US embassy cable - 02ABUJA366

NIGERIA: PRESIDENT OBASANJO - SPECIAL APPEAL TO PRESIDENT BUSH

Identifier: 02ABUJA366
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA366 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-02-04 18:37:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL MASS SENV PHUM PREF 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 02 ABUJA 000366 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
AF/W FOR BOOTH 
AF/RA FOR BITTRICK 
NSC FOR FRAZER 
OSD FOR TIDLER 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2012 
TAGS: PREL, MASS, SENV, PHUM, PREF, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: PRESIDENT OBASANJO - SPECIAL APPEAL TO 
PRESIDENT BUSH 
 
REF: A. LAGOS 188 
     B. LAGOS 189 
     C. LAGOS 227 
     D. ABUJA 301 
     E. ABUJA 304 
     F. ABUJA 325 
     G. STATE 19427 
     H. STATE 20922 
     I. STATE 18807 
 
 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; Reasons 1.5 (b/d). 
 
 
1. (C) President Obasanjo convoked Ambassador Jeter 
(accompanied by DATT and PolMilOff) on February 4 and stated, 
"Howard, we need help."  Explaining that he did not initially 
realize the extent of the destruction caused by the explosion 
at the Ikeja ammunition depot, the President said he was 
making a special appeal to President Bush for assistance. 
 
 
2. (C) The DATT explained that the joint EUCOM, UK, UN, 
Nigerian Army EOD assessment team believed that clean-up of 
unexploded ordnance would take two EOD companies six months 
to one year, and that the affected areas of Ikeja and 
Maryland would have to be isolated.  Obasanjo noted that, 
while the British would help, they would only supplement 
American efforts. 
 
 
3. (C) Ambassador Jeter explained that with the present pace 
of U.S. military operations, it was unclear to what extent we 
could help, beyond the USD 25,000 in emergency disaster 
funds.  We were also looking to provide some remaining 
Operation Focus Relief supplies, if possible.  Noting that 
efforts thus far were appreciated, Obasanjo said he would 
also make the request to President Bush in writing.  He then 
dictated some phrases to his assistant, including, "Thank you 
for the condolences...I am asking for special assistance...we 
do not have the technical capacity to deal with this disaster 
and need assistance...we need a strong team for a 
considerable amount of time." 
 
 
======= 
COMMENT 
======= 
 
 
4. (C) The situation in Ikeja is much worse than President 
Obasanjo first believed, and he now clearly realizes why his 
initial reactions were seen as unfeeling.  Bombs continue to 
cook-off with attendant injuries and deaths.  As more 
citizens slip back into the affected areas, we can expect to 
see additional injuries and deaths. 
 
 
5. (C) The Nigerian military, though initially claiming to 
have an EOD capability, does not.  Soldiers and police have 
exacerbated the danger while attempting to clean up by 
stacking unexploded ordnance, including leaking phosphorus 
rounds.  Without sufficient assistance, the situation in 
Ikeja and its environs will grow even more dangerous, and the 
humanitarian, environmental and political fall-out will be 
severe. 
 
 
6. (C) There is no doubt that the humanitarian needs are 
great and that we could see a substantial loss of life if 
something is not done quickly to clean up the ordnance spread 
over a heavily populated area comprising between 50 and 200 
square kilometers.  More deaths will almost certainly lead to 
political instability in Lagos, including within the Nigerian 
army. 
 
 
7. (C) The British High Commissioner has told us that HMG 
will help but does not have large numbers of specialists to 
commit to this task. 
 
 
8. (C) Nigeria has a clear perception of a special 
relationship with the United States, and made strong 
statements of support for the U.S. after 9-11.  Moreover, 
Nigeria has had a consistent policy of opposition to 
terrorism, including early support for our engagement in 
Afghanistan.  We hope that we can be responsive to Obasanjo's 
appeal, which in this time of dire need, will symbolize for 
many the litmus test of our bilateral relationship. 
Jeter 

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