The Guardian Online -

Wednesday, January 10, 2001

U.S restates pledge to aid Nigieria's democracy

From Madu Onuorah, Abuja

UNITED States yesterday restated its commitment to the survival of Nigeria's democracy with a pledge by the country's visiting Director of Defence Intelligence Agency, Vice-Admiral Thomas Wilson to assist the Nigerian military establish institutions and policies that will permanently help the military remain subordinate to civil authority.

Vice Admiral Wilson spoke at Nigeria's Defence Intelligence Agency just as the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Rear Admiral Joseph Ajayi described the allegation of diamond trade levelled against senior Nigerian military officers by former UNAMSIL Commander, Admiral Jetley as "malicious" and aimed at tarnishing the nation's efforts at peace keeping.

Rear Admiral Ajayi, who headed the panel that investigated the allegations said: "The allegation is baseless and not true. That our troops who were dedicated to the cause of peace in Sierra Leone were involved in illegal diamond trade is a barefaced lie. It was the antics of a sinking man and he was like a man looking for who to sink with."

Earlier, Vice Admiral Wilson who spoke at a meeting with senior officials of the military apex intelligence agency said that as a first step, the U.S. would assist Nigerian DIA in establishing a Defence Intelligence College (DIC).

The DIC, which will be the nation's higher level intelligence training institution will be managed by the DIA and be available for training intelligence officers from the Army, Navy and the Air Force.

According to Wilson, "we can help set it (DIC) up. That is something we can do. We believe that stable democracy starts with good information for the policy makers. We have a Joint Military Intelligence College. We have some expertise in that area. And we are delighted to give the assistance."

Rear Admiral Ajayi in his welcome address to the U.S. delegation which included the U.S DIA Director in Charge of Africa, Charge d'Affairs U.S. Embassy and Defence Adviser (DA) U.S Embassy, noted that the U.S. assistance showed that democratic dividends were already accruing to the military.

He said: "We have started to reap some of them (democracy dividends). A lot of countries are now reaching out to us politically, socially and economically. And in this era of globalisation and interdependence, no country thrives in isolation, or is economically self-sufficient enough to go it alone. Those who have tried it ended up having their fingers burnt and suffered total isolation.

"It is against this background that Nigeria will struggle to consolidate on the gains of democracy, and keep its doors open to old and new friends and allies with new ideas in order to rebuild her economy, industrial base and the armed forces