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Cablegate: Nigeria: Mission Views Regarding Ins Assistance

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002225

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


FROM AMBASSADOR JETER
ACCRA FOR INS
ROME FOR INS DISTRICT DIRECTOR, GREGORY SMITH
DAKAR FOR FAA
DOT FOR KEVIN SAMPLE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR CVIS KFRD SMIG SNAR NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: MISSION VIEWS REGARDING INS ASSISTANCE
FOR DIRECT FLIGHT TO NEW YORK


REF: A. CUNDIFF/COHEN EMAIL 8/23/01
B. LAGOS 01862
C. ABUJA 02031
D. LAGOS 01844


Sensitive but Unclassified, please protect accordingly.


1. (U) I want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize the
Mission's support for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
with the GON, which would establish guidelines and a legal
basis for a USG presence at Murtala Muhammed International
Airport (MMIA). At the same time, I also want to encourage
INS support for an airport-based Special Anti-Fraud Unit
within the Nigerian Immigration Service.


2. (SBU) In an e-mail exchange between State and INS
Headquarters (Ref A), INS indicated that it would prefer to
provide assistance to South African Airways, Nigeria Airways,
and the GON without a MOU. I would like to stress again that
the Mission strongly believes that it is in the USG interest
to have such an agreement with the GON. This agreement would
provide the written, formal concurrence of the Nigerian
government, justifying the noticeable USG presence at MMIA
and providing guidelines and a legal foundation for its
activities. Without such an agreement, the USG could
potentially face public criticism fueled by the complaints of
passengers subsequently denied boarding. By having the GON
on our side, with the backing of a written agreement, the
Mission and INS TDYers are much better protected against
these potential problems.


3. (SBU) We agree that INS officers conducting passenger
screening at MMIA should operate in a consultative role as
much as possible. However, passengers denied boarding know
very well that it was a USG official who had advised the
airline to do so. Also, INS has indicated that for their
officers to operate they must have the right to confiscate
fraudulent U.S. documents. We agree, and these issues are
addressed in the proposed MOU (Reftel B).


4. (SBU) I greatly appreciate the INS assistance received so
far--the timely visit of INS District Director Gregory Smith
was particularly helpful--and the INS offer of continued TDY
support. The problems associated with the direct flight have
the attention of the GON at its highest level, and the GON
welcomes any assistance that we can provide. However, we
must have something in writing, signed by the GON, that
allows us to carry out such activity. This will provide us
with the legal and political cover for our role and
activities.


5. (SBU) I also understand that during Washington discussions
it was suggested that the USG ask the GON to form a "joint
task force" to combat the problem of malafide passengers.
The proposed joint task force would bring together the
Nigerian Immigration Service and Nigerian Police to arrest
and prosecute passengers presenting fraudulent documents.
This proposal causes us some concern. In practice, the joint
task force concept is difficult to implement in Nigeria due
to a real lack of coordination (and at times cooperation)
among agencies. In October last year, we tried a similar
proposal with the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency
(NDLEA) and the Nigerian Customs Service based on the U.S.
joint task force model. We learned that interagency
cooperation does not work as well as we would like in Nigeria.


6. (SBU) We fear similar problems would be experienced with
an Immigration/Nigerian Police joint task force proposal.
The lack of fraudulent document prosecution is not just a
lack of attention by the Nigerian Police; in fact, it also is
a larger question of the overall professionalism of the
police and the efficiency and transparency of the judicial
system. Both of these issues are now being addressed by the
Mission on other, higher-level fronts, and through assistance
programs to help revive a greatly diminished national
judicial system.


7. (SBU) However, we strongly support the idea of an
airport-based, Special Anti-fraud Unit within the Nigerian
Immigration Service (Reftel C). Such a dedicated effort can
potentially produce noticeable and significant results, and
one aspect of this can be to work with Nigerian Immigration
to see what steps can be taken to facilitate prosecutions in
the short-term. Effective prosecution would be reinforced by
President Obasanjo's proposal to establish an airport
Magistrate's Court (Reftel C). The broader issues of police
and judicial reform, and interagency cooperation will be more
appropriately addressed within the context of the proposed
Bilateral Law Enforcement Commission (Reftel D).


8. (SBU) I am concerned that while the USG is evaluating
these broad issues and seeking long-term solutions, malafide
passengers continue to arrive on the South African
Airways/Nigeria Airways direct flight to New York. This not
only has a direct impact upon the U.S. port-of-entry, but
also upon the viability of the direct flight and our
bilateral relationship with the GON. We must resolve these
issues quickly and effectively with a MOU and the presence of
an INS officer(s) who can assist the GON in forming the
proposed Anti-fraud Unit.


9. (SBU) UPDATE: On September 1, a 30 day TDY INS officer
arrived at Post to provide assistance to the airlines and the
GON in combating the malafide passenger problem. We
understand that another TDY officer has been identified to
follow. I greatly appreciate INS assistance in providing
this presence, but also feel it is now even more urgent that
we sign a formal agreement, i.e.- the MOU, with the GON for
the reasons outlined above. Your support for these
initiatives is greatly appreciated.
Andrews

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