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Cablegate: Nigeria: Talk of "Mass Protests" On Fuel

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 002200

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
PASS GURNEY, LONDON AND NEARY, PARIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EPET PGOV PHUM SOCI NI XY
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: TALK OF "MASS PROTESTS" ON FUEL
DEREGULATION

REF: (A) LAGOS 2081 (B) ABUJA 1737 (C) LAGOS 2147


LABOR AND CIVIL SOCIETY MAY DEMONSTRATE AGAIN
--------------------------------------------- -


(SBU) 1. The Labor and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) held a
press conference on
October 23 and accused the GON and oil marketers of breaking
an agreement reached
between the parties on October 8. (Refs A, B) National
Labour Congress (NLC)
officials told us that new organized mass action is planned
for November
6. LASCO members have scheduled a meeting to mobilize
supporters
early in the week of October 27. Surprisingly, the word
"strike" has not been
used in formal or informal documents from LASCO regarding the
planned
mobilization. Leaders have used the phrase "mass protest"
instead.


(SBU) 2. Bamidele Aturu, President of the United Action for
Democracy (UAD) and
Co-Chairman of LASCO, told POLOFF on October 23 that a final
decision on the
"mass protest" would be made at a meeting next week. Aturu
explained that LASCO
officials favor democratic processes and seek broad member
support prior to
approving any action. Aturu was critical of the Nigerian
National Petroleum
Corporation (NNPC) and of its move to increase the price of
fuel in its depots from
N28 to N33, just below the agreed upon retail price of N34.
He accused the GON and
oil marketers of operating with "impunity" and asserted that
the GON is obligated
to regulate the price of fuel for the welfare of the people.
A LASCO press release
stated that the GON's policy of deregulation is "totally
unacceptable," arguing that
petroleum products "are so crucial to the well-being of the
individual and the
nation that their supply and distribution cannot be left to
the whims and
caprices of marketers and market prices."


(SBU) 3. Except for some NLC officials, however, many LASCO
leaders argue that the
current confrontation with GON transcends fuel deregulation
and addresses the very
nature of Nigerian democracy itself (Ref C). Aturu, for
example, bemoaned the lack
of a "democracy dividend" and said: "we didn't fight the
military regime for bad
government, corruption, and insecurity." (Comment. UAD, an
umbrella organization for
many human rights groups, was last nationally active during
the Abacha military
regime and was responsible for organizing the "Five Million
Man March" on Lagos
to protest that regime. End Comment)


GON DELAYS PROMISED CIVIL SERVANT SALARY INCREASE
--------------------------------------------- ----


(SBU) 4. Adding fuel to the fire, the GON has put off to
October the retroactive 12.5%
salary increase it promised for July to public sector
workers. The GON justified the
move expressing concern about the inflationary impact of
paying four months of salary
arrears. NLC officials countered that fuel deregulation has
already caused
"inflationary damage," and confided to us that the NLC still
plans to direct its efforts
to fuel deregulation. Other civil society contacts also
voiced their concerns to PolOff
that the burden of increased fuel prices is too onerous for a
population whose income
has remained stagnant for years.


(SBU) 5. COMMENT: The NLC remains the power broker in LASCO
and has drummed up
enthusiasm within civil society on the issue of fuel
deregulation. This enthusiasm
appears to reflect a strong desire to use the fuel issue to
address the myriad of other
problems civil society sees in the nascent Nigerian
democracy. However, much of the
general public passion that was palpable just before the
planned strike and protests
of early October has dissipated, and LASCO may have a hard
row to hoe to reinvigorate
the Nigerian public into mass protest action over fuel
deregulation. The oft brought
up grievance of civil society remains the federal
government's perceived unwillingness
to implement policy within the institutions of a democratic
system and to consult
civil society before taking actions that affect society at
all levels.
GREGOIRE

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