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Cablegate: Nigeria: Ins Roundtable with Gon Officials Address

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002031

SIPDIS


ACCRA FOR INS
ROME FOR INS DISTRICT DIRECTOR, GREGORY SMITH
ATHENS FOR FAA CASLO
DOT FOR KEVIN SAMPLE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS EAIR KFRD NI SMIG
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: INS ROUNDTABLE WITH GON OFFICIALS ADDRESS
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH DIRECT FLIGHTS TO THE U.S.

REF: A. (A) STATE 128278 (B) ABUJA 1380 (C) LAGOS 1752
B. (D) LAGOS 1862


1. Sensitive but Unclassified, please protect
accordingly.


2. Action request see para. 15.


3. (U) Summary: On July 31, Ambassador, INS District
Director INS/Rome, INS OIC/Accra, and Lagos Econoff
attended a roundtable sponsored by Minister of Aviation
Kema Chikwe to discuss the problems associated with the
Nigeria Airways/South African Airways direct flight to
New York City. GON participants expressed concern about
reports of narcotics seizures at New York's JFK Airport,
and the continuing problem of "malafide" passengers.
The GON presented a number of proposals meant to address
these problems including the establishment of a GON
anti-fraud unit targeting malafide passengers and the
placement of a magistrate's court within the airport.
INS agreed to assist the GON with its efforts. End
Summary.


--------------------------------------------- --
ROUNDTABLE EXAMINES SAA/NA'S "MALAFIDE" PROBLEM
--------------------------------------------- --


4. (SBU) Minister of Aviation, Kema Chikwe led a
roundtable discussion on problems associated with the
SAA/NA service to JFK. Attendees included GON Aviation
Ministry officials, Immigration, and Customs officials,
Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Chairman
Alhaji Bello Lafiagi, the NDLEA Zonal Commander for
Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Federal
Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Managing Director
Sule Ozenua, and a representative of the National
Security Advisor's office. The Minister of Internal
Affairs who oversees the Immigration Service was to co-
chair the discussion, but a last minute change prevented
his attendance. INS District Director Gregory Smith
first briefed GON officials on INS observations about
the SAA/NA flight. According to Smith, INS records
indicate that approximately 70 passengers have been
"turned around" from JFK since the flight commenced in
February 2001. Smith stated that ninety percent of
these "malafide" passengers boarded in Lagos, and ninety
percent were Nigerian nationals. The high incidence of
malafide passengers, Smith explained, poses a
significant financial burden for the airlines in the
form of fines, as well as an image problem for both the
carriers and Nigeria. The resulting negative perception
will make the GON goal of attracting a U.S. carrier to
Nigeria a difficult task.


5. (SBU) Smith pointed out that in the past year INS has
provided training to GON security agencies, Nigerian
Immigration, and airline check-in staff on approximately
seven occasions. (Comment: In addition, the Congen
Anti-Fraud Unit has also provided training on a number
of times. End Comment.) Despite this effort the problem and
number of malafide passengers continue unabated. Moreover,
malafide passengers stopped at the boarding gate have their
documents confiscated, and are usually free to return and
just try again another day. Smith reiterated that other
factors, such as malfeasance and insufficient deterrence, are
at play
(Ref A). To illustrate his point, Smith presented several
examples of altered U.S. documents intercepted and
confiscated by INS at the boarding gate area of MMIA. The
troubling point, Smith emphasized, was that the "would be"
passengers apparently utilized these documents to pass
through a Nigerian Immigration checkpoint prior to reaching
the gate area. Two of the U.S. passports presented were
significantly damaged/altered and had identifying data wiped
out. They should not have passed Nigerian Immigration


---------------------------------------------
GON OFFICIALS PRESENT COUNTER-FRAUD PROPOSALS
---------------------------------------------


6. (SBU) Minister Chikwe responded that President Obasanjo
was aware of and concerned about the reported narcotics
seizures and malafide passengers, and she described several
proposals she had discussed with the President. One
proposal, put forward by the President himself, was to
establish a magistrate's court within the airport to try
offenses such as utilizing fraudulent documents and
harassment. (Note: The harassment the Minister mentioned
apparently described two types, that by "touts" and that
deemed carried out by GON officials. "Touts" are unemployed
individuals searching for opportunities to make a few Naira,
usually with threats of intimidation. An example of this
would be a "tout" hired to assist a passenger to move from
the rear to the front of a line. End Note.) Other GON
agencies present at the roundtable seemed unaware of this
proposal and it was pointed out that a court, with
jurisdiction over the airport, already existed. NDLEA
officials reiterated that narcotics cases can only be tried
in a Federal High Court. Despite the contradictory
viewpoints, Minister Chikwe opined that a magistrate's court
was needed within the airport facility if for no other reason
than to serve as a deterrent for minor crimes, such as
utilizing fraudulent documents. Such a court facility would
offer rapid justice and therefore deter this type of crime.
Chikwe indicated that she would discuss this proposal with
Lagos State Governor Tinubu.


7. (U) The Minister described a second proposal involving the
posting of government lawyers to the airport to ensure the
protection of passengers' rights. This proposal would
address, she said, Ministry concerns regarding accusations by
travelers of extortion and harassment by GON officials. The
Minister's third proposal was an expression of GON support
for any USG
assistance and training that can be offered.


8. (U) After Minister Chikwe described these preliminary
proposals, other suggestions were raised during the course of
the roundtable discussion. Chikwe dictated that FAAN would
begin to provide additional security at boarding gate areas
to prevent "would be" malafide passengers from intimidating
airline staff. The Minister stated that FAAN security
personnel should be on hand and react as appropriate when
passengers
denied boarding become unruly.


--------------------------------
INS TRAINING KEY TO GON THINKING
--------------------------------


9. (U) GON officials requested additional INS training for
airline personnel, check-in staff, Nigerian Immigration, and
various GON security agencies. (Comment: An INL-funded,
Department of Justice, International Criminal Investigative
Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), involving 40 Nigerian
Immigration officers is planned for late August. In
addition, INS has agreed to provide additional training for
Nigerian
Immigration in the future, and to other GON security
agencies, as appropriate. End Comment.) Ambassador Jeter
informed Chikwe that the proposed Memorandum of
Understanding, establishing guidelines for a USG presence at
MMIA, was presently under review by the State Department.
(Reftels A and D)


10. (SBU) The roundtable recommended that a Special
Anti-Fraud Unit be established by the Nigerian Immigration
Service to operate at the airport at both the boarding gates
and the regular immigration checkpoints. INS agreed to
support and train such a "core" unit, with the understanding
that its members will be held accountable and would undergo
background
checks. Members of the unit will be directed to arrest (and
hopefully prosecute) passengers presenting fraudulent
documents.


11. (SBU) Comment: The convening of this roundtable by the
Minister of Aviation, with the reguired attendance of a
number of GON security agencies, suggests that at the GON, at
the highest levels, is seeking solutions to the problems
arising from the SAA/NA service to JFK. The GON is obviously
worried about recent developments. Unfortunately, as
evidenced during the roundtable, a lack of coordination and
communication among GON agencies still exists. However, a
meaningful discussion was held and useful proposals were
suggested from all sides.


12. (SBU) Comment Cont.: The proposals suggested during the
roundtable address some of the factors that allow the problem
of malafide passengers to continue unabated. To date, there
has been little or no deterrence to such activity. Whether it
is the creation of a magistrate's court that expeditiously
tries malafide passengers, or the arrest and detention of
malafides by the Nigerian Immigration Service, both steps
suggest movement in the right direction. Also, the Minister's
tasking of FAAN to increase security at boarding gate areas
could help alleviate concerns of airline staff regarding
intimidation by passengers.


13. (SBU) Comment Cont.: The burden of document verification
now rests completely upon the airlines operating from Murtala
Mohammed International Airport. Reports indicate that
corruption is a widespread problem in both the Nigerian
Immigration and Customs Services, and these reports come from
sister GON security agencies. In the Embassy's view, the
proposal to train a small group of Nigerian Immigration
officers to fill the void of effective document verification
at MMIA is both logical and necessary. Training and support
could be focused on this core group, with the understanding
that the GON will hold unit members accountable for their
actions. For maximum impact and effectiveness, these
officers could concentrate their efforts at the boarding
gates.


14. (SBU) Comment Cont.: Experience has demonstrated that the
presence of one USG Anti-Fraud or INS officer at the boarding
gate results in passenger turnaround numbers going from
several a flight to zero. The best substitute for a USG or
similar (UK, German) presence is a trained (and trustworthy)
Nigerian Immigration presence, but one which is strictly held
accountable for proffesional performance. With high level GON
attention, the establishment of an immigration unit as
proposed, with USG assistance, may be feasible. We are
certain that the proposals put forward by Chikwe have the
full backing of President Obasanjo.


15. (SBU) Action Request: Mission welcomes the INS offer of
an extended TDY presence in Lagos and reguests that INS
approve the proposal to coordinate with GON officials to
establish and train a Special Anti-Fraud Unit within the
Nigerian Immigration Service. Mission would also appreciate
any update from the Department on the status of the proposed
MOU (Reftels A, B, C, D).


16. This message was drafted after the departure of INS
Director Gregory Smith.


Jeter

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