Cablegate: Nigeria: Gon Assistance Request in Wake of Lagos

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





E.O. 12958: N/A

B. LAGOS 188
C. LAGOS 227
D. ABUJA 301


1. (U) This is an urgent action request; see para 9.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: On January 30, Ambassador Jeter offered
condolences to Minister of Defense Danjuma for the loss of
life and property following explosions at the Ikeja
Cantonment. Danjuma, giving his assessment after a visit to
the site the day before, said most victims were children and
that unexploded ordinance was the greatest immediate concern.
Danjuma said the Federal Government has established a
disaster relief fund and committee. 300m Naira was already
dedicated to the fund and the committee had dispatched
members to Lagos to begin formulating its report and
recommendations. Danjuma was pleased a EUCOM EOD survey team
had been requested, and was interested in additional support.
The Ambassador made a request for disaster assistance and
the immediate release of the USD25m from the Emergency Fund
(Abuja 301). Embassy requests the inter-agency begin
consideration of additional support, to include provision of
OFR Phase III supplies remaining in Abuja. END SUMMARY.

3. (SBU) Ambassador, accompanied by Defense Attache,
Assistant Army Attache and PolMilOff, called on Minister of
Defense Danjuma on January 30 to offer condolences on the
loss of life in Lagos resulting from the explosion of the
Ikeja Ammunition Depot. (NOTE: On January 27, the Ikeja
Military Cantonment and Ammunition Depot exploded when large
quantities of stored and aging ordinance accidentally
detonated. The official death toll is now over 700, and more
bodies are still being recovered. There was large-scale
destruction of property for several kilometers surrounding
the depot, which included residences, military barracks,
small businesses, and factories. The explosions were felt
for more than 20 kilometers from ground zero. END NOTE.)

4. (SBU) Minister Danjuma thanked the Ambassador, noting that
he had conducted an on-the-ground assessment the day before.
It appeared that more people were killed than injured, and
the death toll certainly would be several thousand. Danjuma
said most of those killed were children; moreover,
significant numbers of children were left parentless or
separated from parents as a result of the explosion and
ensuing chaos. Many buildings had collapsed and the
reinforced windows in the international airport had been
blown out (the international airport, however, remains open).
Danjuma stated that over 400 bodies had been pulled from the
Ikeja canal, and the recovery effort continued. Divers had
been deployed to carry out the effort. Danjuma was concerned
the canal would become contaminated, endangering the water
supply. Unexploded ordinance was the most immediate concern.

5. (SBU) The scale of supporting those now homeless and
dispossessed would be significant, Danjuma stressed. To
begin tackling this humanitarian challenge, the President had
announced a Disaster Relief Fund, managed by a committee
headed by the Secretary to the Government, Chief Ufot
Ekaette. A Nigerian needs assessment was already ongoing and
would be completed next week. At that time, Nigeria would
make specific requests to its friends in the donor community.
The President had also announced the GON had allocated Naira
200 million (about USD1.4m) for the relief effort,
supplemented by Naira 100 million (about USD875,000) from the
Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC).

6. (SBU) DATT told the Minister that the Nigerian Army's
Chief of Operations, General Jinadu, had sent a letter to him
requesting explosive ordinance disposal support. DATT stated
that in response, EUCOM planned to send a three-man EOD
survey team in the next few days to assess the situation and
decide the scope and magnitude of needs. (NOTE: Danjuma
provided the DATT a twenty-page listing of ordinance stored
at the depot, which included large quantities of munitions --
from small arms ammunition to large caliber artillery
projectiles and powder charges, as well as engineering
explosives. This comprehensive list will be provided to the
EOD survey team. END NOTE.) Danjuma said he would instruct
the Army to detail an officer to the team for the duration of
their stay, and would make sure the team had easy entry to
Nigeria. Danjuma also noted that the British also had been
asked for EOD assistance. DATT said he would coordinate our
efforts with his British counterparts.

7. (SBU) Danjuma asked what support was available from the
United States. The DATT responded that provision of U.S
military support would depend on Nigeria's assessment and
official requests, and the ability of the USG to provide
assistance considering other worldwide commitments and
funding. The Minister asked if Nigeria could publish U.S.
assistance plans. The Ambassador cautioned Danjuma to wait,
since we were uncertain of the kind and amount assistance
that might be made available. We did not want to raise
expectations that could not be met. Announcement of the
deployment of the EUCOM EOD survey team, however, could be

8. (SBU) COMMENT: The disaster in Lagos resulted in
significant death and dislocation. Thus, the Ambassador
formally declared a disaster (septel) on January 31, and
requested the immediate allocation of USD25,000 in emergency
assistance. The most immediate concern is the prevention of
additional injuries and deaths from unexploded ordinance.
However, relief in the form of food, shelter and medical
supplies is also needed. Lagos CG, PolOff and Assistant Army
Attache plan a site visit for 31 January, and will provide
additional details for assistance needs.

9. (SBU) The GON simply does not have the infrastructure and
technical skills to manage a disaster of this scale. We
believe they will need support in the areas of: explosive
ordnance disposal and technical assistance; mortuary affairs;
medical assistance; medical supplies; in-country clearance
and evacuation of casualties; ground transportation;
humanitarian assistance for refugees; logistic support to the
Nigerian authorities; diver support; and, water purification.

10. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: Embassy requests the Department,
working with sister agencies, begin to consider assistance of
the types mentioned above. An immediate donation of the
post-Operation Focus Relief excess supplies and equipment now
being prepared for shipment to Sierra Leone (consisting
mostly of supplies remaining from the FOB) would be an
immediate and helpful gesture of support. The materiel
includes: several containers of MRE rations; purified water;
about 30 large tents; camp support equipment such as
generators; six vehicles; concertina wire; office equipment;
kitchen and cooking equipment. These supplies could be in
Lagos within days, and would be of immediate use in feeding
and sheltering people, transporting equipment, providing
electricity, and cordoning dangerous areas. END ACTION

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