Cohen Pledges $10 Million to Build Nigerian Democracy
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ABUJA, Nigeria, April 3, 2000 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen announced a $10 million effort to help strengthen Nigeria's democracy and to "reprofessionalize" its military.
Cohen made the announcement April 1 following a meeting with Nigerian President President Olusegun Obasanjo. Nigeria is the first stop during a 12-day trip to Africa, the Gulf and the Middle East.
Cohen said a democratic Nigeria could be a great source for peace in the region. "One key to realizing this promise is to build a military that is professional, subject to the rule of law and one that operates under international norms of behavior," he said.
The United States has pledged $10 million to finance specific programs. About $4 million will be applied to rehabilitate eight C-130s. Cohen said the aircraft are important for mobility in Nigeria and to support peacekeeping operations in the area.
Another $3.5 million fund the action plan to provide the kind of structures and institutions necessary to build a military that is responsive to Nigeria's needs and to civil authority. Under the previous regime Nigeria's military was listed at 116,000 troops. Nigerian officials said they would like to reduce that number to about 50,000.
Nigerian and U.S. officials drew up the action plan following Obasanjo's inauguration on May 29, 1999. Nigeria will match the $3.5 million the United States will provide. In the next year, Nigerian and U.S. officials will draw up specific plans to develop a roles and missions statement for the Nigerian military. They will also work to separate the military role in government from civil government functions.
Finally, the United States will provide another $2.5 million to build simulation centers to help train Nigerian soldiers for peacekeeping.
Cohen said the $10 million is on top of the $600,000 DoD provides for the International Military Education and Training program for Nigeria. The program brings Nigerian officers to the United States for command and general staff courses and to study law, medical management and civil- military relations.
"All this will help restore the professional stature the Nigerian military enjoyed in the past," Cohen said. He said the changes will not be quick or easy, but he anticipates it can be done in a couple of years.
Cohen and Obasanjo discussed Nigerian participation in the African Crisis Response Initiative. This prepares forces for peacekeeping missions. "We have a number of countries now participating in program," Cohen said. "We hope Nigeria will partake."
Cohen said the United States is with Nigeria for the long haul. "We need a long and enduring relationship with Nigeria because we recognize the country will be important ... throughout Africa," Cohen said. He said U.S. service members probably would not train in Nigeria in the immediate future.
Nigeria is one of four emerging democracies the United States is focusing attention on, Cohen said. The others are Indonesia, Colombia and Ukraine.
"We want to help build the strength and bonds of democracy in Nigeria because of the role that you play and will play in Africa's future," he said. "You have a large population, great natural resources and the capability to be a great stable anchor. Nigeria and South Africa will play a very important role."