US embassy cable - 01ABUJA2031

NIGERIA: INS ROUNDTABLE WITH GON OFFICIALS ADDRESS PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH DIRECT FLIGHTS TO THE U.S.

Identifier: 01ABUJA2031
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA2031 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-08-15 13:40:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: CVIS EAIR KFRD NI SMIG
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.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002031 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
ACCRA FOR INS 
ROME FOR INS DISTRICT DIRECTOR, GREGORY SMITH 
ATHENS FOR FAA CASLO 
DOT FOR KEVIN SAMPLE 
 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: CVIS, EAIR, KFRD, NI, SMIG 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: INS ROUNDTABLE WITH GON OFFICIALS ADDRESS 
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH DIRECT FLIGHTS TO THE U.S. 
 
REF: A. (A) STATE 128278 (B) ABUJA 1380 (C) LAGOS 1752 
     B. (D) LAGOS 1862 
 
 
1.  Sensitive but Unclassified, please protect 
accordingly. 
 
 
2.  Action request see para. 15. 
 
 
3. (U) Summary: On July 31, Ambassador, INS District 
Director INS/Rome, INS OIC/Accra, and Lagos Econoff 
attended a roundtable sponsored by Minister of Aviation 
Kema Chikwe to discuss the problems associated with the 
Nigeria Airways/South African Airways direct flight to 
New York City. GON participants expressed concern about 
reports of narcotics seizures at New York's JFK Airport, 
and the continuing problem of "malafide" passengers. 
The GON presented a number of proposals meant to address 
these problems including the establishment of a GON 
anti-fraud unit targeting malafide passengers and the 
placement of a magistrate's court within the airport. 
INS agreed to assist the GON with its efforts.  End 
Summary. 
 
 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
ROUNDTABLE EXAMINES SAA/NA'S "MALAFIDE" PROBLEM 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
 
 
 
4. (SBU) Minister of Aviation, Kema Chikwe led a 
roundtable discussion on problems associated with the 
SAA/NA service to JFK.  Attendees included GON Aviation 
Ministry officials, Immigration, and Customs officials, 
Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Chairman 
Alhaji Bello Lafiagi, the NDLEA Zonal Commander for 
Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Federal 
Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Managing Director 
Sule Ozenua, and a representative of the National 
Security Advisor's office. The Minister of Internal 
Affairs who oversees the Immigration Service was to co- 
chair the discussion, but a last minute change prevented 
his attendance.  INS District Director Gregory Smith 
first briefed GON officials on INS observations about 
the SAA/NA flight.  According to Smith, INS records 
indicate that approximately 70 passengers have been 
"turned around" from JFK since the flight commenced in 
February 2001.  Smith stated that ninety percent of 
these "malafide" passengers boarded in Lagos, and ninety 
percent were Nigerian nationals. The high incidence of 
malafide passengers, Smith explained, poses a 
significant financial burden for the airlines in the 
form of fines, as well as an image problem for both the 
carriers and Nigeria. The resulting negative perception 
will make the GON goal of attracting a U.S. carrier to 
Nigeria a difficult task. 
 
 
 
 
5. (SBU) Smith pointed out that in the past year INS has 
provided training to GON security agencies, Nigerian 
Immigration, and airline check-in staff on approximately 
seven occasions. (Comment:  In addition, the Congen 
Anti-Fraud Unit has also provided training on a number 
of times.  End Comment.)  Despite this effort the problem and 
number of malafide passengers continue unabated. Moreover, 
malafide passengers stopped at the boarding gate have their 
documents confiscated, and are usually free to return and 
just try again another day.   Smith reiterated that other 
factors, such as malfeasance and insufficient deterrence, are 
at play 
(Ref A).  To illustrate his point, Smith presented several 
examples of altered U.S. documents intercepted and 
confiscated by INS at the boarding gate area of MMIA.  The 
troubling point, Smith emphasized, was that the "would be" 
passengers apparently utilized these documents to pass 
through a Nigerian Immigration checkpoint prior to reaching 
the gate area.  Two of the U.S. passports presented were 
significantly damaged/altered and had identifying data wiped 
out. They should not have passed Nigerian Immigration 
 
 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
GON OFFICIALS PRESENT COUNTER-FRAUD PROPOSALS 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
 
 
 
6. (SBU) Minister Chikwe responded that President Obasanjo 
was aware of and concerned about the reported narcotics 
seizures and malafide passengers, and she described several 
proposals she had discussed with the President.  One 
proposal, put forward by the President himself, was to 
establish a magistrate's court within the airport to try 
offenses such as utilizing fraudulent documents and 
harassment. (Note: The harassment the Minister mentioned 
apparently described two types, that by "touts" and that 
deemed carried out by GON officials.  "Touts" are unemployed 
individuals searching for opportunities to make a few Naira, 
usually with threats of intimidation.  An example of this 
would be a "tout" hired to assist a passenger to move from 
the rear to the front of a line. End Note.)  Other GON 
agencies present at the roundtable seemed unaware of this 
proposal and it was pointed out that a court, with 
jurisdiction over the airport, already existed.  NDLEA 
officials reiterated that narcotics cases can only be tried 
in a Federal High Court.  Despite the contradictory 
viewpoints, Minister Chikwe opined that a magistrate's court 
was needed within the airport facility if for no other reason 
than to serve as a deterrent for minor crimes, such as 
utilizing fraudulent documents.  Such a court facility would 
offer rapid justice and therefore deter this type of crime. 
Chikwe indicated that she would discuss this proposal with 
Lagos State Governor Tinubu. 
 
 
 
 
7. (U) The Minister described a second proposal involving the 
posting of government lawyers to the airport to ensure the 
protection of passengers' rights. This proposal would 
address, she said, Ministry concerns regarding accusations by 
travelers of extortion and harassment by GON officials. The 
Minister's third proposal was an expression of GON support 
for any USG 
assistance and training that can be offered. 
 
 
 
 
8.  (U) After Minister Chikwe described these preliminary 
proposals, other suggestions were raised during the course of 
the roundtable discussion. Chikwe dictated that FAAN would 
begin to provide additional security at boarding gate areas 
to prevent "would be" malafide passengers from intimidating 
airline staff. The Minister stated that FAAN security 
personnel should be on hand and react as appropriate when 
passengers 
denied boarding become unruly. 
 
 
 
 
-------------------------------- 
INS TRAINING KEY TO GON THINKING 
-------------------------------- 
 
 
 
 
9. (U) GON officials requested additional INS training for 
airline personnel, check-in staff, Nigerian Immigration, and 
various GON security agencies. (Comment:  An INL-funded, 
Department of Justice, International Criminal Investigative 
Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), involving 40 Nigerian 
Immigration officers is planned for late August.  In 
addition, INS has agreed to provide additional training for 
Nigerian 
Immigration in the future, and to other GON security 
agencies, as appropriate.  End Comment.)  Ambassador Jeter 
informed Chikwe that the proposed Memorandum of 
Understanding, establishing guidelines for a USG presence at 
MMIA, was presently under review by the State Department. 
(Reftels A and D) 
 
 
 
 
10. (SBU) The roundtable recommended that a Special 
Anti-Fraud Unit be established by the Nigerian Immigration 
Service to operate at the airport at both the boarding gates 
and the regular immigration checkpoints.  INS agreed to 
support and train such a "core" unit, with the understanding 
that its members will be held accountable and would undergo 
background 
checks. Members of the unit will be directed to arrest (and 
hopefully prosecute) passengers presenting fraudulent 
documents. 
 
 
 
 
11. (SBU) Comment: The convening of this roundtable by the 
Minister of Aviation, with the reguired attendance of a 
number of GON security agencies, suggests that at the GON, at 
the highest levels, is seeking solutions to the problems 
arising from the SAA/NA service to JFK. The GON is obviously 
worried about recent developments.  Unfortunately, as 
evidenced during the roundtable, a lack of coordination and 
communication among GON agencies still exists.  However, a 
meaningful discussion was held and useful proposals were 
suggested from all sides. 
 
 
 
 
12. (SBU) Comment Cont.: The proposals suggested during the 
roundtable address some of the factors that allow the problem 
of malafide passengers to continue unabated.  To date, there 
has been little or no deterrence to such activity. Whether it 
is the creation of a magistrate's court that expeditiously 
tries malafide passengers, or the arrest and detention of 
malafides by the Nigerian Immigration Service, both steps 
suggest movement in the right direction. Also, the Minister's 
tasking of FAAN to increase security at boarding gate areas 
could help alleviate concerns of airline staff regarding 
intimidation by passengers. 
 
 
 
 
13.  (SBU) Comment Cont.: The burden of document verification 
now rests completely upon the airlines operating from Murtala 
Mohammed International Airport. Reports indicate that 
corruption is a widespread problem in both the Nigerian 
Immigration and Customs Services, and these reports come from 
sister GON security agencies. In the Embassy's view, the 
proposal to train a small group of Nigerian Immigration 
officers to fill the void of effective document verification 
at MMIA is both logical and necessary.  Training and support 
could be focused on this core group, with the understanding 
that the GON will hold unit members accountable for their 
actions.  For maximum impact and effectiveness, these 
officers could concentrate their efforts at the boarding 
gates. 
 
 
14. (SBU) Comment Cont.: Experience has demonstrated that the 
presence of one USG Anti-Fraud or INS officer at the boarding 
gate results in passenger turnaround numbers going from 
several a flight to zero.  The best substitute for a USG or 
similar (UK, German) presence is a trained (and trustworthy) 
Nigerian Immigration presence, but one which is strictly held 
accountable for proffesional performance. With high level GON 
attention, the establishment of an immigration unit as 
proposed, with USG assistance, may be feasible. We are 
certain that the proposals put forward by Chikwe have the 
full backing of President Obasanjo. 
 
 
15.  (SBU) Action Request: Mission welcomes the INS offer of 
an extended TDY presence in Lagos and reguests that INS 
approve the proposal to coordinate with GON officials to 
establish and train a Special Anti-Fraud Unit within the 
Nigerian Immigration Service.  Mission would also appreciate 
any update from the Department on the status of the proposed 
MOU (Reftels A, B, C, D). 
 
 
 
 
16. This message was drafted after the departure of INS 
Director Gregory Smith. 
 
 
 
 
Jeter 

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