Written 6:19 AM Feb 13, 1995 by africafund in cdp:labr.global
TO: Key Labor Contacts
FROM: Mike Fleshman, Labor Desk Coordinator
DATE: January 30, 1995
Sisters and Brothers,
Trade union and human rights leaders have come under increasingly brutal attack in Africa's largest country, Nigeria, where a military dictatorship has met popular demands for democracy with escalating repression.
In the months since troops broke last summer's pro-democracy strike by Nigerian oil workers at bayonet point, the regime has systematically cracked down on the labor movement in an effort to crush democratic resistance. Last year the country's military dictator, Sani Abacha, detained top oil workers' union leaders Frank Kokori, Wariebi Agamene, and F.A.Addo without charge or trial. Despite promises to charge or release the labor leaders and other democracy activists, the regime is still holding them and many others at secret locations without access to attorneys, family members or doctors.
Last week the General Secretary of the Geneva-based International Federation of Chemical, Energy and General Workers Unions, Vic Thorpe, released an Urgent Action Appeal outlining the global labor campaign for the release of imprisoned Nigerian labor and democracy leaders, and calling for protest letters to be sent to the Nigerian military regime. I urge you to respond to this appeal whether or not your union is affiliated to the ICEF. The ICEF has developed a sample letter to use as a model, which is enclosed in this mailing.
As the Nigerian democracy movement, led by organized labor, continues to demand the end of military rule, the Abacha regime, using tactics borrowed from the former racist rulers of apartheid South Africa, has launched a sweeping crackdown on the unions.
Hundreds of striking unionists have been dismissed and blackballed. Nigeria's two oil workers' unions, NUPENG and PENGASSAN, along with the national federation, the Nigerian Labor Congress, have been put under army control and stripped of their bank accounts, their dues checkoff facilities and their offices. Elected union officials have been summarily removed and barred from conducting union affairs.
Last October an international trade union delegation went to Nigeria to demand the release of the imprisoned labor leaders and an end to repression. They were assured by senior army officials that Kokori and the others would be released or charged, that union autonomy would be restored and fired workers returned to work.
None of these promises have been kept. Troops still occupy union offices. Democracy leaders, including the unionists and Nigerian President-elect Moshood Abiola, winner of a free and fair election in 1993, remain imprisoned. There is growing concern about the health and safety of Brother Kokori and other political prisoners held in secret army jails.
The United States, which bought five billion dollars worth of oil from Nigeria last year, could bring enormous economic pressure on the Abacha dictatorship to end human rights abuses and restore democracy. Much of this money is paid directly to the dictatorship through the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Company.
But to date Washington has declined to use its economic leverage to advance democracy. While the Administration has taken some diplomatic, largely symbolic measures against Abacha, it has refused to block payments to the regime from Mobil Chevron and other U.S. oil companies in Nigeria.
Write directly to the Nigerian army. Insist that Frank Kokori, Moshood Abiola and all other political prisoners be released.
But also write to the U.S. government. Urge the Clinton Administration to put effective pressure on the Abacha dictatorship to release political prisoners, restore the rights of free speech, free association and peaceful protest, and permit the elected President of Nigeria to assume his office.
Write or fax:
General Oladipo Diya
Chief of General Staff
Dr. S.O. Ogbumedia
Federal Ministry of Labor and Productivity
Federal Secretariat, Phase 1
Fax: (011 234 1) 2692293
Hon. George Moose
Assistant Secretary of State for Africa
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, Room 6234A
Washington, DC 20520
Fax: (202) 647-6301
17 January 1995
TO ALL ICEF AFFILIATES, ITS, ICFTU
Anti-union measures in Nigeria
This is to update you on the measures taken by the Nigerian military regime against our affiliates PENGASSAN and NUPENG, following last summer's strike in the oil industry.
Your assistance at this difficult time has been greatly appreciated by our Nigerian colleagues.
The ICEF was represented on an international trade union delegation which visited Nigeria last October. Detailed discussions were held there with the Nigerian trade unions, the Chief of General Staff (de facto the country's Vice-President) and the Minister of Labour and Prodcutivity.
On that occasion, we called for full restoration of the autonomy of PENGASSAN, NUPENG and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC - the national trade union centre). Our representative also read to you the labour minister the names of five trade union officers who, we were reliably informed, were still being held incommunicado and without trial.
The names that he cited are:
PENGASSAN officers F.A. Addo (1st Vice-President and Chairman, Port Harcourt Zone) and F. Aidelomo (Chairman, PPMC and Group Chairman, NNPC); NUPENG General Secretary Chief Frank O. Kokori and NUPENG President Wariebi K. Agamene; NLC Chairman in Edo State, Deacon Olu Aderibigbe.
The delegation emphasised that these and any other detained trade unionists should either be released or, if they were alleged to have committed any criminal offences, should be charged, brought before a properly constituted court of law without further delay and given full facilities to defend hemselves. In any case, their families, lawyers and unions must, the elegation pointed out, be allowed proper access to them.
The minister assured our representative that the cases of all detained trade unionists were being examined by the judicial authorities. They would also, he stated, be placed before the Provisional Ruling Council (the military-led de facto government), provided that those concerned had not committed any criminal offences.
To date, we have had no news that the detained trade unionists mentioned above have been released or brought to trial. We must therefore assume that, at best, they are still being held incommunicado. In some cases, there are grounds for serious concern about their well-being. Recently, the Nigerian regime has further increased its powers to detain people indefinitely without bringing them before a court.
Regarding trade union autonomy, the international trade union delegation had received assurances that the government-imposed "sole administrators" would be withdrawn from the unions' offices as soon as auditing was completed and arrangements were in hand for free and fair elections to all posts within the unions. We were also given to understand that such elections might be held in December 1994 or January 1995.
That election process would now appear to be under way, although we do not have any precise information about its timing.
Meanwhile, we have received the ruling made last November by the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) on a complaint brought against the Nigerian government by the international trade union movement. The ILO had before it detailed presentations both from the trade unions and from the Nigerian government. The final ruling clearly supports the trade union view that the measures taken against the Nigerian trade unions during 1994 were excessive and unnecessary and constituted a violation of internationally ecognised standards.
We note in particular the ILOs call upon the Nigerian government to:
Particularly important - in the Nigerian context but also for its worldwide implications - is the ILOs ruling that petroleum production "cannot be considered as essential services in the strict sense of the term." Consequently, the ILO confirmed that the right to strike in the petroleum sector is fully protected by the relevant ILO standards.
For all these reasons, we feel that the Nigerian government should again be pressed to live up to its commitments. We have now written both to the Chief of General Staff and to the Minister of Labour and Productivity on this atter, and we ask you to write in similar terms.
A draft letter (in English) is attached for your convenience.
Please write to:
Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya
Chief of General Staff
Dr. S. O. Ogbemudia
The Hon. Minister
Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity
Federal Secretariat, Phase I,
fax: +234.1. 2692293
Thanking you for your continuing solidarity with our Nigerian colleagues,
ICEF General Secretary
Our trade union, like PENGASSAN and NUPENG in your country, is affiliated to the International Federation of Chemical, Energy and General Workers' Unions (ICEF).
We were deeply concerned about the measures that your Government took last year against the Nigerian oil workers and their trade unions. The recent findings of the International Labour Organisation confirm our view that those measures were unwarranted and repressive, and that they should be nconditionally withdrawn without delay.
We would therefore appreciate information on the steps that your Government is taking to restore trade union freedom in Nigeria. In particular, a reply to the following questions is requested:
Nigeria long enjoyed a reputation for respecting trade union independence. We hope this reputation will soon be restored.