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Cablegate: Partial Compliance As Nationwide Strike Enters

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001727

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV EPET KDEM ECON NI
SUBJECT: PARTIAL COMPLIANCE AS NATIONWIDE STRIKE ENTERS
ITS SECOND DAY

REF: LAGOS 2072

1. (U) SUMMARY: The nationwide sit-at-home strike
called by the leadership of the NLC entered its second
day October 12. In Abuja, most streets and markets
were active, but the doors of most commercial banks and
filling stations were closed to customers. In Lagos,
the stock exchange and Central Bank were open, but only
about 20 percent of venders were back at the markets.
Many schools across the country are not operating as a
result of the strike. There were minor clashes in many
parts of the country, although not Abuja. An adult was
killed by police in Port Harcourt and a 12-year old boy
in Kaduna, in addition to the apparent murder of labor
activist Jerry Agbeigbe in what was may have been an
unrelated incident. NLC leaders have called the
strike, billed to run for four days, "a success" and
maintain that the only solution is a return to the fuel
subsidy. END SUMMARY.

AROUND NIGERIA

2. (U) The second day in Abuja saw streets and
markets active, but the doors of most commercial banks
and filling stations closed to customers. Many schools
are also not operating as a result of the strike.
Activities slowed at the Federal Secretariat and other
GON offices due October 11, but they continue to
operate.

3. (U) NLC Leader Benson Ukpa told us that the police
in Abuja laid siege to the NLC Secretariat yesterday
and prevented labor leaders from organizing a peaceful
procession in and around the city to monitor the
strike. The police also prevented labor leaders from
walking to the Presidential Villa when President
Obasanjo invited them. The police said that "trek"
would attract hoodlums and miscreants thereby causing a
breakdown of law and order.

4. (U) There has been more trouble in other parts of
Nigeria. Halliburton security personnel told ConGen
Lagos that police shot and killed an adult male at the
Eleme junction on the outskirts of Port Harcourt
October 12. In Kaduna, police yesterday shot and
killed a 12-year boy after firing several shots at a
group of demonstrators. A stray police bullet aimed at
the demonstrators reportedly hit the young boy on the
head, shattering his skull and killing him instantly.
The source added that the demonstrators, mostly
unemployed youths, were denouncing the recent fuel
price hike while calling on residents to observe the
sit-at-home strike. At least 40 demonstrators were
arrested and a dozen sustained injuries during the
stampede.

5. (U) "Area Boys" thugs and police were involved in
many fracas. A ConGen Lagos vehicle ferrying mail was
temporarily blocked in the Anthony area of Lagos by a
bus loaded with people carrying bottles. A convoy of
vehicles conveying NLC Mobilization Committee members
was attacked in Lagos. No one was injured, but NLC
contacts predict similar attacks by pro-government
elements as the strike progresses. Local newspapers
reported that the police arrested nine labor leaders in
Awka, Anambra State, October 11 for allegedly
"breaching public peace" while "monitoring compliance"
with the strike, and clashed with Ibadan Polytechnic
students protesting off campus.

6. (U) Jerry Agbeigbe, a prominent labor activist and
former president of the National Association of Pilots
and Engineering, was shot dead early this morning by
unidentified assailants. His corpse reportedly was
left at the Alapere Police Station in Lagos. Agbeigbe
had been on the forefront of the agitation for the
payment of salary and pension arrears for Nigerian
Airways employees. It is unknown whether the killing
was related to the Nigerian Airways situation, the
strike action, or neither event.

7. (U) In other places:

LAGOS: Public offices and many businesses were closed
again today. Reports from some areas of the city
indicated that about 20 percent of vendors were back at
the markets. Trading continued on the floor of the
Nigerian Stock Exchange, though volume was expected to
be lower than normal again today. The Lagos office of
the Central Bank was operating normally. Commercial
banks in some areas opened, though most remained
largely closed to customers out of fear of harassment
from "area boys." More than 1000 protesters blocked a
major road in the Badagry area this morning. Lagos
airport was open, with no indication that air traffic
control was joining the strike, but domestic flights
were interrupted in many places -- including a sixty
percent reduction in flights between Abuja and Lagos.
Some manufacturers closed factories, fearing people who
the NLC sent to ensure compliance with the strike.

KANO: The northern commercial center saw more strike
activity October 12 than October 11, and clashes with
security forces have been reported.

ONITSHA: NLC officers are reportedly moving around to
ensure compliance with the strike in this trading
center for the Southeast. Some markets and banks that
opened earlier in the day have been forced to close.
The general hospital was also forced to shut down. Some
government offices that opened in the morning were
later closed, though workers remained in their offices.
Private businesses and public transport operated
without disturbance.

ENUGU: Public offices and schools remain closed.
Commuters are moving undisturbed. Major markets are
open. The police reportedly arrested labor (and
possibly political) leaders while people were off the
streets as a result of the strike.

IBADAN: Private schools were open and there was more
pedestrian and vehicular movement than on October 11.
Banks and government offices remained shut, however,
and there were reports of clashes between police and
protesters.

PORT HARCOURT: Some commercial facilities were
open, and a small amount of commercial traffic was
moving. All banks were closed. Motorists were
reportedly displaying green leaves as a sign of
solidarity with the strike. International flights were
arriving as usual.

WARRI: Banks, schools, public hospitals, and major
government offices were closed. Private schools
remained open. NEPA offices were closed, but
technicians were at work. Delta Broadcasting Service
was off the air. The airport was closed.

OIL INDUSTRY

8. (SBU) ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil both reported
continued office operations with skeletal staffs. Oil
and gas activities in the field, however, have not been
affected. Oil unions continued to honor the strike,
except for essential staff. Generally, firms in the
oil sector said they do not expect production to be
affected by the strike if it is confined to this week,
as planned. However, if the situation goes into an
indefinite strike, production issues may arise.

NLC STRIKE LEADERS GENERALLY SATISFIED

9. (SBU) Expressing displeasure over the level of
compliance in Abuja, the NLC leadership nevertheless
deems the strike "successful and very much on course."
A top official at the NLC Secretariat said the strike
would continue in spite of "several attempts by the
government to foil the resolve of the Nigerian people."
He said reports from many parts of Nigeria indicate
that the public, especially workers and students have
"positively responded to our call." NLC leaders claim
even the Nigeria Police have cooperated, "tacitly
expressing solidarity with the measures taken by the
NLC and avoided enforcing government orders."

10. (U) NLC officials were less happy about the recent
inauguration of a 33-man committee by President
Obasanjo to cushion the effect of the recent price
hike, describing it as "diversionary and insulting to
Nigerians." The Committee was inaugurated yesterday at
the Presidential Villa. According to President
Obasanjo, the Committee would "collate, harmonize and
coordinate measures that will be agreed to bring about
a short term relief and medium term positive impact on
the effect of high oil prices." Although NLC head
Adams Oshiomhole and four other labor leaders were
included in the Committee, strike leader Ukpa said the
NLC had "embarked on the strike to force the government
to revert to old fuel prices, not to discuss palliative
measures that are full of deceit."
ROBERTS

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