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Cablegate: Nigerian Aviation Minister On U.S. Air Links

VZCZCXRO2634
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #3083 3341319
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301319Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7923
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 5634
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0381
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0319
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC
RUEANHA/FAA NATIONAL HQ WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS ABUJA 003083

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DOT PASS TO FAA
ROME PASS TO TSA REP JOHN HALINSKI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR CASC AMGT ASEC NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN AVIATION MINISTER ON U.S. AIR LINKS

REF: A) ABUJA 3008 B) STATE 188891

1. (SBU) Summary: The new Minister of Aviation met with the
Ambassador on November 23 and expressed a strong interest in
expanding aviation links between Nigeria and the U.S. and broadening
cooperation in civil aviation more generally. He thanked the U.S.
for its support through the National Transportation Safety Board
(NTSB) in investigating Nigerian crashes. He indicated he would
respond positively to the U.S. request regarding Air Marshals
(reftel B). End Summary.

2. (SBU) On November 23, the New Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani
Kayode, met with the Ambassador. When the meeting was requested,
his staff indicated the Minister had issues about North American
Airlines to raise and wanted to propose changes to the Open Skies
Agreement. Instead, the meeting focused on the positive and neither
issue was raised.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador passed the Minister a copy of the diplomatic
note and draft Air Marshals agreement (reftel B) to the Minister,
who declared it a good idea and indicating his support. The
Ambassador noted that the U.S. had agreed to the Minister's personal
request to extend the stay of NTSB investigator Dennis Jones to help
with further investigation of the October ADC crash. The Minister
thanked the Ambassador and said he planned to re-open the
investigation into the Bellview crash, which he believed may have
been caused by an explosion, or even a bomb, and that he hoped NTSB
might help with an "independent" investigation.

4. (U) The meeting then continued in the presence of press, where
the Ambassador congratulated the Minister on his appointment;
offered condolences for the crash victims, and said we would discuss
avenues of cooperation. The Minister responded by calling for more
direct air links between the U.S. and Nigeria. He welcomed the
North American Airlines flights and said he hoped more U.S. carriers
would begin to fly to Nigeria and that he wanted Nigerian airlines
to fly to the U.S. He said he was totally committed to aviation
safety and security, and screening had been tightened up to allow no
exceptions. He noted the recent discovery of banned substances
(fireworks) that had been checked in as unaccompanied baggage.

5. (U) The meeting was opened to the press for questions. The only
question was about what U.S. role there was in crashes involving
Boeing planes. The Ambassador said that both Boeing and the U.S.
NTSB participated in the investigations of any crashes involving
Boeing planes.

6. (SBU) After the Press departed, the Minister said that Bellview,
Aero Contractors, ADC, and Arik Air had expressed interest in flying
routes to the U.S. Of these, he said Bellview had already submitted
its application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The
Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, who was
present, said once a DOT application was approved, the Government of
Nigeria (GON) would apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for
certification. The Minister asked what had happened in the case of
Continental Airlines. One of his staff explained that the case had
been linked to Virgin Nigeria's application, which had delayed GON
action. The Minister expressed annoyance that Virgin Airlines had
gotten special treatment that disadvantaged other airlines. He said
he understood that DOT was looking at the issue of Virgin Atlantic's
role in Virgin Nigeria and implied that he thought it was legitimate
to ask such questions.

7. (SBU) Finally, the Minister said he hoped that Nigeria could get
more assistance and cooperation from the U.S. in improving aviation
security and safety and promised to send a letter to the Ambassador
with a formal request.
CAMPBELL

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