President Obasanjo; 2) selecting different 
battalions, based where training could occur and billeting 
was available.  A location would also have to be selected for 
the FOB that made sense in terms of the other basing.  In any 
case, the DATT and Defense Staff would work together to find 
a solution. 
6. (C) In response, Batagarawa agreed it was a good idea to 
brief Zidon and Ogohi, and said he would meet with them on 
May 18 to follow up on the discussions.  He stated that it 
would be very difficult to try to select new battalions. 
However, he said, a solution would be found.  Batagarawa 
suggested Kaduna (instead of Kachia) be considered for the 
Enugu and Lagos battalions.  He explained that with the 
Nigerian Defense Academy, the Command and Staff College, the 
military depot in Zaria and the Military Police Training 
School near Kaduna, surely land and billeting was available. 
Batagarawa indicated that finding a location for the FOB 
would not be an issue. 
 
 
============ 
MPRI PAYMENT 
============ 
 
 
7. (C) The DATT then updated the Minister on the status of 
the MPRI payment (Ref D).  Batagarawa slapped his hand to his 
forehead in frustration, paused, and then instructed his 
Special Assistant to arrange a meeting for him on May 18 with 
the MOD Director of Budget.  "I will take care of it," he 
said.  The DATT noted that the improved spirit of cooperation 
seen in OFR also applied to the MPRI program.  He reminded 
the Minister that the team was ready to discuss special 
projects with his office at any time, as they had done with 
the CDS and would soon do with the MOD Director of Army. 
 
 
============================================= == 
Deputy Chief of Training and Operations and CDS 
============================================= == 
 
 
8. (C) On May 17, DATT and PolMilOff called on the Deputy 
Chief of Training and Operations, Brigadier General Zidon 
(with his staff) and Ogohi to apprise them of the issues 
surrounding the training sites for the Enugu and Lagos 
battalions.  DATT briefed them on the situation and laid out 
various options for the military to consider.  He also noted 
that the plans for 1 Battalion in Birnin-Kebbi could move 
forward immediately.  Both Zidon and Ogohi were receptive to 
looking at other basing options, and to finding a location 
for the FOB.  DATT emphasized the need for quick decisions so 
that training could begin on schedule. 
 
 
9. (C) Surprisingly, Ogohi asked how long the training would 
be, and expressed dismay that the battalions would not deploy 
until late October, explaining that two of the four Nigerian 
battalions presently in Sierra Leone were due to rotate out 
in August (5 and 130 Battalions).  Zidon asked for a paper 
version of the briefing, which DATT agreed to provide the 
same day.  Ogohi asked Zidon to work with the office of the 
Chief of Army Staff ("since they know the terrain") and to 
determine a solution. 
 
 
10. (C) COMMENT: The level of cooperation and teamwork (since 
the April 19 round-table and the ascension of the new Service 
Chiefs) displayed by the Nigerian military towards security 
assistance programs in general, and OFR specifically, makes 
it hard to believe we are still in the same country. 
Batagarawa has, since assuming his position, proven to be an 
extremely helpful and results-oriented interlocutor for the 
Embassy.  An MOU is a good suggestion, and it will be 
important to make progress in this area to demonstrate our 
responsiveness to the Minister.  While the new issues 
surrounding basing need to be solved, we are optimistic 
(cautiously -- this is still the same country) that mutually 
agreeable solutions will be found. 
 
 
11. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: BG Zidon is new in his position 
and relied on his staff to ask questions and seek information 
during the briefing.  The CDS, a Naval Officer with limited 
knowledge of Army bases, deferred to Zidon and the office of 
the Chief of Army Staff.  But neither Zidon nor Ogohi gave 
any sign of dismay or indication that the basing issue would 
be insurmountable.  The training and operations staff were 
more cautious, but deferred to their bosses. 
 
 
12. (C) DAO COMMENT: The Nigerians seemed to appreciate the 
idea that funding constraints could cause a reappreciation of 
OFR basing concepts.  The idea of providing a tent camp(s) 
for the Nigerian battalions comes from the earliest 
discussions of OFR last year and were related to the idea 
then of centralized basing which was dropped due to the 
opposition of then-Chief of Army Staff Malu.  Still, the 
units, all visited last week, are supportive and eager to 
start. 
 
 
13. (C) DAO COMMENT CONTINUED: The DATT will attempt to steer 
the Nigerian Army Staff to consider (in order of priority): 
1) Selecting two different units that are in billets and on 
bases that have firing and maneuver spaces; 2) Centralized 
training to economize on base camp construction but with an 
eye on a facility that could billet the Nigerian battalions 
without preparation (this may also be helpful for follow-on 
programming); 3) Finding a site for the FOB if it cannot be 
NAF Abuja or co-located with the centralized base; 4) 
Starting construction at Birnin-Kebbi immediately; 5) Finding 
other solutions if none of the above work.  END DAO COMMENT. 
 
 
14. (U) LTC Bittrick did not clear this cable before 
departing Abuja. 
Andrews 

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