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Cablegate: Nigeria: Disgruntled Oil Workers Hold

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

UNCLAS ABUJA 000768

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC ASEC EPET ENRG ECON PINS PGOV NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: DISGRUNTLED OIL WORKERS HOLD
17 AMERICAN HOSTAGES

1. Summary: Since April 16, disgruntled Nigerian oil
service workers have held hostage as many as 97
expatriates, including 23 U.S.-citizens on four
offshore oil rigs beyond the eastern Niger Delta.
Transocean Sedco Forex, a Houston-based, Cayman
Island-registered oil service company, operates the
rigs. As of April 29, company officials report 6 U.S.
citizens were released, leaving 17 on the rigs. Post
is actively monitoring the situation and encouraging
the GON and labor organizations to find a negotiated
solution to the stand-off. End Summary.


2. The company's managing director in Nigeria, Ian
Clarke, told the Ambassador that on April 16, about
100 disgruntled oil workers took over four oil rigs
(Sedco 709, Trident 6 & 8 and NG Holme) to protest the
dismissal of five workers accused of theft. He said a
total of 372 persons were on the four platforms at the
time of the incident, including 97 foreign workers.
Clarke said 23 were U.S. citizens.


3. Clarke later told Econoff that as of the evening of
April 29, his company had negotiated the release of 6
U.S citizens, leaving 17 on the rigs. Of the
approximately 272 hostages taken, 32 have been
released, leaving 240 on the rigs, in addition to the
100 disgruntled oil workers turned captors. Clarke
reported that the released hostages are in good health
and that the situation on the platform was calm. He
added that the remaining hostages are in no immediate
danger and have sufficient quantities of food and
water.


4. The disgruntled workers are all member of the
National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers
(NUPENG); however, NUPENG opposes this wildcat
takeover. Joseph Akinlaja, General Secretary of
NUPENG, told Poloff on April 28 that the Transocean
Sedco Forex workers were dismissed a few days before
the April 16 takeover for theft of company property.
The company obtained a Federal High Court order
demanding the accused workers vacate the premises;
however, co-workers of the employees prevented the
bailiff from serving the court documents. Akinlaja
said that shortly thereafter, about 70 coworkers and
fellow NUPENG members began a solidarity protest in
support of the dismissed workers and eventually blocked
the platforms' helicopter landing pads. Akinlaja said
his office declined a request by the aggrieved workers
for NUPENG's intervention and emphasized that "NUPENG
will not support such irresponsible acts by any of its
members."


5. Comment: Transocean Sedco Forex officials continue
to negotiate with the disgruntled employees turned
captors; however, the company's position is that
negotiations should take place in Port Harcourt, not
on the oil rigs. The employees fear that if they
abandon their positions they will be fired.


6. Labor disputes such as this erupt periodically at
oil facilities. Usually they are resolved peacefully
and without GON intervention. At this juncture, the
hostages appear to be in no imminent danger. This
takeover, although discomforting, seems no different
than the others that have ended without incidents of a
violent nature. In his conversation with the Ambassador,
Clarke emphasized that no threats of violence had been
made by the offedning Nigerian employees. There has been
no destruction of property


7. Transocean Sedco Forex Managing Director Ian Clarke
will meet the Ambassador on April 30 to discuss avenues
for peaceful resolution of the dispute, including the
involvement of the Ministry of Labour, National Labour
Congress (the national labor organization of which
NUPENG is a member), and NUPENG. It is positive that
the leadership of NUPENG has disassociated itself from
what amounts to an illegal strike. Additionally,
NUPENG leadership may be helpful in talking down the
local members involved. For now, the GON, including the
National Security Agency, is also monitoring the situation
and does not appear ready to become actively involved
unless requested by Transocean Sedco Forex. End
Comment.
JETER

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