|Wikileaks:||View 01ABUJA1436 at Wikileaks.org|
|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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