C O N F I D E N T I A L ABUJA 000236
CAIRO FOR POL -- MAXSTADT
LONDON FOR GURNEY
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2013
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV MOPS PINS NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: NAVY MINISTER: NOTHING WILL HAPPEN ON
REF: A. ABUJA 205
Â¶B. ABUJA 228
CLASSIFIED BY AMBASSADOR HOWARD F. JETER; REASONS 1.5 (B)
Â¶1. (C) During a January 23 conversation with Ambassador
Jeter, Minister of State for Defense (Navy) Chris Agbobu
commented on the October 2001 Benue massacre. Agbobu did
not expect anyone to be held accountable. Agbobu said
while "everyone knows what happened (at Benue)" nothing
would come of the government's investigation.
Â¶2. (C) Agbobu remarked that defeated PDP presidential
aspirant and Benue native Barnabas Gemade's unsuccessful
attempt to use the Benue incident to weaken Obasanjo during
the PDP convention proved that the people of Benue did not
blame the government for the killings. According to
Agbobu, most people realized that the massacre would not
have happened if "criminals" had not killed and mutilated
19 soldiers. Implying that he thought the attack on Zaki
Biam had been authorized by someone within the senior
levels of the military or government, Agbobu said the
military acted correctly and that the Army would have
reacted even more forcefully if the decision had been his.
Â¶3. (C) COMMENT: Agbobu became the naval Minister of State
only last month and was at the Ministry of Agriculture when
the massacre happened. In that position, he was well known
to the Ambassador, and following his appointment to the MOD
called on the Ambassador at the Embassy on January 23.
Â¶4. (C) Agbobu's implication that the attack on Zaki Biam
was authorized at a level significantly higher than that of
those in immediate command of the offending soldiers is
troubling; however, Agbobu is neither a military insider,
nor was he at the MOD at the time of the Benue incident.
He appears to be giving us his opinion more than anything
else. His belief that the GON will never hold anyone
accountable for Benue may also be his personal view but it
is one shared by many Nigerians. END COMMENT.