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Cablegate: Nigerian Labor Protests Against Deregulation

VZCZCXRO6529
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHUJA #2006/01 3061835
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021835Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7393
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA PRIORITY 2110
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE PRIORITY 1050
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS PRIORITY 2216
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002006

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/FO, DRL, AF/W, INR/AA;
STATE PASS TO USTR (AGAMA);
LABOR FOR SUDHA HALEY;
COMMERCE FOR 3317/ITA/OA (KBURRESS)
TREASURY FOR DAN PETERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EAID ENRG PREL NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN LABOR PROTESTS AGAINST DEREGULATION

REF: A. ABUJA 1191
B. ABUJA 1117

--------
SUMMARY:
--------

1. (SBU) Some 15,000 members of national and state unions,
civil society organizations, and political parties marched on
October 29 to the National Assembly to protest the GON's
proposed deregulation of fuel prices and the lack of action
on minimum wage and electoral reform issues. The Nigerian
Labor Congress, Nigeria's largest umbrella union, led the
effort following successful similar events in Kano, Lagos,
and Maiduguri in June and July. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) General Secretary John
Odah told LabOff October 30 that the Abuja protest march and
rally attracted 15,000 participants from local NLC offices in
each state of the country, its affiliate unions and
associations, civil society and human rights organizations,
and other activist organizations. Addressing the crowd, NLC
President Abdulwaheed Omar declared that "if the government
insists on pursuing anti-people and anti-democratic policies,
which we believe will be detrimental to workers and the
Nigerian people, the Labor movement will have no option but
to embark on a full-blown national strike."

3. (SBU) House Committee on Labour and Productivity
Chairperson Ado Audu admitted to LabOff on October 30 that he
was "extremely impressed" with the large turnout "but
unfortunately, "the government has already made up its mind
with deregulation; it will allow the NLC to make noise, but
the decision will definitely go forward."

4. (SBU) Odah told LabOff that the "government's policies on
deregulation, minimum wage and electoral reform are all
disappointing and punishing regular Nigerians for the
incompetence and corruption of their leaders." He stated
that "the average Nigerian does not trust market forces
enough to believe that deregulation will be beneficial; we
all agree it is necessary to reform the status quo, but if
the government is sincere, it will first stop importing
refined petroleum and build its own refineries, allowing us
more control over costs and productivity." He added, "Until
then, "market forces will continue to be controlled by
corrupt forces."

5. (SBU) Labour Party Chairman Dan Nwanyanwu told LabOff that
"it is not that Nigeria does not have the money; it is the
shameful mismanagement of her resources." Nwanyanwu asserted
that "we are not saying anything different from what
Secretary Clinton told us at her Town Hall, that the people
are suffering from the corruption of its leaders."

6. (SBU) Nigeria's second largest umbrella union, the Trade
Union Congress (TUC) also joined the Abuja protest. Else
affirmed to PolOff 30 that the TUC stood in solidarity with
the NLC, and agreed that refinery infrastructure should be
the GON's first priority. He lamented that "the reason why
Qthe GON's first priority. He lamented that "the reason why
we were so successful in yesterday's rally and had so many
people supporting us is because more Nigerians each day are
getting tired that the government is not listening to its
people. This is true not just of deregulation, but minimum
wage -- which has not been reviewed for over 10 years -- and
especially electoral reform, which appears inactive."

7. (SBU) At the end of the rally, the NLC issued a joint
communique with the TUC and the Labour and Civil Society
Coalition (LACSO) that asserted that despite a 15-percent

ABUJA 00002006 002 OF 002


increase in wages over the last three years, emoluments of
public office holders increased by over 800 percent. (N.B.:
International Labor Organization Social Dialogue Director
Tayo Fayoshin visited Nigeria in July and informed LabOff
that "Nigeria's minimum wage structure needs a major
overhaul, beginning with a minimum wage review, which hasn't
taken place in over 10 years." End Note.)

8. (SBU) Rally speaker Femi Falana, the noted radical human
rights lawyer whose clients include former Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission Chair Nuhu Ribadu and Niger Delta
militant Henry Okah, warned that this was only the beginning
of nationwide protests, especially if the 2011 election is
rigged. TUC President Esele told the cheering crowd that
electoral reform involved "the only solution to Nigeria's
current economic and political crisis," while Labour Party
Chairman Nwanyanwu criticized the GON for "robbing election
victories in five states."

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) This is the NLC's fourth and biggest organized
protest against fuel price deregulation and inaction on
minimum wage and electoral reforms. The last time these
organizations coalesced around a single issue was in 2007,
again over fuel prices, when they effectively shut down the
country with nationwide strikes. Deregulation may be long
over due as an economic and financial imperative, but fuel
subsidies are among the few tangible benefits Nigerians get
from government, and many Nigerians are reluctant to see them
go.

SANDERS

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