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Cablegate: Gon Aviation Officials Discuss Airport Security,

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 002065

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

DAKAR PLEASE PASS TO FAA ED JONES; DOT PLEASE PASS TO SUSAN
MCDERMOTT, ORNELIA WILSON HUNTER, AND KEVIN SAMPLE; FAA
PLEASE PASS TO FOREST RAWLS III; BRUSSELS PLEASE PASS TO TSA
GERALD K. MOORE; HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER PLEASE PASS TO TSA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: NI EAIR EAID ECON ETRD PTER CACS
SUBJECT: GON AVIATION OFFICIALS DISCUSS AIRPORT SECURITY,
VIRGIN NIGERIA AIRWAYS

1. (SBU) Summary. On December 8, Embassy Econ Officer,
Consular Officer, and Consulate Economic Specialist traveled
to Lagos Muhammed Murtala International Airport (MMIA) for
talks with officials of the Federal Airports Authority of
Nigeria. The two sides discussed Nigeria's continued
efforts to attain FAA Category I certification, improvements
at MMIA to accommodate Virgin Nigeria Airways, and a
December 4 confrontation at MMIA's domestic terminal after
which U.S. rapper 50 Cent, fearing for his safety, cut short
his Nigerian tour and returned to the United States. The
Embassy/Consulate Officers also met with the military
commandant of MMIA and encountered no security measures
while winding their way to his office. End summary.

2. (U) On December 8, Embassy Econ Officer, Consular
Officer, and Consulate Economic Specialist traveled to the
Lagos headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of
Nigeria (FAAN), near Muhammed Murtala International Airport
(MMIA), for talks with FAAN officials. The visitors met
with Desmond Ugwuegbulem, FAAN director of airport
operations; Mrs. A.A. Faworaja, FAAN general manager for
airport security; and MMIA General Manager Obi Anadu, as
well as two mid-level security officers. The main focus of
the talks was the GON's continuing effort to attain from the
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Category I
certification of Nigeria's civil-aviation sector.

3. (U) Ugwuegbulem said the FAAN considers Nigeria's
efforts to achieve Category I status to be a fundamental
priority. To this end, he said, the FAAN has tightened
access to MMIA by different companies' small vehicles and
instead will contract with a services company to provide
passenger services, power units, equipment, and airport
tractors. He also emphasized that the FAAN is determined to
improve overall neatness at MMIA as well as the reliability
and operability of its equipment. One of these
improvements, Ugwuegbulem said, will be the introduction of
"follow-me" vans used in parking and transit operations,
including in parking aircraft in the correct space. The
FAAN official said these vans will be introduced first at
MMIA, and then at Abuja International Airport.

4. (U) Ugwuegbulem said that on March 2, 2005, MMIA's newly
repaired runway 19 is scheduled to reopen to air traffic and
that the completion of this runway project is necessary for
MMIA to receive Category I certification. Related to this,
Ugwuegbulem said, is MMIA's plan to increase the
standardization of its equipment and to buy additional
Rapidscan baggage X-ray equipment. He also noted the FAAN
is installing closed-circuit television to cover MMIA's
terminal A, to be followed by the airport's terminal B.
Ugwuegbulem explained that this renovation of MMIA is being
undertaken in part to accommodate flights of the planned
Virgin Nigeria Airways, which intends to operate domestic
flights from MMIA's international terminal. The FAAN
official noted there will be a physical separation of
international and domestic flight operations at MMIA's
international terminal. According to Ugwuegbulem, MMIA's
ground facilities intended for Virgin Nigeria Airways should
be ready for operation by March 2005, and the GON hopes to
have qualified for Category I certification by September
2005. He additionally said plans are under way to improve
the airport's perimeter fencing, and that MMIA soon will
have an uninterruptible power supply system for airfield
lighting which would be separate from the airport's other
sources of power -- generators and the National Electric
Power Authority.

5. (U) In discussing funding for the FAAN, Ugwuegbulem said
a budget has been sent to the Ministry of Aviation, and that
the National Assembly should approve funds for the agency by
the end of December 2004. Then, the official said, the FAAN
will prepare a timeline for achieving Category I
certification and will request the necessary international
assistance. Ugwuegbulem also stated the GON increasingly
will purchase its own equipment and fund its own training,
and he asserted the National Assembly is increasingly aware
of the need to fund civil aviation operations.

6. (U) The Economic Officer then asked about an incident on
December 4, in which the entourage of touring U.S. rapper 50
Cent, a.k.a. Curtis Jackson, became involved in a
confrontation at MMIA's domestic terminal. A Nigerian
musician sparked this dispute, and his supporters, who
likely were present as passengers, surrounded 50 Cent in his
vehicle next to the rapper's intended aircraft. Fearing
for his safety, 50 Cent cut short his Nigerian tour and
after of a tense delay of at least several hours, proceeded
to MMIA's international terminal and then to the United
States.

7. (SBU) Although 50 Cent claimed through his recording
label, which contacted the U.S. Consulate in Lagos for
assistance, that three vanloads of Lagos "area boys"
(criminal hooligans) arrived on the tarmac to surround his
plane, both Ugwuegbulem and Faworaja said vans carrying the
Nigerian musician's supporters could not have bypassed
airport security measures, and that 50 Cent's opponents
instead likely were passengers waiting to board a second,
nearly simultaneous flight to Port Harcourt -- 50 Cent's
intended destination. Ugwuegbulem asserted that 50 Cent
should have had at least two policemen with him, while
Faworaja said the affair was primarily the fault of the
airline supplying the chartered aircraft. Ugwuegbulem
explained that FAAN personnel mediated at the scene of the
confrontation and defused the situation, then escorted 50
Cent away from the domestic terminal. (Begin comment:
While no one was reported seriously injured in the "50 Cent
affair," the Nigerian press reported that the confrontation
and resulting standoff lasted five hours. The FAAN, as
noted, mediated at the scene and defused the situation, but
airline and airport officials first allowed matters to
mushroom quickly, then needed at least several hours to
regain control. Media reports on this incident, including
in the international press, did nothing to improve Nigeria's
reputation for lawlessness or deficient security and law
enforcement. End comment.)

8. (SBU) Discussion then turned to Virgin Nigeria Airlines'
seeking approval for U.S. landing rights. Ugwuegbulem
opined that the GON was not "very happy" with the Virgin
Nigeria deal, because the U.S. Government might consider the
airline a UK entity. The FAAN official also said he didn't
believe the GON was linking Continental Airlines' request to
begin direct flights to Nigeria with Virgin Nigeria's quest
for U.S. landing rights. (Begin comment: Continental
Airlines announced on December 9 that Nigeria had approved
direct Continental flights between New York and Lagos, which
Continental expects will begin in the second quarter of
2005. End comment.) At this point, Mrs. Faworaja said
there is very strong public pressure in Nigeria for the GON
to approve direct flights to the United States. According
to Ugwuegbulem, this is because of the recurring visa
unpleasantness Nigerian passengers encounter in Europe, and
especially in the United Kingdom, where Nigerians cannot
receive a UK transit visa in fewer than three days. This
causes many Nigerians either to be stranded in British
airports or to have to return to Nigeria without having
reached their destination. Largely because of this
situation, Ugwuegbulem said, the GON is "barely managing to
accommodate" the Virgin Nigeria Airways deal, which is
caught in the middle of a dispute over U.S. airlines' access
to European Union routes. (Begin comment: A U.S.
Department of Transportation official informed the Economic
Counselor on December 8 that the United States will not
approve Virgin Nigeria Airways' application for U.S. landing
rights. End comment.)

9. (SBU) Following these talks with the FAAN officials,
the Embassy/Consulate officers traveled to MMIA to meet with
Nigerian Air Force Group Captain M. Tizhe, the military
airport commandant. According to both Tizhe and the FAAN,
Tizhe is in effect the co-commander of MMIA but would assume
control of the facility, as well as of MMIA's domestic
terminal, in case of a civil disturbance. Tizhe was very
cordial to the Embassy/Consulate officers, but said his need
to follow his military chain of command limited what he
could discuss. Tizhe instead directed the visitors to
contact his superiors in Abuja -- specifically, the chief of
Defense Intelligence -- if they wished further information
about Tizhe's responsibilities. Tizhe did say he was a
member of Nigeria's Airport Security Committee, which is
composed of representatives of the relevant federal
entities, is headed by the airport manager as the FAAN's
representative, and meets once a month or as needed. (Begin
comment: The MMIA terminal has three main floors. Tizhe's
office was located on the third, smaller floor of
administrative and security offices located above the top
terminal floor. The Embassy/Consulate officers neither
encountered security measures nor passed through security
checkpoints while entering MMIA's departure terminal, from
which they ascended to its third floor to Tizhe's office.
The Embassy/Consulate officers also wandered this labyrinth
of hallways freely in search of Tizhe's office, which was
located nearly opposite that of the MMIA police commander.
This surprising lack of security at Nigeria's major
international airport demonstrated the GON still faces
challenges in its quest to receive Category I certification.
End comment.)

FUREY

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