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Cablegate: Lagos Fuel Price Protest Wends Peacefully Through

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

151252Z Sep 05

UNCLAS LAGOS 001428

SIPDIS

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: LAGOS FUEL PRICE PROTEST WENDS PEACEFULLY THROUGH
CITY

REF: A) LAGOS 1416 B) LAGOS 1398 C) LAGOS 1397

1. The September 14 protest rally and march (against fuel
price increases) in Lagos concluded peacefully. Police
estimate 30,000 to 50,000 protestors gathered at the Lagos
State Government Complex in the city's Alausa district. A
protest letter was presented around 1:30 p.m. Protestors
remained at the scene until nearly 4:00p.m.

2. Police recorded only one incident of attempted violence,
when several youths attempted to carjack a vehicle in the
procession. Mobile police, stationed at regular intervals
along the protest route, chased the culprits away without
having to use their weapons. For the rest of the time,
unarmed police escorts accompanied the protestors.
Newspapers reported two labor activists from the United
Action for Democracy (UAD) were arrested the day before the
rallies for carrying incendiary protest leaflets. They are
still in custody.

3. One rally participant reported surprise that protestors
moved so quickly and easily through the city. He noted past
labor actions had been marred by opportunistic hoodlums who
set street fires in the early morning, then proceeded to loot
and commit other crimes by mid-afternoon.

4. The next rally is planned for Friday, September 16 in
Benin City, Edo State, where violent protests against the
fuel price increase have already occurred. Benin has also
been troubled by political violence due to internecine
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rivalries. Keeping the peace
in Benin City may be more of a challenge than it turned out
to be in Lagos. Nevertheless, the Nigerian Labor Congress
(NLC) officials contend that they had enough safeguards in
place to prevent any problems in Lagos, and expect the Benin
City rally to conclude similarly.

5. Labor leaders were happy with the turn-out. Both
participants and state government officials felt cooperation
between Lagos State government entities and labor was better
than ever before. (Note. It was no surprise that the
anti-Obasanjo Lagos State Government would accommodate this
populist protest. It is good electoral politices. End
Note.) Some observers expect that the GON may acquiesce to a
1 or 2 naira decrease in fuel prices by the end of the series
of rallies, but many, including a civil servant in the Lagos
State economics office, believe the rallies will have little
affect on the government. Peter Akpatasson, President of
NUPENG, the union representing junior-level petroleum
workers, hailed the rally as a good beginning for preparing
negotiations with the President. He also said it gave poor
and struggling Nigerian workers a viable alternative to a
strike for expressing dissatisfaction with government policy.
While this is true, protests like these will have little
import on the GON. For now, it appears that the GON has won
the initial round of its face-off with labor over fuel price
deregulation. The irony is that, while Labor may have the
present sympathy of the population, the GON's position on
deregulation is more attuned to the country's long-term
interests.
BROWNE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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