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Cablegate: Lasco: New Strike, New Planning: Not a Repeat Of

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 002081

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EPET PHUM SOCI NI
SUBJECT: LASCO: NEW STRIKE, NEW PLANNING: NOT A REPEAT OF
JULY

REF: (A) LAGOS 02043 (B) ABUJA 01700 (C) LAGOS 02069


1. (SBU) Summary: Chima Ubani, Executive Director of the
Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), told us that labor and
civil society leaders meeting on October 4 and 6 decided to
begin a two-week general strike on Thursday, October 9.
Demonstrations will be held on Thursday in Lagos, Abuja and
Kano, with additional demonstrations slated for the
Southeast. A similar scenario is expected for Monday,
October 13, but the demonstrations' intensity may be undercut
by the possible absence of one or both of the two petroleum
unions, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas
Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior
Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN). Conversations with
the unions' presidents late on October 6 suggested that the
unions are under pressure to strike but are actually willing
to work with the GON to resolve the deregulation issue. End
summary.


STRIKE AND DEMONSTRATIONS: NOT A REPEAT OF JULY
--------------------------------------------- --


2. (SBU) Ubani said labor organizers and their civil society
partners learned important lessons from the "fizzled" strike
in July 2003 and are determined not to have a repeat
performance. The October 4 and 6 meetings of labor and civil
society leaders resulted in the formation of an umbrella
organization called the Labor Civil Society Coalition (LASCO)
(Ref C) and the creation of a national framework for the
strike and demonstrations. Local meetings to detail, "fine
tune" and set up a "framework for location control" were also
set in motion. LASCO, he says, has planned for a two-week
action. Ubani recognizes that two weeks is a long time; the
"actual period will be determined on the ground," he said.
Demonstrations have been organized for Lagos, Abuja and Kano,
and others may be held in Enugu, Port Harcourt and Awka,
Anambra State. According to Ubani, Lagos will be the
"national center" of demonstrations, with most taking place
on the mainland in Yaba and Ikeja with possible rallies in
Mushin and Akegbala. Ubani did not believe Lagos Island,
Ikoyi or Victoria Island would see demonstrations and noted
that without many vehicles traveling, it would be difficult
for demonstrators to reach the islands.


THE PLAYERS AND THEIR ANNOUNCEMENT
----------------------------------


3. (SBU) Ubani named four national leaders who are in charge
of LASCO demonstrations: Adams Oshiomole, President of the
Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), Bamidele Aturu, President of
United Action for Democracy (UAD), Dr. Jibirin Ibrahim,
President of the Citizen's Forum for Constitutional Reform,
and Mr. Didi Ododo, General Secretary of the Congress of
Federal Trade Unions (CFTU). Aturu will hold a press
conference Tuesday morning to announce the planned
demonstrations in Lagos and call on the general public to
participate. (Note: CLO is affiliated with UAD, the umbrella
human rights organization that won prominence fighting the
Abacha regime. CLO was then and is still considered one of
the prominent leaders of the Nigerian human rights
community.) Ubani said that LASCO would wait to see how the
government responds to the announcement but reported that
LASCO would probably forge ahead with its plans.


TO STRIKE OR NOT TO STRIKE, THAT IS THE QUESTION
--------------------------------------------- ---


4. (SBU) Ubani reported that a long list of actors in the
Nigerian trade union arena was set to strike on Thursday. He
included NUPENG and PENGASSAN, but conversations late on
October 6 with Peter Akpatason, President of NUPENG, and
Ogbeifun Louis Brown, National President of PENGASSAN,
suggest that the petroleum unions are not fully committed to
a strike. Akpatason identified NUPENG's attitude as "middle
of the road" and open to a two- or three-month discussion
with the GON on "modalities of deregulation," which NUPENG
supports in principle. When asked if the NLC and other
groups would strike without NUPENG, Akpatason said, "labor
can't argue with us; it's our industry. A few (unions and
groups) will not be happy, but we think we can bring them
around to our position." Brown spoke in a distressed tone
about wanting to "help the government and Nigerian people" by
finding scenarios to address the issue of fuel price. Brown
wants a six-month "emergency structure" to assess the
downstream sector and repair the Port Harcourt and Warri
refineries.


BURNING TIRES AND VIOLENCE AGAIN?
---------------------------------


5. (SBU Ubani does not believe that the demonstrations will
be violent. He said local thugs or "area boys" would not be
a factor in the demonstrations, mostly because "area boys are
only able to take over when there's no leadership. Once you
have action called by a known platform with visible leaders,
area boys have no position to unleash violence. The only
violence will be from police if they react poorly." Ubani
also doubts that demonstrators will attack vehicles, not
because they won't want to, but because there won't be many
cars out there.


6. (SBU) Comment: The CLO and other civil society groups
appear committed to the strike, but they seem more upset by
the manner in which the decision to deregulate was taken than
with deregulation as an economic policy. Ubani characterized
deregulation as an "unlawful action of the President in
collusion with gas marketers" and called for the GON to reset
the fuel price at 34 naira per liter. This, of course, is
unlikely. Demonstrations will probably take place with or
without PENGASSAN or NUPENG, but their legitimacy and
strength may be undercut by the petroleum unions' absence.
End comment.


HINSON-JONES

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