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2001-05-18 12:02:00
Embassy Abuja
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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 001155 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2011


B. ABUJA 796

C. ABUJA 873

D. ABUJA 1040

(U) Classified by CDA Andrews; Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: AF/RA Bittrick, DATT and PolMilOff called on
Minister of Army Batagarawa May 16. Batagarawa was pleased
to hear about the improved levels of cooperation from the
Nigerian military on OFR and MPRI. He thought basing
alternatives for the 65th and 73rd battalions could be found,
and reiterated the commitment he made to Ambassador Jeter to
solve any emerging security assistance problems. He
indicated that locating a forward operating base (FOB) would
not be a problem. However, he emphasized the urgent need for
an MOU on OFR. Batagarawa was receptive to central basing
for the 65th and 73rd battalions, agreed with the DATT's plan
to discuss the issue with the Chief of Defense Staff (VADM
Ogohi), and suggested Kaduna be considered as a central site.
Clearly frustrated the MPRI payment had not been sent, he
asked his Special Assistant to set a meeting for him on May
18 with the MOD Director of Budget. Subsequently, Deputy
Chief of Training and Operations General Zidon agreed to
develop alternatives for the 65th and 73rd battalions, based
on the DATT's suggestions. Ogohi asked Zidon to do so in
tandem with the office of the Chief of Army Staff. END

2. (U) On May 16, Minister of State for Army Lawal Batagarawa
requested to meet with AF/RA LTC Bittrick. Also in
attendance were DATT, PolMilOff, and the Minister's Special
Assistant. (PolMilOff had informed the Minister's Special
Assistant of Bittrick's presence in Nigeria, and said that,
while the Embassy would not formally request a meeting with
the Army Minister for reasons of protocol, Bittrick along
with PolMilOff and DATT would be available should the
Minister desire a meeting.) On May 17, the DATT and
PolMilOff briefed the Deputy Chief of Training and Operations
Brigadier General G.T. Zidon and Chief of Defense Staff (CDS)
Vice Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, on similar issues.


3. (C) Batagarawa stated that both the Operation Focus Relief
(OFR) and the MPRI programs were, in his estimation, very
good and important programs. He started to address the issue
of past problems with OFR, but as he was having difficulty
finding the words, Bittrick asked if he could interrupt.
Bittrick stated that it was clear there had been a change in
the level of cooperation in the last month, and that
Washington was very appreciative. Batagarawa responded,
"Good. Then that's all I have to say about that." He then
reiterated his previous commitment to Ambassador Jeter that
he would personally ensure that the OFR program progressed
smoothly (Ref B). However, he said, there was still a need
to complete an MOU to ensure both sides were in agreement on
Phase 3 modalities (Ref B).

4. (C) The DATT said that in the last three weeks, the Army
had been exceptionally helpful, enthusiastic and cooperative.
He explained that an issue had arisen, but he would brief
the Deputy Chief of Training and Operations and the CDS on
May 17, and expected it could be resolved. He then explained
that the proposed training sites for the 73rd battalion
(Enugu) in Abakaliki and the 65th battalion (Lagos) in Owode
did not have billets for the Nigerian soldiers. Since there
was billeting for the Nigerian soldiers in Birnin-Kebbi, that
planning could presently go forward.

5. (C) The DATT pointed out that the U.S. would find it hard
to construct tent camps for the Nigerian soldiers in
Abakaliki and Owode as the Nigerian Army had requested
because of financial constraints. Therefore, it might make
sense to look at some other options, including: 1)
centralizing training in Kachia, as had originally been
suggested by President Obasanjo; 2) selecting different
battalions, based where training could occur and billeting
was available. A location would also have to be selected for
the FOB that made sense in terms of the other basing. In any
case, the DATT and Defense Staff would work together to find
a solution.

6. (C) In response, Batagarawa agreed it was a good idea to
brief Zidon and Ogohi, and said he would meet with them on
May 18 to follow up on the discussions. He stated that it
would be very difficult to try to select new battalions.
However, he said, a solution would be found. Batagarawa
suggested Kaduna (instead of Kachia) be considered for the
Enugu and Lagos battalions. He explained that with the
Nigerian Defense Academy, the Command and Staff College, the
military depot in Zaria and the Military Police Training
School near Kaduna, surely land and billeting was available.
Batagarawa indicated that finding a location for the FOB
would not be an issue.


7. (C) The DATT then updated the Minister on the status of
the MPRI payment (Ref D). Batagarawa slapped his hand to his
forehead in frustration, paused, and then instructed his
Special Assistant to arrange a meeting for him on May 18 with
the MOD Director of Budget. "I will take care of it," he
said. The DATT noted that the improved spirit of cooperation
seen in OFR also applied to the MPRI program. He reminded
the Minister that the team was ready to discuss special
projects with his office at any time, as they had done with
the CDS and would soon do with the MOD Director of Army.

============================================= ==
Deputy Chief of Training and Operations and CDS
============================================= ==

8. (C) On May 17, DATT and PolMilOff called on the Deputy
Chief of Training and Operations, Brigadier General Zidon
(with his staff) and Ogohi to apprise them of the issues
surrounding the training sites for the Enugu and Lagos
battalions. DATT briefed them on the situation and laid out
various options for the military to consider. He also noted
that the plans for 1 Battalion in Birnin-Kebbi could move
forward immediately. Both Zidon and Ogohi were receptive to
looking at other basing options, and to finding a location
for the FOB. DATT emphasized the need for quick decisions so
that training could begin on schedule.

9. (C) Surprisingly, Ogohi asked how long the training would
be, and expressed dismay that the battalions would not deploy
until late October, explaining that two of the four Nigerian
battalions presently in Sierra Leone were due to rotate out
in August (5 and 130 Battalions). Zidon asked for a paper
version of the briefing, which DATT agreed to provide the
same day. Ogohi asked Zidon to work with the office of the
Chief of Army Staff ("since they know the terrain") and to
determine a solution.

10. (C) COMMENT: The level of cooperation and teamwork (since
the April 19 round-table and the ascension of the new Service
Chiefs) displayed by the Nigerian military towards security
assistance programs in general, and OFR specifically, makes
it hard to believe we are still in the same country.
Batagarawa has, since assuming his position, proven to be an
extremely helpful and results-oriented interlocutor for the
Embassy. An MOU is a good suggestion, and it will be
important to make progress in this area to demonstrate our
responsiveness to the Minister. While the new issues
surrounding basing need to be solved, we are optimistic
(cautiously -- this is still the same country) that mutually
agreeable solutions will be found.

11. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: BG Zidon is new in his position
and relied on his staff to ask questions and seek information
during the briefing. The CDS, a Naval Officer with limited
knowledge of Army bases, deferred to Zidon and the office of
the Chief of Army Staff. But neither Zidon nor Ogohi gave
any sign of dismay or indication that the basing issue would
be insurmountable. The training and operations staff were
more cautious, but deferred to their bosses.

12. (C) DAO COMMENT: The Nigerians seemed to appreciate the
idea that funding constraints could cause a reappreciation of
OFR basing concepts. The idea of providing a tent camp(s)
for the Nigerian battalions comes from the earliest
discussions of OFR last year and were related to the idea
then of centralized basing which was dropped due to the
opposition of then-Chief of Army Staff Malu. Still, the
units, all visited last week, are supportive and eager to

13. (C) DAO COMMENT CONTINUED: The DATT will attempt to steer
the Nigerian Army Staff to consider (in order of priority):
1) Selecting two different units that are in billets and on
bases that have firing and maneuver spaces; 2) Centralized
training to economize on base camp construction but with an
eye on a facility that could billet the Nigerian battalions
without preparation (this may also be helpful for follow-on
programming); 3) Finding a site for the FOB if it cannot be
NAF Abuja or co-located with the centralized base; 4)
Starting construction at Birnin-Kebbi immediately; 5) Finding
other solutions if none of the above work. END DAO COMMENT.

14. (U) LTC Bittrick did not clear this cable before
departing Abuja.