US embassy cable - 02ABUJA191

NIGERIA: THE BILATERAL MILITARY RELATIONSHIP CONTINUES TO IMPROVE

Identifier: 02ABUJA191
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA191 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-01-23 11:47:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL MASS MARR 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 03 ABUJA 000191 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
NSC FOR MCLEAN 
AF/RA FOR BITTRICK 
AF/W FOR BOOTH 
AF/PD FOR SKOP, SANDERS 
CJCS FOR HEIMERLE 
OSD-PA FOR AFIS (BERNATH) 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2012 
TAGS: PREL, MASS, MARR, KPAO, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: THE BILATERAL MILITARY RELATIONSHIP 
CONTINUES TO IMPROVE 
 
REF: 01 ABUJA 2072 
 
 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; Reasons 1.5 (b/d). 
 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: While problems remain in the U.S. bilateral 
military relationship with Nigeria, significant signs of 
improvement are evident.  The relationship between the 
Embassy and Ministry of Defense has improved as a result of 
the February 2001 creation of Minister of State positions for 
each Service.  Closer coordination between the Ministry and 
the Services appears to be the result, leading to fewer 
instances of bureaucratic inertia hindering bilateral 
efforts.  The new Service Chiefs are more open and available 
than the old, and at least on the face of it, appear to 
closely follow the directions and intent of the civilian 
government.  The MPRI team has had greater success in recent 
months in working with their counterparts and senior 
officials.  The different levels of cooperation seen between 
Phase 1 and Phase 3 of Operation Focus Relief epitomize these 
changes.  END SUMMARY. 
 
 
===================================== 
SLOW CHANGE, BUT CHANGE JUST THE SAME 
===================================== 
 
 
2. (C) We have seen real progress in our military 
relationship with Nigeria in a number of areas.  This is in 
part due to the level of engagement over the last year, 
through OFR, MPRI and our general security assistance (SA) 
programs.  It is also due to the key input of some new 
cooperative players (the Army Minister and new Service 
Chiefs), and the removal of some others (particularly the 
testy former Chief of Army Staff). 
 
 
3. (C) Even so, problems remain in the bilateral military 
relationship with Nigeria, and will not go away quickly. 
Civilian authority over the military is still being 
established, bureaucratic inertia and slipshod coordination 
between the MOD and Services remains problematic, and the 
desire among many to shrug off assistance in favor of 
contracts where kickbacks are available continue to hamper 
assistance efforts.  Emerging from a history of military 
governments where the Chief of Army Staff was essentially 
number three in the national decision-making 
chain-of-command, and often appointed Ministers (including 
the Minister of Defense), Nigeria is working to establish 
civilian control of the military.  This is a sensitive area, 
and the GON is proceeding cautiously.  The Services resist 
accountability to the Ministry, and some Ministry officials 
remain focused on money-making from contracts rather than 
genuine reform.  Furthermore, real engagement between the MOD 
(read Federal Government) and the National Assembly remains 
tenuous.  This hinders national defense planning and force 
development. 
 
 
================================ 
DEFENSE COOPERATION - BABY STEPS 
================================ 
 
 
4. (C) A biweekly defense cooperation meeting between the 
Office of Defense Cooperation, Ministry of Defense and 
Services, was created by the DATT to improve defense 
cooperation communication (Reftel).  The biweeklies, used to 
discuss FMS/FMF cases, IMET and other assistance programs, 
have brought about progress in SA and have improved Nigerian 
understanding of SA programs.  Additionally, a week-long 
DISAM security assistance workshop has begun for Ministry of 
Defense and Service members.  Initial attendance at the 
workshop is around 30 people, a number that reflects genuine 
interest within the Ministry and Services. 
 
 
5. (C) At a November biweekly meeting, while reviewing 
upcoming IMET courses with members of the MOD and Services, 
it was revealed that one Army course had been cancelled, and 
that three other Army slots were at risk, for lack of 
nominees.  Expressing profound dissatisfaction, the Army 
representative demanded to know why MOD was sending Army 
nomination letters to the office of the Chief of Defense 
Staff, rather than to the Army. (COMMENT: Normally, proper 
procedure dictates that a written letter is delivered to the 
Army Staff from the Joint Services Department (JSD) through 
the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), and the reply to ODC must 
go through the CDS and DIA.  If this procedure is not 
followed, the Army will not take action for fear of the CDS's 
wrath.  Previously, these meetings could not occur, as the 
Acting ODC Chief, like the DATT, was not allowed direct 
contact with the Ministry or Services without DIA approval, 
which often took weeks to receive.  END COMMENT.) 
 
 
6. (C) General dissatisfaction was expressed at the lack of 
timely action by the Office of the CDS.  After some hand 
wringing over "proper procedure," the group decided that all 
course offerings would be sent directly to the Service for 
action, with an info copy to the CDS.  In subsequent 
meetings, this decision was reversed, but the spirit of 
speeding the process by bypassing delays remained. 
Additionally, the DATT has suggested to the Services that a 
biweekly meeting be held at their level to discuss 
Service-specific issues.  Thus far, only the Air Force has 
responded favorably. 
 
 
=============================== 
OPERATION FOCUS RELIEF - 
A BILATERAL LEARNING EXPERIENCE 
=============================== 
 
 
7. (C) The positive change in the relationship is perhaps 
most visibly exemplified by Operation Focus Relief (OFR). 
Planning and executing Phase 1 of the program, which trained 
and equipped two Nigerian battalions, were extremely labor 
intensive and difficult.  While the units themselves, 
grudgingly at first, accepted the training and benefited 
tremendously, the civilian GON had a difficult time driving 
the program forward.  Although approved by the President 
himself, and supported (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) 
by Minister of Defense Danjuma, National Security Advisor 
Aliyu Mohammed and Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Ibrahim 
Ogohi, the Army hierarchy, controlled by (then) Chief of Army 
Staff, Lieutenant General S. Victor Malu, did everything 
possible to block successful execution.  Pressure was placed 
on brigade and battalion commanders by the Army Chief to 
cause delays in the program.  In fact, the relationship 
during Phase 1 was so difficult that Nigeria was not included 
in Phase 2.  A high-level meeting between senior USG and GON 
Officials in April 2001 was required to settle numerous 
issues raised by the Chief of Army Staff in his effort to 
derail engagement. 
 
 
8. (C) However, after each Service got its own Minister of 
State (Deputy Minister) in February and the retirement of the 
three Service Chiefs in June 2001, cooperation between the 
Embassy and GON on defense-related programs improved 
tremendously.  Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi 
acted like a weathervane.  Ogohi, who had been reasonably 
supportive of engagement when not in Malu's presence but 
whose support went south when Malu was around, became a 
strong supporter with the appointment of the new Deputy 
Ministers and Service Chiefs.  Execution of Phase 3 became a 
cooperative venture between the GON, Nigerian military and 
USG.  The new Chief of Army Staff, LTG Alexander Ogomudia, 
warmly welcomed the 3SFG 3 Battalion Commander during his 
initial visit, approved the Program of Instruction (POI), 
addressed concerns of his staff, and even suggested a joint 
U.S.-Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) 
visit to the Phase 1 troops in Sierra Leone.  After stating 
he had not approved participation of one of the three 
battalions selected for Phase 3, he immediately reversed 
course and approved their inclusion when he learned that camp 
construction had already begun.  Public Affairs coordination 
between the Embassy and the Defense Headquarters bloomed soon 
after Minister Danjuma's assent to a public affairs workshop 
that exposed the senior Public Relations Officers of the 
Nigerian Services to conventional military public affairs 
doctrine. 
 
 
9. (C) Throughout OFR Phase 3, the GON and Nigerian Army were 
supportive and flexible.  In response to September 11, the 
Army increased force protection to the U.S. trainers.  The 
Air Force provided space for a logistics and administrative 
Forward Operating Base (FOB) and was responsive and 
supportive of medical evacuation contingencies.  The Army 
opened its doors to the DATT in ways not seen in Nigeria for 
at least a decade. 
 
 
========================== 
COMMENT: A WHOLE NEW WORLD 
========================== 
 
 
10. (C) COMMENT: While these changes perhaps appear small 
from an outside perspective, they are significant for defense 
cooperation in Nigeria.  For almost two years, all 
correspondence had to go through Nigerian DIA.  This blockage 
was removed by Army Minister Batagarawa (reftel).  When the 
office of the CDS was not acting in a timely fashion on IMET 
courses, mid-ranking officers and MOD staff sought to 
circumvent the blockage.  For mid-ranking officers to bargain 
for slots and usurp the province of the CDS is unheard of in 
this "big man" culture.  The biggest stakeholders in this 
process, the Services, now appear to be taking a stand, to 
the benefit of the IMET program. 
 
 
11. (C) COMMENT CONT: Many problems, such as the MOD's 
inability to complete the OFR MOI (until very near the end of 
OFR Phase 3) or pay the remaining FY01 MPRI amount in a 
timely manner, remain and are visible reminders of the need 
for further significant reform.  However, there is a 
beneficial aspect to security assistance and programs like 
OFR that should not be overlooked.  Years of military rule, 
ironically, caused the Ministry and Services to atrophy.  By 
pushing U.S. defense cooperation programs through the 
Nigerian bureaucratic process, the pipes are being cleared of 
blockages.  Moreover, the MOD and the Services are starting 
to see and respond to the benefits of U.S. assistance.  Graft 
is difficult with U.S. programs.  This was a disincentive to 
those who might have supported engagement with the U.S. 
However, the qualitative improvement in capabilities (as seen 
with OFR) appears to have convinced many in the MOD and 
Services to reassess the costs and benefits of engagement. 
They appear to have come to the conclusion that, even with 
the loss of graft, engagement with the United States is 
worthwhile. 
 
 
12. (C) DAO COMMENT: Despite the new era of cooperation, the 
security assistance program, the largest in sub-Saharan 
Africa, is behind schedule.  This is due to the earlier 
problems and lack of access and information exchange. 
Basically, the FMF program is one year behind schedule. 
However, since the majority of these assistance cases have 
been designed by the DATT to be "roll-over" year-to-year 
cases, the LOAs can be extended rather than regenerated. 
Such cases include: C-130 technical assistance, spare parts, 
safety and other publications and training; U.S. Coast Guard 
Balsam-Class Buoy Tenders exchange; MPRI; and the combat 
simulation center.  Given the improving relationship, it 
would be unfortunate and counter-productive if the Nigeria 
FMF budget were redirected.  END DAO COMMENT. 
Jeter 

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