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Cablegate: Nigeria: August Visit to Ikeja Uxo

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 002542

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MASS PREF SOCI KHDP NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: AUGUST VISIT TO IKEJA UXO
OPERATIONS

1. On August 2, Ambassador Jeter, Consul General
Hinson-Jones, A/PAO, and ConOff visited the Ikeja
Military Cantonment in Lagos to observe the work
done by RONCO Consulting Corporation in removing
unexploded ordnance (UXO) still remaining after the
Jan. 27 explosion there. The Embassy team met with
military authorities to discuss GON support for
RONCO during their final weeks of operation and
transfer of responsibility for continuing UXO
operations to GON agencies. The tour concluded
with a press conference regarding the U.S.-
sponsored clean up effort and the continuing
hazards to civilians posed by UXO in the area.


2. The Ambassador had expected to be accompanied
by the GON Minister of State for the Army Lawal
Batagarawa; however, an urgent meeting delayed
the Minister's arrival. Batagarawa did tour the
Cantonment and addressed the press some hours
after the Ambassador's return to Abuja.


3. Ambassador Jeter and his team toured the areas
cleared by RONCO and met their demining teams. To
their obvious delight, the Ambassador spoke in
Portuguese to the Mozambican members of the RONCO
team and thanked them for the superb work they had
done in support of Nigeria and the United States.
As of August 1, RONCO had removed approximately
137,000 pieces of ordnance from sectors designated
A-3 to A-6. There are thousands, indeed tens of
thousands, of pieces of unexploded ordnance, of all
calibers, still to be destroyed. A detailed review
of RONCO's activities will be provided after the
conclusion of their operations.


4. The Ambassador, Consul General, and RONCO
managers met with Gen. G. S. Emdin, commander
of the Cantonment, and his staff. The
Ambassador's objectives were: first, to
solicit GON assistance for RONCO during the
final phase of their work, which involves
transporting large quantities of ordnance
to a demolition site 65 km. away; second,
to ask that qualified GON forces coordinate
with RONCO and assume control of the clearance
operations without interruption; and third, to
obtain GON permission to allow journalists,
assembling for the press conference, to tour the
site.


5. The absence of Army Minister Batagarawa
precluded substantive decisions on the part of
the Nigerian Army. Without Ministerial approval,
General Emdin said that he lacked the resources
or authority to provide additional assistance to
RONCO or assign other units to work in the area.
He also refused to modify existing GON press
policy excluding journalists from the munitions
depot.


6. Gen. Emdin asked the U.S. to continue funding
UXO clearance in the Cantonment. He stated that
the primary obstacle to immediate deployment of
Nigerian Engineering Corps troops to the Cantonment
was the Nigerian Army's inability to fund these
operations. He requested additional U.S. support
for that purpose. Gen. Emdin mentioned they had
asked RONCO to give the Nigerian Army all the
equipment RONCO had brought into Nigeria. RONCO
forwarded this request to their Washington
headquarters for consideration. Emdin then
produced a RONCO-supplied list of equipment needed
to support the work of three ten-men EOD teams;
then, he asked if the U.S. could supply the
equipment these teams would need to continue
the clearance efforts.


7. The Ambassador responded that funds for the
Ikeja UXO operations had been reallocated from
other projects on an emergency basis, and it was
unlikely that additional resources could be found.


8. During this meeting, the Nigerian Army informed
the Embassy team that clearing unexploded ordnance
from the ATD remained a high priority for them.
The Embassy, EUCOM, the British Army UXO advisors,
and RONCO have advised against the attempt.
(COMMENT: This presents the prospect that should
USG allocate more resources to GON for UXO
disposal, it could well be utilized for a project
we have consistently advised against. That said,
according to the RONCO team, the ATD is not
impossible to clear, in fact, RONCO claims that it
would not be much more difficult than some of the
areas already completed. The problem is simply
that demining the ATD will take considerably more
time and effort than has been budgeted by anyone.
The effort would be slow and exceedingly meticulous,
but it could be done. END COMMENT.)


9. The Ambassador spoke briefly with the Nigerian
press. He provided a synopsis of Project Avid
Recovery and RONCO's activities and warned that
the area surrounding the ATD remained hazardous
and civilians should not enter the restricted area.


10. At the press conference following his
delayed arrival, Minister Batagarawa announced
that the continuing threat represented by
unexploded ordnance, had compelled the Nigerian
Army to transfer its troops to other posts and
not immediately repair the damaged buildings
within the Ikeja Military Cantonment. In a
later discussion with the Ambassador, Batagarawa
said that the GON does not plan to abandon the
Cantonment but must first check the structural
integrity of the buildings before any repair
work can be started. After this is done, Batagarawa
gave the impression that the Ikeja Cantonment
would be reoccupied.


JETER

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