US embassy cable - 02ABUJA708

NIGERIA: SACKING OF POLICE CHIEF BELIEVED IMMINENT

Identifier: 02ABUJA708
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA708 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-03-05 17:17:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Tags: KCRM PGOV PHUM ASEC 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 ABUJA 000708 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
NOFORN 
 
 
DEPT FOR AF AND INL 
NSC FOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/05/2012 
TAGS: KCRM, PGOV, PHUM, ASEC, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: SACKING OF POLICE CHIEF BELIEVED IMMINENT 
 
 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter for reasons 1.5 (b) 
and (d). 
 
 
1.(C/NF) Summary:  President Obasanjo may defuse the mounting 
tension within the Police Force over salary arrearages and, 
in the process be seen as getting a handle on the greater 
law-and-order crisis afflicting the country, by sacking the 
ineffectual Musiliu Smith, Inspector General of Police. 
Smith has been little more than a cipher and his removal 
could create room to implement much needed strategic reforms 
within the Nigerian Police.  End Summary. 
 
 
2.(C/NF) Musiliu Smith was appointed Inspector General of 
Police by President Obasanjo in late 1999.  Smith's 
appointment is largely seen as political since he "jumped 
queue" over two more senior NPF officers to become IGP.  By 
even the most charitable assessments, Smith's performance has 
been unremarkable, though he has been able to avoid any 
career-threatening gaffes, until now. 
 
 
3.(C/NF) In a March 4 meeting with RNLEO, the Chairman of the 
new Police Service Commission Chief Simon Okeke disclosed 
that President Obasanjo has called a meeting of the National 
Police Council at 3:00 p.m. on March 6.  The Police Council 
was established by the 1999 Constitution,  is chaired by the 
President and includes: the nation's 36 governors; the Vice 
President; the National Security Advisor; the IGP; and the 
Police Service Commission Chairman.  The last time the NPC 
met was late 1999 to appoint Smith as the new IGP. According 
to Okeke, the NPC should be convened to address major law and 
order crises or to hire/fire the Inspector General of Police; 
this time it appears it is being convened for both reasons, 
opined the PSC Chairman.  Okeke showed RNLEO a copy of the 
President's order for the meeting and the meeting's agenda, 
which lists one item -- "the Administration of the Nigeria 
Police Force." 
 
 
4.(C/NF) The January Police strike was grounded in 
long-standing grievances of enlisted personnel (Constables, 
Corporals, Sergeants and Inspectors) about unpaid salaries 
and allowances.  Senior NPF officers, including the IGP, are 
aware of the deteriorating welfare of their subordinates but 
have been unresponsive. 
 
 
5.(C/NF) In mid-January Smith dismissed reports of that 
strike without adequately investigating the discontent within 
his police ranks.  Days before the rumored January 25 strike, 
Smith falsely assured the President there would be no strike 
(and therefore no need to address the strikers' grievances 
immediately).  With that, Smith departed for the Hajj in 
Mecca.  When the strike erupted -- albeit only in some parts 
of the country --- the President was caught off-guard. 
Obasanjo reportedly ordered Smith back to Nigeria when Smith 
did not fly back immediately after receiving news of the 
strike's outbreak. 
 
 
6.(C/NF) Obasanjo felt betrayed by Smith's irresponsible 
behavior, according to PSC members and other Post sources. 
One PSC member close to Vice President Atiku Abubakar claims 
the VP, referring to Smith, recently stated to the PSC 
member; "Can you believe it?  He lied to us!" 
 
 
7.(C/NF) Comment:  President Obasanjo is under growing 
political pressure to address the country's communal 
violence/security crisis and reform the reform-resistant 
Police.  It appears likely the President will dismiss Smith 
and appoint a new IGP imminently.  The dismissal of Smith 
within the next few days would almost certainly lower 
tensions within the lower ranks of the Police Force and might 
help to forestall the much-bruited but not definite March 11 
police strike.  Smith has been personally blamed for much of 
the NPF's failure to address the serious, long-standing 
grievances of enlisted personnel -- a not altogether unfair 
assessment though the responsibility is not his alone.  But 
he clearly has become a liability for Obasanjo and, if our 
sources are reliable, has thus offended his only political 
patron.  His sacking might also help our Police Reform 
activities since he is less than enthusiastic about the 
fundamental changes necessary for the NPF to become an asset 
for democratic rule in Nigeria. 
 
 
Jeter 

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