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Cablegate: Gas Strike: Heartburn to Begin October 9

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

UNCLAS ABUJA 001731

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS EPET ECON NI
SUBJECT: GAS STRIKE: HEARTBURN TO BEGIN OCTOBER 9

REF: A. LAGOS 2078
B. LAGOS 2069
C. ABUJA 1668


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR PUBLICATION ON THE
INTERNET OR INTRANET.


1. (SBU) It seems certain that a strike and/or demonstrations
will start in at least some parts of Nigeria October 9, led
by a coalition of unions and NGOs protesting President
Obasanjo's September 30 deregulation of gasoline prices.
Violence could easily erupt, although the Nigeria Labor
Congress (NLC) in Abuja has promised not to disrupt the
All-Africa Games there and police nationwide have reportedly
been ordered to show restraint in dealing with peaceful
protest. In the previous strike over a raise of gasoline
prices in late June, President Obasanjo ignored the situation
in public at first, as he is doing already this time, and
pushed the National Assembly leadership (mainly Senate
President Wabara) to mediate the issue informally before
sending in GON negotiators. Obasanjo agreed to a compromise
gasoline price in July, the day before the oil unions NUPENG
and PENGASSAN were to join the strike, but the compromise
this time may go toward increasing gasoline supply and
slowing the pace of deregulation rather than another
compromise long-term pricing point. The National Executive
Council held its regular meeting October 8, and GON Ministers
were generally unavailable for comment on the strike.


2. (SBU) Senate President Wabara has already begun informal
negotiations for the GON, his office tells us, even though
his public line is that the GON did not raise gasoline prices
(i.e. the GON deregulated, but it is the distributors that
are raising the price -- a sophistry). Speaker of the House
Masari, also an Obasanjo ally, has been taking the same
public line and calling for a restoration to the price of 34
Naira per liter. Wabara has already, by October 7, met twice
with NLC leaders, and we have heard unconfirmed reports that
more meetings have since taken place. On October 8 the NLC
continued to publicly state that they were open for
negotiation, with no official response from the GON.


3. (SBU) The governmental group that appears to be most
worried about the strike at the moment is the police. After
getting hammered by the press over deaths from the last
strike (we estimate 18 persons nationwide), which the
Inspector General denied, the police are now dealing with the
additional accusation that their tear gas contributed to the
recent death of ANPP Vice Presidential candidate Chuba
Okadigbo (Ref C) at a rally in Kano. The National Police
formally announced October 7 that the demonstrations are
legal, and instructed all officers to be very careful about
the indiscriminate use of force, and only to use force in the
event of violent disorder. Nevertheless, FM Adeniji told the
Charge October 8 that the National Executive Council had
decided for the Solicitor General seeking a court order
against the strike on the grounds that the unions had not
given enough advance notice under Nigeria's labor laws.


------------------
LUKMAN RESIGNATION
------------------


4. (SBU) An additional wrinkle appeared October 7 with the
resignation of the Senior Special Advisor to the President on
Petroleum, Rilwanu Lukman. The resignation letter cited no
reasons, but his office confirmed to poloff that the Advisor
had been uncomfortable with a separate conflict between the
Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and the Revenue
Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission.


5. (SBU) Lukman actually tendered his resignation directly to
the President on October 2. Lukman's office confirmed
October 8 that he would remain President of OPEC for the
indefinite future, but would most likely have to step down as
co-chair of NNPC, as that post was linked to his post as
Presidential Advisor.
ROBERTS

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