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Cablegate: Appeals Court Does Not Rule National Strike Illegal

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

UNCLAS ABUJA 000099

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB ASEC NI
SUBJECT: APPEALS COURT DOES NOT RULE NATIONAL STRIKE ILLEGAL

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR PUBLICATION ON THE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

1. (SBU) The Federal Appeals Court in Abuja January 20 did
not overturn the earlier court ruling allowing the Nigeria
Labor Council (NLC) to initiate a general strike on January
21. The Court dodged the issue of whether the strike would
be legal, effectively leaving the earlier pro-strike ruling
in place but not preventing GON action against the strikers.
Instead of giving a legal ruling, the Court "advised" the
government to drop its plans to implement a 1.5 Naira per
liter tax on petroleum products and "advised" Labor to delay
its strike pending further negotiations with the government.

2. (SBU) Labor leaders disappeared from the courtroom an
hour before the decision not to overturn was handed down, on
the advice of their attorneys, so they could not be found by
the government for arrest or being served with papers from
other courts. "We should not make it easy for the government
to find them," one attorney said. The labor leaders and
their attorneys have been meeting this afternoon to decide
their next steps.

3. (U) The public takes the threat of a strike seriously,
stocking up on food and gasoline, preparing to depart Abuja
for their homes elsewhere "to be with families," or both, in
case the strike starts tomorrow. While the atmosphere is
tense with anticipation, no one seems to know which way this
current skirmish will come out. Throughout the afternoon,
government and independent radio reports continued giving
conflicting pictures of the situation, GON figures saying the
court ruled against the strike and others saying the court
ruled against the tax. Neither happened in the court poloff
witnessed, and in any case the NLC has said it was calling
the strike not only over the tax but also to roll back
gasoline prices to 34 Naira per liter (i.e. doing away with
deregulation).

4. (SBU) COMMENT: As with many other issues in Nigeria, we
will have to wait and see what results on January 21. The
Embassy EAC has met to assess the situation, and post will
proceed as planned the last time a strike was threatened last
fall (septel).
Roberts

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