US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1436

NIGERIAN ARMY MINISTER ON OFR, MPRI ISSUES

Identifier: 01ABUJA1436
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1436 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-06-22 06:41:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL MASS MARR NI ECOWAS
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 ABUJA 001436 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR AF, AF/RA AND AF/W 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/11/2011 
TAGS: PREL, MASS, MARR, NI, ECOWAS 
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN ARMY MINISTER ON OFR, MPRI ISSUES 
 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter, reason 1.5 (B/D) 
 
 
1.  (C) Summary.  Minister of State for the Army Lawal 
Batagarawa on June 18 agreed to account for the two missing 
trucks from the previous OFR training in Nigeria, expressed 
some misgivings about the "Serti" base location for OFR Phase 
III given its close proximity to the border with Cameroon, 
and asserted that an OFR media campaign should be the primary 
responsibility of the GON.   He also indicated that payment 
for MPRI was the subject of a routing error, and pledged to 
find counterparts for MPRI personnel.  He also agreed to 
visit the Oshodi camp for retiring military personnel with 
the Ambassador.  End summary. 
 
 
2.  (C)  Ambassador Jeter, accompanied by DATT and Poloff met 
with Minister of State for the Army Alhaji Lawal Batagarawa 
June 18 in Abuja.  Conversation centered on Operation Focus 
Relief (OFR) Phase III, and on the MPRI program. On OFR, 
Batagarawa accepted a rough draft of the Memorandum of Intent 
(MOI) governing OFR in Nigeria, and expressed satisfaction at 
the prospect of receiving the list of equipment intended for 
the three Nigerian battalions set for training at Ilorin, 
Serti and Bernin-Kebbi.  He also pledged to account for the 
two missing trucks from the Phase I training, and recognized 
that further hand-over of trucks for Nigerian battalions 
would be contingent upon the Phase I trucks arriving in 
Sierra Leone. Upon reflection, Batagarawa indicated some 
uneasiness regarding the  Serti training site, given its 
close proximity to the border with Cameroon.  Cameroon's 
sensitivity to training close to its border had to be 
considered.  Upon consultation with colleagues within the 
Ministry, Batagrawa said he might recommend another training 
site away from the border.  DATT requested an early decision 
on this training base issue, given timing constraints for 
Phase III, and Batagarawa agreed.  Ambassador Jeter told 
Batagarawa that, if the GON went ahead with the Serti base, 
the USG would approach the Government of Cameroon to explain 
the purpose of the training and address their sensitivities. 
The Ambassador Jeter also asked if the GON would approach the 
Government of Cameroon, but Batagarawa did not directly 
respond. 
 
 
3.  (C) Ambassador Jeter also inquired into the possibility 
of a joint media campaign on OFR, to explain the training to 
the Nigerian public and the National Assembly.  Batagarawa 
asserted that any media campaign would be the responsibility 
of the GON:  "It will be more credible if we do it," said the 
Minister.  Upon further urging from the Ambassador, 
Batagarawa agreed that, after initial Nigerian efforts at 
media outreach and explanations to the National Assembly, the 
GON and the Embassy could conduct joint efforts. 
 
 
4.  (C) On MPRI, Batagarawa evinced considerable 
embarrassment over the continuing lack of payment of the USD 
3.5 million to MPRI.  Batagarawa asserted that the current 
problem was an error in the routing number, and expressed the 
conviction that the error would be corrected shortly. 
Ambassador Jeter then queried him on the question of 
counterparts for MPRI personnel, explaining that, despite 
repeated attempts to secure counterparts for the MPRI 
officials, none had ever been forthcoming.  Noting that the 
MPRI personnel could not operate in a vacuum, Ambassador 
Jeter said that "If you don't want this program, we will 
terminate it.  It is your decision.  But you need to decide. 
If you do want it, MPRI must have counterparts to work with. 
Without cooperation, this program is a failure."  Minister 
Batagarawa expressed appreciation for the Ambassador's 
frankness, and pledged to "chase down" the naming of 
counterparts.  Finally, Batagarawa and the Ambassador agreed 
to a joint visit to the Oshodi camp for re-training retiring 
military personnel in the next week or two. 
 
 
5.  (C) Comment.  As we have noted before, Batagarawa appears 
to be a no-nonsense interlocutor, one genuinely embarrassed 
at the lack of payment to MPRI, and sincerely interested in 
sorting out the problems with MPRI counterparts.  His concern 
for potential Cameroon sensitivity over the Serti training 
base site strikes us as a real one, and we may have to switch 
the site.  We will urge the GON to decide this question 
quickly, so as not to impinge upon OFR training schedules. 
While the Minister did not readily accept the idea of a joint 
media effort on OFR, we believe we can work this issue 
further, and reach an acceptable compromise that will allow 
the Mission to assist with local media, a "must" given the 
GON's ineptitude in dealing with the press.  Given the 
plethora of inaccurate stories that resulted from the 
previous OFR training in Nigeria, the Mission can offer 
useful assistance in this area.   End comment. 
Jeter 

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