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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
02ABUJA1593
2002-05-23 18:54:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: ARMY MINISTER ON RONCO, BENUE,

Tags:  PREL MASS PHUM EAID KHDP NI 
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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 02 ABUJA 001593 

SIPDIS


STATE FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, PM
OSD FOR NELSON
LAGOS FOR HINSON-JONES, GREANEY, CASS


E.O. 12958: 5/8/12
TAGS: PREL MASS PHUM EAID KHDP NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ARMY MINISTER ON RONCO, BENUE,
TRAVEL TO WASHINGTON

REF: A.) STATE 79557, B.) LAGOS 927, C.) ABUJA 1193




CLASSIFIED BY AMBASSADOR HOWARD F. JETER; REASONS 1.5
(D).




1. (C) SUMMARY: During a May 2 meeting with the
Ambassador, Minister of State for Defense (Army) Lawal
Batagarawa said he planned to visit Washington on May
24 to meet with human rights NGOs, USG officials and
the Hill. Impressed by the accomplishments of
Operation Avid Recovery, he agreed help identify two
people as points of contact for RONCO in Abuja and
Lagos. Batagarawa added that he would try to help
RONCO as much as possible. Ambassador Jeter was
accompanied by PolMilOff, and Batagarawa by his
Special Assistant, Balarabe Lawal. END SUMMARY


============
BENUE UPDATE
============




2. (C) Unable to travel to Washington in late April as
initially planned, Batagarawa now hoped to leave Abuja
May 24 for the U.S. (this has now been shifted to May
26). The main purpose of the trip would be to give an
update on the GON investigation into the communal
violence in the Middle Belt, especially the violence
in Benue last October when soldiers killed scores of
civilians in reprisal for the execution of 19
soldiers. While in Washington, Batagarawa wants to
meet with human rights NGOs, particularly Human Rights
Watch, and hopes to make calls at State, DOD and on
the Hill. He might be joined by Dr. Sani Sufi, the
Secretary of the Judicial Inquiry on Conflict in

SIPDIS
Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa and Taraba States, to help
brief people on the latest in the investigations.
Batagarawa added that he hoped to resolve the issue of
funding for the Commission before his departure for
Washington. Ambassador Jeter commended his plan to
call on human rights NGOs as well as keeping in touch
with the Hill.




3. (C) Focusing on Benue, the Ambassador noted that he
had spoken to former Chief of Army Staff Malu
recently, who was going to make a submission to the
Commission. Malu was still upset that the President
had not apologized for the events of last October or
offered condolences to the families. Batagarawa
argued that an apology could impugn guilt, an
inappropriate step before the Commission completed its
investigations. The Commission had to be allowed to
function without influence or complications created by
public statements from the government; the
institutionalization of rule of law being the ultimate
goal. Becoming animated, and showing disdain for Tiv
claims of being the sole victims, the Army Minister
added that Tiv were killing Fulani, "on a daily basis-
even today, as we sit here."




4. (C) COMMENT: Conflict between Fulani, Tiv and Jukun
is still an unfortunate common occurrence in the
troubled eastern Middle Belt, despite the efforts of
federal security services and some state governments.
Fulani nomadic herders are often targets of Tiv
farmers who perceive the Fulanis' grazing cattle as a
threat to their crops. The causes of clashes between
Tiv and Jukun are more complicated; involving access
to resources through control of local governments and
historical distrust over past grievances. The
Commission, in addition to investigating unlawful
acts, is supposed to reveal the causes of these
conflicts, and to offer solutions (Ref C). END
COMMENT.


=====
RONCO
=====




5. (C) Shifting the conversation to Operation Avid
Recovery (OAR) and the RONCO follow-on effort,
Ambassador Jeter updated the Minister on the successes
of the OAR team, in terms of ordnance and civil
affairs work. As RONCO would soon begin operations,
the contractor would likely need points-of-contact in
Abuja and Lagos to address operational and other
issues. Ideally, one POC should be civilian, the
other military. For example, RONCO needed C-4 or an
equivalent to destroy unexploded ordnance, but was
unsure to whom to turn for its supply or if C-4 were
even available in Nigeria. Moreover, RONCO would need
assistance for duty-free customs clearance for its
equipment, as delays would seriously impede its work.


6. (C) Batagarawa agreed, and said his Special
Assistant, Balarabe Lawal would be the Abuja-GON POC
for the contractor. Lawal would help resolve issues
and would keep Batagarawa in the loop. The Minister
said he would check on the C-4 question himself.
Meanwhile, he would identify a POC from the military
in Lagos that he could trust to assist RONCO there.
Batagarawa was tempted to call the Customs Chief
himself to facilitate the RONCO shipments. Thinking
better of it, he reasoned that the Ministry and
Services have people in Lagos who work with Customs
there. In the long run, utilizing the people in Lagos
would be more reliable. In any case, RONCO would have
the support it needed to get the job done, Batagarawa
promised.




7. (C) COMMENT: We have plans for the RONCO team
leader to come to Abuja meetings the week of May 20.
This will ensure a smooth operation on this end, and
facilitate Lawal's assistance to the contractor.




8. (C) Batagarawa has not been able to provide an
answer on C-4 equivalent, though we have been in daily
contact with his office on the subject. It may not be
available in Nigeria. He planned to name BG Emden,
Commandant at Ikeja, as the Lagos POC, but PolMilOff
suggested otherwise due to problems with Emden.
Batagarawa readily agreed to find someone else, and
has been discussing "the right person" with MG Abdu,
GOC of 1 Division. In any case, with his assurances
we are mildly confident that we can move the RONCO
mission forward. END COMMENT.


JETER