US embassy cable - 01ABUJA2701

NIGERIA: KEEPING THE DIALOGUE GOING: AMBASSADOR, AVIATION MINISTER REVIEW SECURITY POSTURE AT LAGOS AIRPORT, OTHER AVIATION ISSUES

Identifier: 01ABUJA2701
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA2701 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-10-24 10:04:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: EAIR ASEC ECON BEXP 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 03 ABUJA 002701 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
 
TRANSPORTATION FOR KEVIN SAMPLE 
BRUSSELS FOR JAMES BURRELL 
ATHENS FOR FAA 
ROME FOR INS 
COMMERCE ALSO FOR ADVOCACY CENTER 
 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAIR, ASEC, ECON, BEXP, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: KEEPING THE DIALOGUE GOING: AMBASSADOR, 
AVIATION MINISTER REVIEW SECURITY POSTURE AT LAGOS AIRPORT, 
OTHER AVIATION ISSUES 
 
Sensitive but Unclassified -- Protect Accordingly 
 
 
1. (SBU) Introduction and Summary:  Ambassador discussed with 
Aviation Minister Kema Chikwe security procedures at Murtala 
Muhammad International Airport (MMIA), the requirements that 
needed to be met before U.S. INS assistance can be reinstated 
at MMIA, the distribution to Nigerian air carriers of the FBI 
watch list, an effort by World Airways to extend wet-lease 
service to Nigeria, and the difficulties Lockheed Martin 
allegedly has confronted in submitting a bid to the Ministry 
for radar equipment. 
 
 
2. (SBU) Minister Chikwe deeply regretted the recent incident 
when an INS official was assaulted at MMIA and pledged to 
provide more security personnel at South African Airways 
(SAA) check-in and boarding areas.  She also promised to 
establish a Magistrate Court at the airport to prosecute 
passengers who present fraudulent documents. Although no 
Nigerian carriers currently offer direct air service to the 
U.S., an unclassified version of the FBI watch list was 
provided to the Minster. 
 
 
3. (SBU) The Minister refused to confirm whether the Ministry 
had approved a request by World Airways to offer U.S. to 
Lagos  service; instead, she echoed a familiar refrain about 
how the foreign operators posed an unfair challenge to her 
effort to revive (moribund) Nigerian Airways. The Minister 
stated Lockheed Martin had not submitted a tender bid on an 
air navigation system but had instead sent a Memorandum of 
Agreement that the Ministry found unacceptable.  She said 
Lockheed Martin did not appear "serious" about bidding on the 
project, but the Ministry would in any case extend the bid 
deadline to November 15 to try to accommodate them.  End 
Summary. 
 
 
----------------------------------------- 
INS Assistance to SAA: How to Get It Back 
----------------------------------------- 
 
 
4. (SBU) On October 9, Ambassador Jeter, accompanied by 
Econoff, conveyed to Minister Chikwe the results of his 
recent discussions with the INS Commissioner and other INS 
Officials in Washington. The Ambassador explained that the 
September 7 incident at MMIA (when an INS official had been 
physically assaulted during screening procedures) 
demonstrated the need for more active airport security in the 
screening process.  INS would not be able to assist Nigerian 
Immigration Service or SAA security personnel, the Ambassador 
emphasized, without Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria 
(FAAN) guarantees of the safety of INS personnel and a signed 
bilateral MOU. INS and the Department of State, the 
Ambassador noted, were working on the terms of a proposed MOU 
which would provide the parameters of INS assistance at MMIA. 
But he reiterated the INS officers would limit their 
assistance to screening documents. If INS officials were to 
return to MMIA, they would only serve in an advisory capacity 
and not have the power to retain suspected malafide 
documents, either U.S. or Nigerian. 
 
 
5. (SBU) Minister Chikwe was visibly upset about the 
September 7 incident. She admitted that she was personally 
unhappy with FAAN security since they were not standing by to 
intervene when passengers threatened immigration officials, 
airline staff, or other passengers. She also agreed FAAN 
security officers should be responsible for retaining 
suspected fraudulent documents, handed to them by immigration 
officers. The Minister announced she planned to inaugurate 
this month a Magistrate's Court at MMIA to prosecute cases of 
document fraud, "touting", and other crimes. 
 
 
6. (SBU) Shortly thereafter, Minster Chikwe called in FAAN's 
Managing Director to demand he supply additional security 
officers at the SAA check-in and boarding areas. She invited 
the FAAN Aviation Security Officer and Director of Airport 
Operations to discuss altering the physical terminal layout 
of the immediate SAA check-in area to separate passengers 
from non-passengers. Although the FAAN officers noted they 
were understaffed, they agreed to provide additional officers 
at both SAA check-in and boarding. The officials suggested 
adding desks at the boarding gate to conduct document 
screening immediately before passenger departure. The 
Minister then appealed to the Ambassador to bring INS back to 
MMIA. 
 
 
------------------------------- 
FAA Airport Security Inspection 
------------------------------- 
7. (SBU) The Ambassador reviewed with Minister Chikwe the 
results of a recent FAA assessment on how SAA and FAAN were 
complying with new ICAO/FAA security directives. On September 
28, visiting FAA Aviation Specialist James Burrell determined 
that SAA and FAAN were generally in compliance with the FAA 
security directives. However, Burrell was concerned that the 
physical layout of the screening area hindered airport staff 
from inspecting passengers and their baggage continually as 
the FAA directives require. He recommended that FAAN provide 
additional tables to perform baggage inspection. Burrell had 
also noted that Pathfinder, SAA's security contractor, did 
not adequately pre-inspect the airplane cabin before allowing 
passengers to board. Minister Chikwe concurred positively to 
all these points. She agreed to discuss how to redesign the 
check-in area to facilitate check-in and baggage screening. 
 
 
------------------ 
The FBI Watch-list 
------------------ 
 
 
8. (SBU) The Ambassador inquired whether airlines operating 
from Nigeria had access to the latest FBI Watch-List. The 
Minster responded that she was uncertain whether all airlines 
had the Watch-List. She herself did not have a copy but 
assumed that the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) would 
have it. (Comment: They do. Post later delivered a 
non-sensitive copy of the list to the Minister. End Comment.) 
Ambassador pointed out that the FAA had distributed the list 
to the headquarters of airlines with direct flights to the 
U.S., including to SAA Headquarters in Johannesburg. SAA is 
currently the only carrier flying direct between Nigeria and 
the U.S. 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
Status of SAA-NA Flight Agreement and World Airways 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
 
9. (SBU) Ambassador Jeter inquired whether government-owned 
Nigerian Airways (NA) would likely extend its partnership 
with South African Airways on service to JFK. The Minister 
commented that Nigerian Airways (read: the Minister) is not 
happy with the partnership. Many here, she noted, blame South 
African Airways for allegedly refusing to treat a Nigerian 
man who died on board the flight.  This incident, the 
Minister said, may influence the Ministry to review very 
carefully an agreement to extend the Nigerian Airways/South 
African Airways partnership for another two years. 
 
 
10. (SBU) Jeter informed the Minister that U.S. Department of 
Transportation had just granted approval to World Airways to 
wet-lease airplanes to an unnamed African carrier for service 
between Lagos and either New York, Baltimore, or Atlanta. 
While not saying whether the GON had approved the route, the 
Minister instead returned to an old refrain about how 
competing service further challenges the "revitalization" of 
Nigerian Airways.  She further criticized the International 
Finance Corporation (IFC) because it did not want the GON to 
invest in the carrier. Instead, she inferred, the IFC wanted 
the Ministry to run Nigerian Airways into the ground so 
foreign carriers could benefit from the privatization of the 
airline. She admitted that "a culture of mismanagement and 
corruption" had destroyed NA, but she argued the airline only 
needed "technical assistance and good management." She 
concluded by saying that the reason the National Assembly 
chose to phase in Open Skies until 2006 was to provide 
Nigerian Airways breathing space from competition from 
foreign carriers. 
 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Lockheed Martin Bid for Radar Equipment 
--------------------------------------- 
 
 
11. (SBU) Ambassador Jeter informed the Minister that he had 
received an inquiry from Lockheed Martin regarding a bid they 
made on radar contracts with the Ministry. According to the 
company, the Ministry had "ignored" Lockheed's bid although 
the company had beaten an "impossible" (September 16) 
deadline to submit their proposal. Furthermore, Lockheed 
Martin believed the Ministry had requested bids for a 
regional air navigation system, but the Ministry later 
informed them that it only wanted radar equipment and 
installation services. Lockheed claimed it had also submitted 
a Memorandum of Agreement to finance the cost of the 
equipment and services. 
 
 
12. (SBU) The Minister claimed she had not received a bid 
from Lockheed Martin.  Moreover, the proposed Memorandum of 
Agreement was unacceptable because the GON was unwilling to 
guarantee a loan to purchase the equipment. The Ministry, she 
said, had extended the bid deadline to October 15, but still 
had not received a bid from Lockheed Martin who, she 
asserted, was "not serious".  Chikwe claimed the company 
wanted to come to Nigeria to survey the airport so that they 
could determine the best air navigation system for Nigeria. 
The Ministry was determined to purchase a system capable of 
being integrated with navigation systems elsewhere in West 
Africa which would allow Nigeria to become a hub for regional 
air traffic. She indicated several bids had been received by 
the Ministry, including from Marconi and British Aerospace. 
However, the Ministry now planned to extend the deadline to 
November 15 and Lockheed Martin still had an opportunity to 
submit a bid on the air navigation system. 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
Comment: Keeping the Momentum on Security Enhancement at MMIA 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
 
13. (SBU) The Minister appeared to be very determined to 
resolve the outstanding security issues at MMIA and provide 
the proper environment for INS's return.  But this is not the 
first time the subject of MMIA security has been discussed 
with the Minister and we will continue to monitor events 
closely at the airport for signs of improvement.  A 
suggestion by the Ambassador for senior USG, GON, and South 
African High Commission officials to observe activities at 
the SAA counter and boarding gate was very well received.  We 
do note that despite the security problems cited above, the 
GON has made tremendous strides in improving the overall 
security and safety posture at MMIA over the last two years. 
 
 
 
 
14. (SBU) Chikwe's criticism of SAA should be placed in 
context. Neither SAA nor the GON has treated the relationship 
like a newly wedded couple. However, both airlines appear to 
be making money and continued direct service to the U.S. is a 
top priority for the GON.  The first anniversary of the 
SAA/NA service is in February and posturing by the GON to 
obtain concessions from SAA may be behind Chikwe's 
statements.  Meanwhile, privatization of Nigerian Airways 
keeps moving backwards.  The new date to privatize Nigerian 
Airways is set for December 2002.  However, even before the 
events of September 11, the future of Nigerian Airways was at 
best tenuous.  We are doubtful if Nigerian Airways will meet 
the new deadline.  The International Finance Corporation, 
which earlier this year relinquished its advisory role on 
Nigerian Airways privatization, opposed the delays, 
interference, and other hurdles put in the way of Nigerian 
Airways privatization process. 
Jeter 

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