The successful provision of $1.2 billion in Nigerian-assistance programs requires heightened attention to the security of U.S. mission and contractor personnel, the Obama administration concluded.

Increased safety is particularly critical for staff traveling in the predominantly Muslim northern states, where the majority of U.S. aid is targeted, according a government planning document that WND located via routine database research.

The administration wants to extend that umbrella of protection to aid recipients, too.

Consequently, in order to assess and address those security needs, the U.S. Agency for International Development will deploy a private contractor-adviser to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

This action corresponds with other shifts in U.S. policy in Nigeria, especially the administration’s delayed decision to designate the Islamist radical group Boko Haram as a terrorist organization.

The U.S. Department of State late last year approved the terrorist designation in response to congressional pressure.

The administration initially was resistant to the notion that Muslim attacks on Nigerian Christians were religiously motivated.

Indeed, USAID dismissed claims of persecution as “a misunderstanding,” relegating the violence – which includes the mass slaughter of worshipers sitting in church – to an outgrowth of tribal and land disputes, as WND reported in 2012.

As government and contractor staff continue to face danger from terrorists and civil unrest, USAID now acknowledges “the need to enhance its security profile/operations,” according to a Personal Services Contract solicitation. The agency likewise deems it critical to more effectively coordinate with U.S. Regional Security Offices in the Nigerian cities of Abuja and Lagos.

The new Security Liaison Specialist will be tasked with heightening USAID communications and actions among these U.S. government entities and their “implementing partners,” or IPs, which includes contractors as well as aid recipients.

IPs ultimately are responsible for ensuring the safety of their staff and property. Nonetheless, USAID/Nigeria sees an increasing need to further support them with security-related information and services, the document says.

USAID/Nigeria operates one of the “largest and most complex” assistance programs in sub-Saharan Africa. While USAID programs are carried out Nigeria-wide, it focuses on the provision of “state-wide interventions in health, democracy and governance, water and sanitation, and basic education in the northern states of Bauchi and Sokoto.”

USAID has 143 staff members working in five technical and five support offices in Nigeria, supported by 26 U.S. direct hires, nine U.S. personal services contractor, and 108 Foreign Service Nationals. The document did no provide total contractor-staff numbers.

The previously cited $1.2 billion figure comprises the total cost of projects currently being administered via USAID/Nigeria.

Its FY 2013 program budget is $392 million, not including $11 million operating expenses. Half the annual budget is slated for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President’s Malaria Initiative.

Separately in Nigeria, the U.S. Trade & Development Agency – an independent White House agency – is arranging a feasibility study of the proposed expansion of Main One Cable Company’s fiber optic network.

USTDA will select a contractor – which must be a U.S. company – to study the “technical and financial feasibility” of Main One’s possible deployment of undersea cabling between the Nigerian cities of Lagos and Port Harcourt.

The vendor, paid via an initial $550,000 USTDA grant, will examine whether market demand justifies the proposed project. Its final report will include legal and regulatory assessments, plus recommendations on fiber-deployment routes and the technical capability needed to execute this infrastructure-expansion plan.

In other regional operations, USAID is stepping up its search for contractors to help it spark business investment and job growth in the Middle East and North Africa.

As WND recently reported, the agency’s MENA Investment Initiative began reaching out to regional vendors capable of carrying out the endeavor, which, among other tactics, will provide capital to investors as well as subsidize those investors’ risk-insurance plans.

USAID extended its vendor response deadline until Jan. 15 to continue locating and evaluating potential project partners.

USAID in another Mideast venture is prepared to raise the funding cap on the Iraq Financial Development Project, an Iraqi banking-infrastructure initiative that seeks to institute modern retail-payment systems and credit information-bureau practices and technologies.

The initial $53.3 million ceiling already had been reduced by $10 million – and cut short 19 months – as part of USAID/Iraq’s drawdown. This contract modification “will reinstate some activities cut when the mission did not envision that additional funding would be available.”

The modification document, Solicitation no. AID-267-C-00-10-00005, says the agency will continue to work with the current contractor rather than opening the endeavor to competitive bidding.

However, the identity of that vendor is unclear. Though the modification says the extension was granted for the existing project, RFP-267-10-002, a search of that solicitation number via the FedBizOpps database produced zero results. Similarly, contractor data is absent from the endeavor’s USAID web page.

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