wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
01ABUJA2226
2001-09-06 10:18:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

STAR INTERVIEW -- ARMY MINISTER BATAGARAWA

Tags:   PREL  MASS  MARR  OIIP  OPRC  PINR  KPAO  NI 
pdf how-to read a cable
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 06 ABUJA 002226 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/06/2011
TAGS: PREL MASS MARR OIIP OPRC PINR KPAO NI
SUBJECT: STAR INTERVIEW -- ARMY MINISTER BATAGARAWA
PUBLICLY ADVANCES THE MIL-MIL RELATIONSHIP

REF: A. ABUJA 2072

B. ABUJA 1436


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




1. (U) In the "Star Interview" section of the Daily Trust
newspaper on August 30, Army Minister Lawal Batagarawa
expressed his views on the security assistance relationship
with the United States and on Operation Focus Relief, in
addition to other topics relating to the Nigerian military
and Ministry of Defense. The Daily Trust is a newspaper
produced in Abuja (unlike the majority of Nigerian dailies
produced in Lagos), and has a significant readership in the
North. Northerners have been the most suspicious of U.S.
activities vis-a-vis the military.




2. (C) Batagarawa had been aware of a desire on the part of
the Embassy to have a larger and more focused media campaign
on OFR and the MPRI programs, particularly to address rumors
of "U.S. espionage," but had stated that the GON should lead
this cause (Ref B). Recent public statements by President
Obasanjo and Minister of Defense Danjuma on these topics, in
addition to this particularly noteworthy interview, clearly
demonstrate the Army Minister making good on his promise.
The article is reproduced in its entirety in para 5
(particularly noteworthy sections are in all caps).




3. (C) Batagarawa, since the inception of his tenure in
February, has played a key role in working with the Mission
to advance U.S. and Nigerian interests in regards to
military-to-military programs. His willingness to personally
intervene as Acting Minister of Defense on the security
assistance program (Ref A) led to the eventual transfer of
funds for the MPRI program. Moreover, through his good
offices, ODC Abuja now meets biweekly with Ministry of
Defense officials to work together to advance the Embassy's
security assistance program.




4. (C) Batagarawa is clearly intelligent, thoughtful, and
unlike many of his colleagues, willing to make decisions on
the spot when he perceives them to be in the best interests
of Nigeria. Batagarawa may travel to the U.S. in early
October. If he does, Mission strongly urges the Department
and relevant Washington agencies to engage seriously and
"roll out the red carpet" for this impressive interlocutor.




5. (U) The Daily Trust, August 20, 2001


The U.S. is not on a Spying Mission - Batagarawa: Mallam
Lawal Batagarawa is the Minister of State, for Defense, Army.
In this interview with Hameed M. Bello, our Senior Reporter,
he comments on renovations in the barracks, the 'downsizing'
of the army, the Nigerian/U.S. military partnership,
pensioners within the Army, the War College, and more.
Excerpts.


Q: Did your appointment as Minister of State, for Defense,
Army, come to you as a surprise?


A: Well, I am not sure I am competent to comment on my
appointment, so I would rather leave that question.


Q: How have soldiers in the barracks fared since the advent
of this regime in terms of welfare facilities, and so on?


A: Well, first of all, I will split your question into two.
One is how do the private soldiers in the barracks feel. The
most competent person to answer that question is the soldiers
in the barracks. On the issue of the dilapidation of the
barracks, we are dealing with these problems at two levels.
First of all, there is a presidential committee on barracks
rehabilitation, whose chairman is a senior officer from the
Federal Ministry of Works, with representatives from the
Army, Navy, Airforce and the Police. They are to handle and
rehabilitate barracks for these four services. Their modus
operandi is that for now they have taken one major barracks
from each of the services and they are concentrating their
activities on those barracks. The idea is simple. It is to
concentrate resources so that we have the maximum effect,
rather than spread money in such a way that the effect is not
felt at all. I will give you a very simple example. If you
allocate N250 million, let's say to rehabilitate police
barracks what it will come to about N1 million per barracks,
you will agree with me that such an effort will have no
impact at all. That is why the decision is that you
concentrate your resources on specific barracks so that you
achieve the maximum effect. In other words the Army, Navy,
Airforce and the Police have money within their budgetary
allocation for this year for barracks maintenance and
rehabilitation. Now, what we are doing is to pick barracks
across the country and try to attend to part of the barracks
with the resources that are available. But again we are
concentrating efforts and resources in specific locations,
not all over the country. Again what we want to do is
systematically bring all the barracks to the required
standard, but we do not have the resources to do all of that
at the same time, so we make selections across the country.


Q: The Defense Minister has said that military commanders
would be involved in the renovation of the various barracks.
Since government is emphasizing the reprofessionalization of
the military, won't that go contrary to government's efforts
in this direction?
A: I think you are approaching it from the wrong perspective.
A commander in any particular location is responsible for
the welfare and upkeep of his troops with their families.
That includes ensuring that the barracks is habitable. So if
you do not involve him at the level of supervision, who else
can supervise this work? Is it just the professionals who
will come today and go away? He knows the minute details of
what is wrong in those barracks. He has to certify that
those weaknesses or defects in the barracks have been dealt
with, and that is the involvement that the Minister of
Defense is talking about. It is not that he (the commander)
would be the one awarding contracts, supervising the
contracts and satisfying the contractors. That is a
professional job meant for architects and quantity surveyors
and engineers. He is to ensure that things are done
correctly to the satisfaction of his officers and men. That
is the level to which he would be involved.


Q: Some two years ago when this administration came into
power, one of the visions of the regime was to downsize the
military to make it mobile and provide facilities for them.
It seems as if this downsizing has been stopped. What is
responsible for the stoppage sir?


A: Well, you have supplied part of the answer yourself. You
will agree with me that this government in each situation
where it has committed itself to a particular activity, we
normally study the situation based on the objective we want
to achieve, and then study is thoroughly analyzed and then on
the basis of the detailed knowledge we then go about meeting
our objective. We are in the process of studying the
components that will determine what is the optimum size of
the military we require. What sort of equipment do we need
to provide for that military? So this is not something that
you will jump into. It is something that you have to study
thoroughly, you know. You have to take into account the
training you require. You decide what is the optimum level
of the military you require, then you straighten-out the
hardware on the basis of that. Then you work out the
training requirements on the basis of that also. It is when
you do all this work and you have all the different
components in perspective, that you begin to act. Another
issue that you have to take into consideration, which is
something you know very well, is the fact that the military
is not like all human institutions. It is not something that
is static; it is dynamic. Certain circumstances have changed
between 1999 and today, and whatever we have to do we have to
talk them into consideration, and we are taking those factors
that have changed into consideration to determine what we are
doing.


Q: NIGERIA AND U.S. HAVE A MILITARY PARTNERSHIP, WHICH GAVE
BIRTH TO OPERATION FOCUS RELIEF (TRAINING FOR COMBAT
READINESS). NIGERIANS DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS PARTNERSHIP.
SOME ARE EVEN SAYING THAT AMERICANS ARE ON AN ESPIONAGE
MISSION. WHAT CLARIFICATION CAN YOU MAKE ON THIS?


A: OKAY, FIRST OF ALL, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF COUNTRIES
NIGERIA HAS DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENTS WITH. UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA IS ONE, THE RUSSIAN REPUBLIC IS ANOTHER.
OTHERS ARE SOUTH AFRICA, IRAN AND A NUMBER OF OTHERS. WE
HAVE MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENTS WITH THEM. AS A
CONSEQUENCE OF THESE MILITARY AGREEMENTS, WE HAVE TWO
PROGRAMMES WITH THE U.S. ONE IS OPERATION FOCUS RELIEF.
FOCUS RELIEF IS TARGETED AS FOLLOWS: A NUMBER OF NATIONS ARE
INVOLVED IN THE UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING MISSION IS SIERRA
LEONE AND NIGERIA IS ONE OF THEM. THE U.S. ASSISTS THESE
COUNTRIES INVOLVED IN THE PEACEKEEPING MISSION IS SIERRA
LEONE WITH TRAINING AND EQUIPMENT. SO, IT IS ALL THE
COUNTRIES THAT ARE INVOLVED IN THE PEACEKEEPING MISSION IN
SIERRA LEONE. FORCUS RELIEF IS TARGETED AT ALL THE COUNTRIES
PARTICIPATING IN THE PEACEKEEPING MISSION IN SIERRA LEONE.
THE SECOND IS THE MPRI PROGRAM.


Q: WHAT IS MPRI?


A: MPRI IS: MILITARY PROFESSIONAL RESOURCE INCORPORATED. IT
IS ESSENTIALLY A GROUP OF RETIRED, RESPONSIBLE MILITARY
OFFICERS OF AMERICAN ORIGIN WHO ARE EMPLOYED BY THE
GOVERNMENT OF THE U.S. TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE TO FRIENDLY
COUNTRIES LKIKE NIGERIA THAT HAVE MILITARY COOPERATION
AGREEMENTS WITH THEM. WHAT DO THEY DO? IT IS A SIMPLE THING
- WE SIT IN NIGERIA AND LOOK AT OUR MILITARY AND IDENTIFY
WHAT ARE THE WEAKNESSES IN OUR MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT. THE
MILITARY AND THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE WOULD SIT DOWN AND
IDENTIFY WHAT ARE OUR AREAS OF WEAKNESSES. THEN WE SIT DOWN
WITH THESE MILITARY PERSONNEL FROM THE UNITED STATES WHO HAVE
SERVED IN A NUMBER OF COMMANDS AND STAFF POSTS. WE WILL ASK
THEM IN WHAT WAY SHOULD WE DEAL WITH THESE SPECIFIC PROBLEMS.
THE POINT IS SIMPLE, WE LEAD, THEY SUPPORT US. THERE IS
NOTHING LIKE A SPYING MISSION. IF WE HAVE PROFESSIONALS WHO
HAVE VARIED EXPERIENCE IN NIGERIA, WE WILL USE THEIR
SERVICES. THE U.S. OFFICIALS PARTICIPATING IN MPRI ARE
PAIRED WITH NIGERIAN MILITARY OFFICERS, AND WHATEVER THEY DO,
IS CARRIED OUT JOINTLY. WE DON'T ALLOW THE AMERICANS TO GO
INTO AREAS WE CONSIDER SENSITIVE TO OUR SECURITY.


Q: I RECALL THAT THE NIGERIAN ARMY HAS A RESERVE LIST WHICH
IS SUPPOSED TO BE A LIST OF OFFICERS WHO HAVE BEEN RETIRED
FROM THE ARMY AND SOME OF THEM HAVE SEEN BATTLE, ESPECIALLY
IN BIAFRA. WHY HAVEN'T WE DRAWN FROM THE POOL OF THESE
VETERANS? IS THERE ANYTHING UNIQUE ABOUT THE MPRI THAT WE
NEED TO LEARN FROM?


A: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, LET ME START WITH THE SIMPLEST
POSITION. YOU CAN ALWAYS LEARN SOMETHING NEW FROM ANOTHER
PERSON. YOU LEARN EVERYDAY FROM YOUR CHILD. THAT IS A FACT
OF LIFE. SO, FOR EVERY OFFICER IN THE MPRI PROGRAMME, WE
HAVE HIS NIGERIAN COUNTERPART, BOTH SERVING AND RETIRED IN
WHICH CASE WE ARE ALREADY TAPPING INTO THE EXPERIENCE OF SOME
OF OUR RETIRED PERSONNEL AS COUNTERPARTS TO THOSE AMERICANS.
SECONDLY, THERE IS SOMETHING UNIQUE ABOUT THESE PEOPLE.
FIRST, TECHNOLOGICALLY, THEY HAVE AN EDGE OVER US. NUMBER
TWO, IN TERMS OF MANAGEMENT SCIENCES, THE AMERICAN ECONOMY
HAS DEVELOPED MANGEMENT SCIENCES TO AN ART, AND THERE IS
SOMETHING WE CAN LEARN FROM IN THIS REGARD. IN INFORMATION
TECHNOILOGY, WE CAN LEARN SOMETHING FROM THEM. WE ARE ALSO
LEARNING FROM THE NIGERIAN VETERANS.


Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK THE AMERICANS STAND TO GAIN FROM THE
PARTNERSHIP?


A: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, LET ME START FROM PEACEKEEPING
OPERATIONS. EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD HAS SOMETHING TO GAIN IF
THE WORLD IS AT PEACE. THE ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES OF THE WQORLD
WOULD FLOURISH. WE HAVE SEEN THE CATASTROPHES IN SOMALIA, IN
THE WAR BETWEEN ERITREA AND ETHIOPIA, IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
AMERICANS HAVE AN INTEREST IN PEACE RETURNING TO THOSE AREAS
JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE. IF THERE IS PEACE IN NIGERIA, THEY
WILL COME AND INVEST, AND MAKE PROFIT.


Q: What is the cause in the delay in the payment of pensions?
Why does the Ministry default in payment as and when due?


A: First of all, as you are aware, pensions in the last two
years have been reviewed about three times. The increase in
the amount of pension has gone up about 400 percent or more,
about 600 percent, if I am correct. That has increased the
volume of money we are to pay as pension. The second thing
that has happened was that a lot of people who were entitled
to pension, were not collecting pension because the previous
amount was meager. All of them have come back into the
pension scheme because the money is now important to them.
Those not in the system before, you are not aware of them
because maybe they have died, or for whatever reason they are
not there. Now that they have come, it will change your
budgetary allocation making it inadequate. These twin
problems are basically things that have created a backlog.
The third issue is that there are a lot of people who are not
entitled to pension but who are doing everything they can to
ensure they get on the pensioners' list. Because of the
activities of these bad eggs, we have to be cautious so that
due process of establishing who is entitled to pension is
followed, and these massive increases have taken place on the
basis of the two things I have identified means that we have
to make adjustments. The budgetary system now if different
from what is was before. This time, once you go before the
National Assembly and they approve the budget, if you wish to
change it, you have to take a supplementary appropriation
bill to them, which has to get through due process. A
combination of these factors is responsible for the delays.
We hope that these problems will be solved between now and
December and with effect from January 1, we should not have
any problem with the pensions. We hope by them, we would
have had our facts and figures ready.


Q: Sir, there has been this allegation that even the
selection process to the War College has been so politicized
that those who do not merit to be there have been admitted.
What comment do you have on this?


A: I do not comment on speculations. If you say it has been
alleged, then what is the basis of the allegation? Unless
you have certain specific cases on the basis of which I can
respond, I don't think I will respond to that question.
Q: In the 70s and early 80s when there was professionalism in
the military, soldiers interacted among themselves in the
officers' messes. Now the messes are deserted, ministers
don't honor functions in the mess. What is responsible for
these developments?


A: Let's get our understanding correct. I will not say that
going to the mess is what constitutes professionalism in the
army. Number two, I don't know how many messes you have been
to, that you can say with any degree of authority that
officers are not going to the mess. Number three, it is not
all functions by the military that the minister has to
attend. A lot of functions conducted by the army are not
even attended by the Chief of Staff or his principal staff
officers. Let us not trivialize the issue of professionalism.


Q: The present administration is keen on reprofessionalizing
the military and the best way to achieve that is to train and
retrain the military and equip it. What special training is
the Army giving its men to keep them combat ready?


A: From the day a young man enrolls in the Defense Academy
his career pattern is worked up to the time he will become a
General. Okay, there are a minimum number of courses he has
top attend. There are certain postings he must do, directing
staff in training institutions and command. And these
training facilities that have been allowed run down are now
being rehabilitated and upgraded and that is the difference.


Q: There was a report that troops participating in the United
Nations Peace Keeping Mission are in low morale, especially
those from Ukraine, is the Nigerian troop having a similar
experience? What is the cause?


A: I have been in Sierra Leone and I found the morale of our
officers and men very high.


Q: In relation to the ex-Biafran soldiers who are agitating
for absorption into the Nigerian Army, we don,t know what
your ministry is doing on that and what the implications are
for the Nigerian Army itself. What would happen if the army
wish to reabsorb them?


A: You have just been asking me about "downsizing" the
Nigerian Army and now you are asking me to reverse gear and
go the another way. Let,s face it, the Biafran Army was
involved in treason. To fight your country or against your
country is treason, alright? These people were not staff of
the Nigerian Army, so how do you reabsorb them? Reabsorbing
means you were in before and you are being taken back. They
were never in before, so how can they be taken back? Unless
you are saying we should go and recruit the former Biafran
Army into he Nigerian Army. That,s a different ball game
altogether. They cannot talk of reabsorbtion because they
were never part of the Nigerian Army. Biafra is not Nigeria,
Nigeria is Nigeria. So you can,t reabsorb soldiers from
another country into your own country.


Q: The government has been talking about transparency in
public life for the nation to move forward/ What efforts are
the Army making to ensure that there is transparency in all
its activities.


A: You see, transparency requires a number of things, but the
most fundamental is that there must be checks and balances ad
we are complying in the Nigerian Army with all the rules and
regulations. There was a retreat for the military in Kaduna
and Ibadan and we are going to go round to all the military
formations to do this retreat as part of the effort for the
campaign for transparency and accountability. Also specific
programs are being worked out at different locations to deal
with these issues.


Q: At the retreat in Ibadan, the president called upon the
officers to open up so that government would tap from
whatever complaints they may have and find out how to satisfy
the rank and file of the military in terms of morale and so
on. How was your experience in the course of the retreat?


A: It was very beneficial, very educative and it was a good
training ground for me.


Q: What measure is the Nigerian Army taking, especially with
your leadership to ensure that the Army does not make any
incursion into politics?


A: We have agreed that one of the best ways to keep any
mischief-maker in the military from making any incursion into
politics is basically good government and you will agree with
me that this government is providing that. Two, the press
has always been involved in promoting extreme disharmony in
the society in a fundamentally negative fashion. That
provides the military boys the excuse they are looking for.
So, the responsibility is not that of the government alone.
It is for all of us. What do we say about ourselves if
mistakes are made, how do we approach the resolution of those
mistakes? In 1983, some people were openly calling for the
military to take over. The press was urging the military on.
In 1993 when Chief Shonekan was the Head of State, some
people were openly telling Sani Abacha to come and let the
military finish what they have started, hand over to, Abiola
and all that. The Press and other influential members of
society can play their own part.


Q: Sir, would you support an Obasanjo/Atiku ticket come 2003?


A: You don,t need to ask that question.


Q: For what reason sir?


A: Look, let,s get it right. First of all, why in the first
place do we support Obasanjo? All the reasons that
recommended Obasanjo to be supported by all Nigerians are
still valid today, two years later. Added to that, you will
testify there is greater hope in the Nigerian system. In
1999, Niger Delta was a total no go area. It affected the
important economic activities going on in Nigeria, especially
the exploration of oil. The Niger Delta is peaceful today.
There is no vandalization of pipelines, no kidnapping of oil
workers, economic activities are picking up in the place and
express roads have been constructed. Even in Abuja, today
there is relative security and there is calm all over the
country. In the year 2000, the economy grew, for the first
time above the rate of population growth. You can see
electricity supply stabilizing in Abuja and it is the same
all over. In some par4ts of Lagos, especially the industrial
area, there is a continuous power supply for 22 hours
non-stop. Proper lights, not the mini-mini lights (laughs).
The cost of food items has gone up since the inception of
this government and salaries have also gone up, so that
people could afford various items. We should be happy about
that. Out of your salary you can pay school fees
comfortably. Most civil servants are even buying cars.


Q: (Cuts in) Tokunbo cars?


A: Still, it is a car (laughs) no be car? Is it not better
than walking over long distances? There is qualitative
improvement in our lives in the past two years. Some people
out of genuine ignorance have not articulated this. Some do
so out of mischief, some out of dishonesty, but the truth of
the matter is that the achievements are there on the ground
for people to see. We wish to extend the borders of peace on
the African continent. That is very important, we should
never underestimate peace. This government has brought
peace. It has brought greater security for life and
property, and when you take all these together, you don,t
need to ask me whether I would support Obasanjo or not come


2003.


Q: Finally sir, what legacies would you like to leave for the
Army?


A: That is left for history to judge, not for me to say. One
thing I would say is that I am prepared to give my best in
order to improve the situation beyond the level at which I
have met it.


Q: What sort of Army would you like to leave behind?


A: The most efficient, the most effective and the most
respected Army in the world.
Andrews