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Cablegate: Nigeria: Strike has Limited Impact During First

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. A) LAGOS 105
B. B) LAGOS 106

1. (U) Summary: As of 1:30 pm Nigeria Time (7:30 am EST), the
Nigerian Labour Congress, general strike was most effective
in Lagos (Lagos septel). Although showing slightly less than
normal activity, Abuja has not been greatly affected by the
strike. However, there was substantial compliance in the
Northern industrial city of Kaduna and partial observance in
the key city of Kano. In Jos, it was business as usual,
except for significant absenteeism among civil servants.
Reports by government officials, media and local contacts in
other northern Nigerian cities indicate little violence thus
far as a result of the strike. However, the apparent
detention of NLC President Adams Oshiomhole, if it holds, has
the potential to raise tempers and will likely be used by
strike organizers as a rallying point in their attempts to
galvanize support. End Summary

NLC President Detained

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2. (SBU) According to a member of the Embassy surveillance
detection unit who witnessed the event, NLC President
Oshiomhole and two others were detained in front of the
Federal Secretariat Complex in Abuja around 11:00 local time.
Apparently, Oshiomhole arrived at the Secretariat in a
convoy of approximately ten (10) vehicles that blocked the
complex,s entrance. As he started to give a speech to a
group of federal workers, police arrived and fired tear gas,
dispersing the small crowd. Plainclothes security officers
then took Oshiomhole, who resisted, and placed him in an
unmarked Peugeot vehicle. The vehicle departed the area
through the entrance to the Supreme Court, heading in the
general direction of Aso Villa. There were no reported
injuries at the Federal Secretariat, and activity around the
area soon returned to normal. Media reports have as many as
20 other senior labor leaders being arrested, including the
Dr. Oyediran, President of the Nigeria,s Academic Staff
Union of Universities (ASUU). We are unable to confirm these

3. (SBU) Union officials in Kaduna believe that Oshiomhole
will be charged with a crime and held in an attempt to break
the strike. Sources at the Presidency say that no official
comment will come until the conclusion of the weekly Federal
Executive Council meeting. Comment: Oshiomhole may have been
courting arrest in an effort to galvanize support. The GON
had issued stern warnings to civil servants that absence
would not be tolerated, so Oshimhole must have known that
blocking the main gate to the Federal Secretariat complex
would prompt a forceful GON reaction. End comment.


4. (SBU) Meeting with PolCouns in Kaduna yesterday, a senior
official of the National Union of Textile Workers correctly
predicted the strike in Kaduna would be effective. He stated
that labor was well organized in the city and that the fuel
price hikes had precipitated a substantial increase in
consumer prices, particularly for foodstuffs and
transportation, that negatively affected everyone. As an
example, he emphasized that cab fares in Kaduna had nearly
doubled since the announced increased. More resigned than
eager to strike, he asserted the NLC would call off the
strike if the GON signaled its willingness to negotiate and
compromise on the extent and timing of the price hike. He
claimed that the NLC could live with an increase implemented
in stages. The fuel hike, coupled with the GON,s delay in
implementing the pledged 25 percent minimum wage increase
last year, had placed the NLC leadership in a difficult
position. If the NLC did not take action, the rank and file
would accuse the leadership of kowtowing to government, he

5. (SBU) Labor,s participation in the Petroleum Pricing and
Regulatory Committee (though they now disassociate themselves
from its decisions) and their refusal to adhere to the
statutory 21 day cooling-off period have cost them some
support. Also important in winning support for the
government position is participation by popular Kaduna
Governor Muhammad Makarfi and other governors in opposing the
strike as "illegal" and a threat to "the survival of
democracy, peaceful co-existence and the rule of law."

6. (SBU) Since the increased official rates went into effect,
Northern consumers have seen black market prices go down to
40 to 50 Naira per liter from the 80 to 90 liter prices
before the hike. In many areas of the North, there are
virtually no transactions at the official rates. The
increase of the official price, increased production from
domestic refineries and recently allowed gasoline imports
have created considerable downward pressure in the real cost
of gasoline for Northern Nigerian motorists. The real
popular issue is not the 18 percent increase in the cost of
fuel, but the sudden and much sharper opportunistic increase
(50 to 100 percent) in food and transportation costs noted

City by City Reports

7. (U) In Kaduna, most stores, gas stations, banks and
markets were closed although a few stores and markets showed
signs of limited activity by the afternoon. While contacts
agree there is widespread observance of the strike in Kaduna,
compliance in other key northern cities is not quite as high.

8. (U) Kano: The North,s largest city, Kano is a busy
commercial center and labor unions are active but not as
strong as in Kaduna. Incoming traffic was delayed this
morning by the presence of bonfires on a few roads leading
into the city. However, by mid-day, most markets and stores
were open for business. Most gas stations remained closed
and noticeably fewer commercial vehicles were seen plying the
roads. Overall, the city appeared calm, according to our
contacts. Note: Most gas stations in Kano are closed most of
the time on normal days; the vast majority of fuel sales take
place on the black market. End Note.

9. (U) Zaria: In the home of Ahmadu Bello University, which
has a history of student activism, some students apparently
joined the strikers by starting bonfires and engaging in
petty harassment of motorists, but there were no major
disruptions. Gas stations were closed and streets less busy
than usual.

10. (U) Jos: Although many government workers failed to
report to work, most banks, stores and market were open. The
city appeared calm.

11. (U) Maiduguri: This is another fairly active commercial
center. Strike observance was substantial, according to
local contacts, but no disturbances were reported. Most
government offices and shops were closed. Vehicular traffic
was much less than normal.

12. (U) Sokoto: This city, the administrative center for the
northwest corner of the country and the seat of the
traditional Sultanate, experienced limited observance of the
strike with most markets, stores and facilities open.

13. (U) American Citizens: Embassy thus far has no reports of
any significant negative effects on American citizens
residing in Northern and Middle Belt States. We assume minor
inconveniences affect them as much as they affect Nigerians.

14. (SBU) Mission travelers: Two Mission AmCits (one USDH and
one USPSC) have been asked to remain in Kano for another
night in order not to have to pass through Kaduna at this
time. International flights are reportedly operating
normally. As a precautionary measure, Embassy will use a
two-vehicle convoy to support in-bound and out-bound visitors

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