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Cablegate: Nigerian Labor Congress Continues to Restrategize

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

080739Z Sep 05

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 001398

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - HANDLE ACCORDINGLY

DOE FOR DAS JBRODMAN AND CGAYE
TREASURY FOR ASEVERENS AND SRENANDER
DOC FOR KBURRESS
STATE PASS TRANSPORTATION MARAD
STATE PASS USAID FOR GWEYNAND AND SLAWAETZ
STATE PASS EX-IM FOR JRICHTER AND KVRANICH
STATE PASS OPIC FOR ZHAN AND JEDWARDS
STATE PASS TDA FOR NCABOT AND BTERNET

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EPET KDEM PGOV NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN LABOR CONGRESS CONTINUES TO RESTRATEGIZE

REF: A) LAGOS 1397 B) LAGOS 1377 C) LAGOS 1376 D-)

LAGOS 1350

Summary
-------

1. (U) With its sights diverted from a national strike for
the time being, the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) is
organizing a series of rallies designed, at the very least,
to get GON agreement to rebuild four non-operational
refineries and to commit to full deregulation of the
petroleum industry. They blame the GON for employing a
"divide and conquer" strategy toward labor unions and
continue to assert their role as labor sector leader. End
Summary.

NLC Ploy: Labor Rallies to Gather
Grass Roots Support for Strike
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) After deciding to organize nation-wide rallies
instead of a strike, NLC officials explained, in pro forma
fashion, the rallies would allow them to gather grass roots
support for a strike they still believe is in the offing. In
addition to the nine cities mentioned in ref A, the NLC is
organizing a rally in Abuja in front of the National Assembly
building. This last rally will occur in October with the
active help of some National Assembly members. At each
venue, the NLC will sponsor speakers at a preplanned location
and then continue the protests with marches through the city.
In Lagos, for instance, the NLC will begin activities either
in Ikeja or Yaba, two suburbs, and then send their mobile
platform throughout the rest of the city. State chapters of
NLC have also been asked to hold independent rallies, and the
NLC has gotten commitments from the Anambra, Rivers, and
Kwara state headquarters to hold rallies.

NLC Changes Strategy to Broaden Appeal
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) So far, a nine-member committee has been making
decisions as to how labor should proceed. The committee
consists of a representative from the NLC, the Trade Union
Congress (TUC), the Congress of Free Trade Unions (CFTU), and
six civil society organizations. Denja Yaqub, NLC Assistant
Secretary, explained the NLC had problems delineating the

SIPDIS
parameters of the strike with the civil society
organizations. According to him, these organizations desired
to cut off contact with government during the strike and to
brandish signs demanding the resignation of the current
government. NLC's position, of course, was much less radical
and would have to appeal to all groups as a whole.

4. (SBU) Yaqub said some people wanted the strike to have
focused strictly on fuel prices, but NLC demands were far
more extensive. He listed several goals the NLC hoped to
achieve: compensation for over 75,000 civil service
employees in the process of being released; total
deregulation of the petroleum sector while still maintaining
subsidies; and new anti-corruption measures. On the last
front, Yaqub said the NLC wanted to redirect funds earmarked
for the presidential library in Abeokuta to the repair of
four oil refineries. He said they would ask for a review of
all government staff, claiming many government workers had no
actual work but were on the payroll as friends of important
people. (Comment. The claim to want deregulation of the
petroleum sector while maintaining subsidies is casuistry.
The essence of deregulation is the departure of subsidies.
For the NLC official to speak of the coexistence of both was
to speak with a bifurcated tongue. End Comment.)

NLC Clashes with Government Over Tactics, Goals
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (SBU) The NLC met officials from the Ministries of Labor
and Finance and from the Petroleum Products Pricing
Regulation Agency (PPPRA) Tuesday, September 6. NLC
characterized the meeting as a "waste." They stated the N7
billion package offered primarily to increase mass transit
capacity throughout the states of Nigeria was simply a
regurgitation of Mantu Committee recommendations accepted
last year. The NLC ended the meeting saying no further
negotiations would be possible without the direct appearance
of the President.

6. (SBU) Yaqub noted the GON originally requested to meet
the NLC September 5, after the NLC had announced it would be
meeting that same day with other labor organizations. In
addition, he said the GON continues to "play politics" with
the TUC by delaying its full recognition as a second central
labor organization in order to maintain leverage over the TUC
at this sensitive moment. Yaqub boasted the NLC has over 4
million members, while TUC membership was around 1 million.
He also gave little credence to the idea that the TUC could
command a position as representative of senior workers
(reftel), explaining Nigerian workers are finding that senior
and junior level concerns are similar and can be handled
through the same organization. He summed up GON's current
dealings with various labor organizations as consummate
"divide and conquer" tactics.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Yaqub's insistence that NLC changed strategy on its
own accord does not jibe with information reported in ref A
regarding reactions of other labor organizations. Yaqub's
assessment of the NLC's strength may be a bit too roseate and
biased. He continues to cling to hopes of a strike and was
quick to stress NLC's leadership of civil society
organizations and its size relative to other labor bodies.
Whatever the cause, NLC's quick move to softpedal the strike
and to adapt to the opinions of other labor organizations
indicates that the NLC does not have organizational strength
or public backing to unilaterally call the shots. It must
work in concert with groups that are both more moderate
(other labor organizations) and more militant (some civil
society groups) than the NLC. End Comment.
BROWNE

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