US embassy cable - 01ABUJA2225

NIGERIA: MISSION VIEWS REGARDING INS ASSISTANCE FOR DIRECT FLIGHT TO NEW YORK

Identifier: 01ABUJA2225
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA2225 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-09-06 10:05:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: EAIR CVIS KFRD SMIG SNAR 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.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002225 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
 
FROM AMBASSADOR JETER 
ACCRA FOR INS 
ROME FOR INS DISTRICT DIRECTOR, GREGORY SMITH 
DAKAR FOR FAA 
DOT FOR KEVIN SAMPLE 
 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAIR, CVIS, KFRD, SMIG, SNAR, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: MISSION VIEWS REGARDING INS ASSISTANCE 
FOR DIRECT FLIGHT TO NEW YORK 
 
 
REF: A. CUNDIFF/COHEN EMAIL 8/23/01 
     B. LAGOS 01862 
     C. ABUJA 02031 
     D. LAGOS 01844 
 
 
Sensitive but Unclassified, please protect accordingly. 
 
 
1.  (U) I want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize the 
Mission's support for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 
with the GON, which would establish guidelines and a legal 
basis for a USG presence at Murtala Muhammed International 
Airport (MMIA).  At the same time, I also want to encourage 
INS support for an airport-based Special Anti-Fraud Unit 
within the Nigerian Immigration Service. 
 
 
2. (SBU) In an e-mail exchange between State and INS 
Headquarters (Ref A), INS indicated that it would prefer to 
provide assistance to South African Airways, Nigeria Airways, 
and the GON without a MOU.  I would like to stress again that 
the Mission strongly believes that it is in the USG interest 
to have such an agreement with the GON.  This agreement would 
provide the written, formal concurrence of the Nigerian 
government, justifying the noticeable USG presence at MMIA 
and providing guidelines and a legal foundation for its 
activities.  Without such an agreement, the USG could 
potentially face public criticism fueled by the complaints of 
passengers subsequently denied boarding.  By having the GON 
on our side, with the backing of a written agreement, the 
Mission and INS TDYers are much better protected against 
these potential problems. 
 
 
3. (SBU) We agree that INS officers conducting passenger 
screening at MMIA should operate in a consultative role as 
much as possible.  However, passengers denied boarding know 
very well that it was a USG official who had advised the 
airline to do so.  Also, INS has indicated that for their 
officers to operate they must have the right to confiscate 
fraudulent U.S. documents.  We agree, and these issues are 
addressed in the proposed MOU (Reftel B). 
 
 
4. (SBU) I greatly appreciate the INS assistance received so 
far--the timely visit of INS District Director Gregory Smith 
was particularly helpful--and the INS offer of continued TDY 
support.  The problems associated with the direct flight have 
the attention of the GON at its highest level, and the GON 
welcomes any assistance that we can provide.  However, we 
must have something in writing, signed by the GON, that 
allows us to carry out such activity.  This will provide us 
with the legal and political cover for our role and 
activities. 
 
 
5. (SBU) I also understand that during Washington discussions 
it was suggested that the USG ask the GON to form a "joint 
task force" to combat the problem of malafide passengers. 
The proposed joint task force would bring together the 
Nigerian Immigration Service and Nigerian Police to arrest 
and prosecute passengers presenting fraudulent documents. 
This proposal causes us some concern.  In practice, the joint 
task force concept is difficult to implement in Nigeria due 
to a real lack of coordination (and at times cooperation) 
among agencies.  In October last year, we tried a similar 
proposal with the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency 
(NDLEA) and the Nigerian Customs Service based on the U.S. 
joint task force model.  We learned that interagency 
cooperation does not work as well as we would like in Nigeria. 
 
 
6. (SBU) We fear similar problems would be experienced with 
an Immigration/Nigerian Police joint task force proposal. 
The lack of fraudulent document prosecution is not just a 
lack of attention by the Nigerian Police; in fact, it also is 
a larger question of the overall professionalism of the 
police and the efficiency and transparency of the judicial 
system.  Both of these issues are now being addressed by the 
Mission on other, higher-level fronts, and through assistance 
programs to help revive a greatly diminished national 
judicial system. 
 
 
7. (SBU) However, we strongly support the idea of an 
airport-based, Special Anti-fraud Unit within the Nigerian 
Immigration Service (Reftel C).  Such a dedicated effort can 
potentially produce noticeable and significant results, and 
one aspect of this can be to work with Nigerian Immigration 
to see what steps can be taken to facilitate prosecutions in 
the short-term.  Effective prosecution would be reinforced by 
President Obasanjo's proposal to establish an airport 
Magistrate's Court (Reftel C).  The broader issues of police 
and judicial reform, and interagency cooperation will be more 
appropriately addressed within the context of the proposed 
Bilateral Law Enforcement Commission (Reftel D). 
 
 
8. (SBU) I am concerned that while the USG is evaluating 
these broad issues and seeking long-term solutions, malafide 
passengers continue to arrive on the South African 
Airways/Nigeria Airways direct flight to New York.  This not 
only has a direct impact upon the U.S. port-of-entry, but 
also upon the viability of the direct flight and our 
bilateral relationship with the GON.  We must resolve these 
issues quickly and effectively with a MOU and the presence of 
an INS officer(s) who can assist the GON in forming the 
proposed Anti-fraud Unit. 
 
 
9. (SBU) UPDATE: On September 1, a 30 day TDY INS officer 
arrived at Post to provide assistance to the airlines and the 
GON in combating the malafide passenger problem.  We 
understand that another TDY officer has been identified to 
follow.  I greatly appreciate INS assistance in providing 
this presence, but also feel it is now even more urgent that 
we sign a formal agreement, i.e.- the MOU, with the GON for 
the reasons outlined above.  Your support for these 
initiatives is greatly appreciated. 
Andrews 

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