US embassy cable - 01ABUJA2226

STAR INTERVIEW -- ARMY MINISTER BATAGARAWA PUBLICLY ADVANCES THE MIL-MIL RELATIONSHIP

Identifier: 01ABUJA2226
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA2226 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-09-06 10:18:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL MASS MARR OIIP OPRC PINR KPAO 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 06 ABUJA 002226 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/06/2011 
TAGS: PREL, MASS, MARR, OIIP, OPRC, PINR, KPAO, NI 
SUBJECT: STAR INTERVIEW -- ARMY MINISTER BATAGARAWA 
PUBLICLY ADVANCES THE MIL-MIL RELATIONSHIP 
 
REF: A. ABUJA 2072 
     B. ABUJA 1436 
 
 
(U) Classified by CDA Andrews; Reasons 1.5 (d). 
 
 
1. (U) In the "Star Interview" section of the Daily Trust 
newspaper on August 30, Army Minister Lawal Batagarawa 
expressed his views on the security assistance relationship 
with the United States and on Operation Focus Relief, in 
addition to other topics relating to the Nigerian military 
and Ministry of Defense.  The Daily Trust is a newspaper 
produced in Abuja (unlike the majority of Nigerian dailies 
produced in Lagos), and has a significant readership in the 
North.  Northerners have been the most suspicious of U.S. 
activities vis-a-vis the military. 
 
 
2. (C) Batagarawa had been aware of a desire on the part of 
the Embassy to have a larger and more focused media campaign 
on OFR and the MPRI programs, particularly to address rumors 
of "U.S. espionage," but had stated that the GON should lead 
this cause (Ref B).  Recent public statements by President 
Obasanjo and Minister of Defense Danjuma on these topics, in 
addition to this particularly noteworthy interview, clearly 
demonstrate the Army Minister making good on his promise. 
The article is reproduced in its entirety in para 5 
(particularly noteworthy sections are in all caps). 
 
 
3. (C) Batagarawa, since the inception of his tenure in 
February, has played a key role in working with the Mission 
to advance U.S. and Nigerian interests in regards to 
military-to-military programs.  His willingness to personally 
intervene as Acting Minister of Defense on the security 
assistance program (Ref A) led to the eventual transfer of 
funds for the MPRI program.  Moreover, through his good 
offices, ODC Abuja now meets biweekly with Ministry of 
Defense officials to work together to advance the Embassy's 
security assistance program. 
 
 
4. (C) Batagarawa is clearly intelligent, thoughtful, and 
unlike many of his colleagues, willing to make decisions on 
the spot when he perceives them to be in the best interests 
of Nigeria.  Batagarawa may travel to the U.S. in early 
October.  If he does, Mission strongly urges the Department 
and relevant Washington agencies to engage seriously and 
"roll out the red carpet" for this impressive interlocutor. 
 
 
5. (U) The Daily Trust, August 20, 2001 
 
 
The U.S. is not on a Spying Mission - Batagarawa:  Mallam 
Lawal Batagarawa is the Minister of State, for Defense, Army. 
 In this interview with Hameed M. Bello, our Senior Reporter, 
he comments on renovations in the barracks, the 'downsizing' 
of the army, the Nigerian/U.S. military partnership, 
pensioners within the Army, the War College, and more. 
Excerpts. 
 
 
Q: Did your appointment as Minister of State, for Defense, 
Army, come to you as a surprise? 
 
 
A: Well, I am not sure I am competent to comment on my 
appointment, so I would rather leave that question. 
 
 
Q: How have soldiers in the barracks fared since the advent 
of this regime in terms of welfare facilities, and so on? 
 
 
A: Well, first of all, I will split your question into two. 
One is how do the private soldiers in the barracks feel.  The 
most competent person to answer that question is the soldiers 
in the barracks.  On the issue of the dilapidation of the 
barracks, we are dealing with these problems at two levels. 
First of all, there is a presidential committee on barracks 
rehabilitation, whose chairman is a senior officer from the 
Federal Ministry of Works, with representatives from the 
Army, Navy, Airforce and the Police.  They are to handle and 
rehabilitate barracks for these four services.  Their modus 
operandi is that for now they have taken one major barracks 
from each of the services and they are concentrating their 
activities on those barracks.  The idea is simple.  It is to 
concentrate resources so that we have the maximum effect, 
rather than spread money in such a way that the effect is not 
felt at all.  I will give you a very simple example.  If you 
allocate N250 million, let's say to rehabilitate police 
barracks what it will come to about N1 million per barracks, 
you will agree with me that such an effort will have no 
impact at all.  That is why the decision is that you 
concentrate your resources on specific barracks so that you 
achieve the maximum effect.  In other words the Army, Navy, 
Airforce and the Police have money within their budgetary 
allocation for this year for barracks maintenance and 
rehabilitation.  Now, what we are doing is to pick barracks 
across the country and try to attend to part of the barracks 
with the resources that are available.  But again we are 
concentrating efforts and resources in specific locations, 
not all over the country.  Again what we want to do is 
systematically bring all the barracks to the required 
standard, but we do not have the resources to do all of that 
at the same time, so we make selections across the country. 
 
 
Q: The Defense Minister has said that military commanders 
would be involved in the renovation of the various barracks. 
Since government is emphasizing the reprofessionalization of 
the military, won't that go contrary to government's efforts 
in this direction? 
A: I think you are approaching it from the wrong perspective. 
 A commander in any particular location is responsible for 
the welfare and upkeep of his troops with their families. 
That includes ensuring that the barracks is habitable.  So if 
you do not involve him at the level of supervision, who else 
can supervise this work?  Is it just the professionals who 
will come today and go away?  He knows the minute details of 
what is wrong in those barracks.  He has to certify that 
those weaknesses or defects in the barracks have been dealt 
with, and that is the involvement that the Minister of 
Defense is talking about.  It is not that he (the commander) 
would be the one awarding contracts, supervising the 
contracts and satisfying the contractors.  That is a 
professional job meant for architects and quantity surveyors 
and engineers.  He is to ensure that things are done 
correctly to the satisfaction of his officers and men.  That 
is the level to which he would be involved. 
 
 
Q: Some two years ago when this administration came into 
power, one of the visions of the regime was to downsize the 
military to make it mobile and provide facilities for them. 
It seems as if this downsizing has been stopped.  What is 
responsible for the stoppage sir? 
 
 
A: Well, you have supplied part of the answer yourself.  You 
will agree with me that this government in each situation 
where it has committed itself to a particular activity, we 
normally study the situation based on the objective we want 
to achieve, and then study is thoroughly analyzed and then on 
the basis of the detailed knowledge we then go about meeting 
our objective.  We are in the process of studying the 
components that will determine what is the optimum size of 
the military we require.  What sort of equipment do we need 
to provide for that military?  So this is not something that 
you will jump into.  It is something that you have to study 
thoroughly, you know.  You have to take into account the 
training you require.  You decide what is the optimum level 
of the military you require, then you straighten-out the 
hardware on the basis of that.  Then you work out the 
training requirements on the basis of that also.  It is when 
you do all this work and you have all the different 
components in perspective, that you begin to act.  Another 
issue that you have to take into consideration, which is 
something you know very well, is the fact that the military 
is not like all human institutions.  It is not something that 
is static; it is dynamic.  Certain circumstances have changed 
between 1999 and today, and whatever we have to do we have to 
talk them into consideration, and we are taking those factors 
that have changed into consideration to determine what we are 
doing. 
 
 
Q: NIGERIA AND U.S. HAVE A MILITARY PARTNERSHIP, WHICH GAVE 
BIRTH TO OPERATION FOCUS RELIEF (TRAINING FOR COMBAT 
READINESS).  NIGERIANS DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS PARTNERSHIP. 
SOME ARE EVEN SAYING THAT AMERICANS ARE ON AN ESPIONAGE 
MISSION.  WHAT CLARIFICATION CAN YOU MAKE ON THIS? 
 
 
A: OKAY, FIRST OF ALL, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF COUNTRIES 
NIGERIA HAS DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENTS WITH.  UNITED 
STATES OF AMERICA IS ONE, THE RUSSIAN REPUBLIC IS ANOTHER. 
OTHERS ARE SOUTH AFRICA, IRAN AND A NUMBER OF OTHERS.  WE 
HAVE MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENTS WITH THEM.  AS A 
CONSEQUENCE OF THESE MILITARY AGREEMENTS, WE HAVE TWO 
PROGRAMMES WITH THE U.S.  ONE IS OPERATION FOCUS RELIEF. 
FOCUS RELIEF IS TARGETED AS FOLLOWS: A NUMBER OF NATIONS ARE 
INVOLVED IN THE UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING MISSION IS SIERRA 
LEONE AND NIGERIA IS ONE OF THEM.  THE U.S. ASSISTS THESE 
COUNTRIES INVOLVED IN THE PEACEKEEPING MISSION IS SIERRA 
LEONE WITH TRAINING AND EQUIPMENT.  SO, IT IS ALL THE 
COUNTRIES THAT ARE INVOLVED IN THE PEACEKEEPING MISSION IN 
SIERRA LEONE.  FORCUS RELIEF IS TARGETED AT ALL THE COUNTRIES 
PARTICIPATING IN THE PEACEKEEPING MISSION IN SIERRA LEONE. 
THE SECOND IS THE MPRI PROGRAM. 
 
 
Q: WHAT IS MPRI? 
 
 
A: MPRI IS: MILITARY PROFESSIONAL RESOURCE INCORPORATED.  IT 
IS ESSENTIALLY A GROUP OF RETIRED, RESPONSIBLE MILITARY 
OFFICERS OF AMERICAN ORIGIN WHO ARE EMPLOYED BY THE 
GOVERNMENT OF THE U.S. TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE TO FRIENDLY 
COUNTRIES LKIKE NIGERIA THAT HAVE MILITARY COOPERATION 
AGREEMENTS WITH THEM.  WHAT DO THEY DO?  IT IS A SIMPLE THING 
- WE SIT IN NIGERIA AND LOOK AT OUR MILITARY AND IDENTIFY 
WHAT ARE THE WEAKNESSES IN OUR MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT.  THE 
MILITARY AND THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE WOULD SIT DOWN AND 
IDENTIFY WHAT ARE OUR AREAS OF WEAKNESSES.  THEN WE SIT DOWN 
WITH THESE MILITARY PERSONNEL FROM THE UNITED STATES WHO HAVE 
SERVED IN A NUMBER OF COMMANDS AND STAFF POSTS.  WE WILL ASK 
THEM IN WHAT WAY SHOULD WE DEAL WITH THESE SPECIFIC PROBLEMS. 
 THE POINT IS SIMPLE, WE LEAD, THEY SUPPORT US.  THERE IS 
NOTHING LIKE A SPYING MISSION.  IF WE HAVE PROFESSIONALS WHO 
HAVE VARIED EXPERIENCE IN NIGERIA, WE WILL USE THEIR 
SERVICES.  THE U.S. OFFICIALS PARTICIPATING IN MPRI ARE 
PAIRED WITH NIGERIAN MILITARY OFFICERS, AND WHATEVER THEY DO, 
IS CARRIED OUT JOINTLY.  WE DON'T ALLOW THE AMERICANS TO GO 
INTO AREAS WE CONSIDER SENSITIVE TO OUR SECURITY. 
 
 
Q: I RECALL THAT THE NIGERIAN ARMY HAS A RESERVE LIST WHICH 
IS SUPPOSED TO BE A LIST OF OFFICERS WHO HAVE BEEN RETIRED 
FROM THE ARMY AND SOME OF THEM HAVE SEEN BATTLE, ESPECIALLY 
IN BIAFRA.  WHY HAVEN'T WE DRAWN FROM THE POOL OF THESE 
VETERANS?  IS THERE ANYTHING UNIQUE ABOUT THE MPRI THAT WE 
NEED TO LEARN FROM? 
 
 
A: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, LET ME START WITH THE SIMPLEST 
POSITION.  YOU CAN ALWAYS LEARN SOMETHING NEW FROM ANOTHER 
PERSON.  YOU LEARN EVERYDAY FROM YOUR CHILD.  THAT IS A FACT 
OF LIFE.  SO, FOR EVERY OFFICER IN THE MPRI PROGRAMME, WE 
HAVE HIS NIGERIAN COUNTERPART, BOTH SERVING AND RETIRED IN 
WHICH CASE WE ARE ALREADY TAPPING INTO THE EXPERIENCE OF SOME 
OF OUR RETIRED PERSONNEL AS COUNTERPARTS TO THOSE AMERICANS. 
SECONDLY, THERE IS SOMETHING UNIQUE ABOUT THESE PEOPLE. 
FIRST, TECHNOLOGICALLY, THEY HAVE AN EDGE OVER US.  NUMBER 
TWO, IN TERMS OF MANAGEMENT SCIENCES, THE AMERICAN ECONOMY 
HAS DEVELOPED MANGEMENT SCIENCES TO AN ART, AND THERE IS 
SOMETHING WE CAN LEARN FROM IN THIS REGARD.  IN INFORMATION 
TECHNOILOGY, WE CAN LEARN SOMETHING FROM THEM.  WE ARE ALSO 
LEARNING FROM THE NIGERIAN VETERANS. 
 
 
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK THE AMERICANS STAND TO GAIN FROM THE 
PARTNERSHIP? 
 
 
A: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, LET ME START FROM PEACEKEEPING 
OPERATIONS.  EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD HAS SOMETHING TO GAIN IF 
THE WORLD IS AT PEACE.  THE ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES OF THE WQORLD 
WOULD FLOURISH.  WE HAVE SEEN THE CATASTROPHES IN SOMALIA, IN 
THE WAR BETWEEN ERITREA AND ETHIOPIA, IN THE MIDDLE EAST. 
AMERICANS HAVE AN INTEREST IN PEACE RETURNING TO THOSE AREAS 
JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE.  IF THERE IS PEACE IN NIGERIA, THEY 
WILL COME AND INVEST, AND MAKE PROFIT. 
 
 
Q: What is the cause in the delay in the payment of pensions? 
 Why does the Ministry default in payment as and when due? 
 
 
A: First of all, as you are aware, pensions in the last two 
years have been reviewed about three times.  The increase in 
the amount of pension has gone up about 400 percent or more, 
about 600 percent, if I am correct.  That has increased the 
volume of money we are to pay as pension.  The second thing 
that has happened was that a lot of people who were entitled 
to pension, were not collecting pension because the previous 
amount was meager.  All of them have come back into the 
pension scheme because the money is now important to them. 
Those not in the system before, you are not aware of them 
because maybe they have died, or for whatever reason they are 
not there.  Now that they have come, it will change your 
budgetary allocation making it inadequate.  These twin 
problems are basically things that have created a backlog. 
The third issue is that there are a lot of people who are not 
entitled to pension but who are doing everything they can to 
ensure they get on the pensioners' list.  Because of the 
activities of these bad eggs, we have to be cautious so that 
due process of establishing who is entitled to pension is 
followed, and these massive increases have taken place on the 
basis of the two things I have identified means that we have 
to make adjustments.  The budgetary system now if different 
from what is was before.  This time, once you go before the 
National Assembly and they approve the budget, if you wish to 
change it, you have to take a supplementary appropriation 
bill to them, which has to get through due process.  A 
combination of these factors is responsible for the delays. 
We hope that these problems will be solved between now and 
December and with effect from January 1, we should not have 
any problem with the pensions.  We hope by them, we would 
have had our facts and figures ready. 
 
 
Q: Sir, there has been this allegation that even the 
selection process to the War College has been so politicized 
that those who do not merit to be there have been admitted. 
What comment do you have on this? 
 
 
A: I do not comment on speculations.  If you say it has been 
alleged, then what is the basis of the allegation?  Unless 
you have certain specific cases on the basis of which I can 
respond, I don't think I will respond to that question. 
Q: In the 70s and early 80s when there was professionalism in 
the military, soldiers interacted among themselves in the 
officers' messes.  Now the messes are deserted, ministers 
don't honor functions in the mess.  What is responsible for 
these developments? 
 
 
A: Let's get our understanding correct.  I will not say that 
going to the mess is what constitutes professionalism in the 
army.  Number two, I don't know how many messes you have been 
to, that you can say with any degree of authority that 
officers are not going to the mess.  Number three, it is not 
all functions by the military that the minister has to 
attend.  A lot of functions conducted by the army are not 
even attended by the Chief of Staff or his principal staff 
officers.  Let us not trivialize the issue of professionalism. 
 
 
Q: The present administration is keen on reprofessionalizing 
the military and the best way to achieve that is to train and 
retrain the military and equip it.  What special training is 
the Army giving its men to keep them combat ready? 
 
 
A: From the day a young man enrolls in the Defense Academy 
his career pattern is worked up to the time he will become a 
General. Okay, there are a minimum number of courses he has 
top attend. There are certain postings he must do, directing 
staff in training institutions and command. And these 
training facilities that have been allowed run down are now 
being rehabilitated and upgraded and that is the difference. 
 
 
Q: There was a report that troops participating in the United 
Nations Peace Keeping Mission are in low morale, especially 
those from Ukraine, is the Nigerian troop having a similar 
experience? What is the cause? 
 
 
A: I have been in Sierra Leone and I found the morale of our 
officers and men very high. 
 
 
Q: In relation to the ex-Biafran soldiers who are agitating 
for absorption into the Nigerian Army, we don,t know what 
your ministry is doing on that and what the implications are 
for the Nigerian Army itself. What would happen if the army 
wish to reabsorb them? 
 
 
A: You have just been asking me about "downsizing" the 
Nigerian Army and now you are asking me to reverse gear and 
go the another way. Let,s face it, the Biafran Army was 
involved in treason. To fight your country or against your 
country is treason, alright? These people were not staff of 
the Nigerian Army, so how do you reabsorb them? Reabsorbing 
means you were in before and you are being taken back. They 
were never in before, so how can they be taken back? Unless 
you are saying we should go and recruit the former Biafran 
Army into he Nigerian Army. That,s a different ball game 
altogether. They cannot talk of reabsorbtion because they 
were never part of the Nigerian Army.  Biafra is not Nigeria, 
Nigeria is Nigeria. So you can,t reabsorb soldiers from 
another country into your own country. 
 
 
Q: The government has been talking about transparency in 
public life for the nation to move forward/ What efforts are 
the Army making to ensure that there is transparency in all 
its activities. 
 
 
A: You see, transparency requires a number of things, but the 
most fundamental is that there must be checks and balances ad 
we are complying in the Nigerian Army with all the rules and 
regulations. There was a retreat for the military in Kaduna 
and Ibadan and we are going to go round to all the military 
formations to do this retreat as part of the effort for the 
campaign for transparency and accountability.  Also specific 
programs are being worked out at different locations to deal 
with these issues. 
 
 
Q: At the retreat in Ibadan, the president called upon the 
officers to open up so that government would tap from 
whatever complaints they may have and find out how to satisfy 
the rank and file of the military in terms of morale and so 
on.  How was your experience in the course of the retreat? 
 
 
A: It was very beneficial, very educative and it was a good 
training ground for me. 
 
 
Q: What measure is the Nigerian Army taking, especially with 
your leadership to ensure that the Army does not make any 
incursion into politics? 
 
 
A: We have agreed that one of the best ways to keep any 
mischief-maker in the military from making any incursion into 
politics is basically good government and you will agree with 
me that this government is providing that.  Two, the press 
has always been involved in promoting extreme disharmony in 
the society in a fundamentally negative fashion.  That 
provides the military boys the excuse they are looking for. 
So, the responsibility is not that of the government alone. 
It is for all of us.  What do we say about ourselves if 
mistakes are made, how do we approach the resolution of those 
mistakes?  In 1983, some people were openly calling for the 
military to take over.  The press was urging the military on. 
 In 1993 when Chief Shonekan was the Head of State, some 
people were openly telling Sani Abacha to come and let the 
military finish what they have started, hand over to, Abiola 
and all that.  The Press and other influential members of 
society can play their own part. 
 
 
Q: Sir, would you support an Obasanjo/Atiku ticket come 2003? 
 
 
A: You don,t need to ask that question. 
 
 
Q: For what reason sir? 
 
 
A: Look, let,s get it right.  First of all, why in the first 
place do we support Obasanjo?  All the reasons that 
recommended Obasanjo to be supported by all Nigerians are 
still valid today, two years later.  Added to that, you will 
testify there is greater hope in the Nigerian system.  In 
1999, Niger Delta was a total no go area.  It affected the 
important economic activities going on in Nigeria, especially 
the exploration of oil.  The Niger Delta is peaceful today. 
There is no vandalization of pipelines, no kidnapping of oil 
workers, economic activities are picking up in the place and 
express roads have been constructed.  Even in Abuja, today 
there is relative security and there is calm all over the 
country.  In the year 2000, the economy grew, for the first 
time above the rate of population growth.  You can see 
electricity supply stabilizing in Abuja and it is the same 
all over.  In some par4ts of Lagos, especially the industrial 
area, there is a continuous power supply for 22 hours 
non-stop.  Proper lights, not the mini-mini lights (laughs). 
The cost of food items has gone up since the inception of 
this government and salaries have also gone up, so that 
people could afford various items.  We should be happy about 
that.  Out of your salary you can pay school fees 
comfortably.  Most civil servants are even buying cars. 
 
 
Q: (Cuts in) Tokunbo cars? 
 
 
A: Still, it is a car (laughs) no be car?  Is it not better 
than walking over long distances?  There is qualitative 
improvement in our lives in the past two years.  Some people 
out of genuine ignorance have not articulated this.  Some do 
so out of mischief, some out of dishonesty, but the truth of 
the matter is that the achievements are there on the ground 
for people to see.  We wish to extend the borders of peace on 
the African continent.  That is very important, we should 
never underestimate peace.  This government has brought 
peace.  It has brought greater security for life and 
property, and when you take all these together, you don,t 
need to ask me whether I would support Obasanjo or not come 
2003. 
 
 
Q: Finally sir, what legacies would you like to leave for the 
Army? 
 
 
A: That is left for history to judge, not for me to say.  One 
thing I would say is that I am prepared to give my best in 
order to improve the situation beyond the level at which I 
have met it. 
 
 
Q: What sort of Army would you like to leave behind? 
 
 
A: The most efficient, the most effective and the most 
respected Army in the world. 
Andrews 

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