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09ABUJA1212 2009-06-30 15:01:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Abuja
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1. (U) Summary: LabOff was a "Guest of Honor" for the Food,
Beverage, and Tobacco Senior Staff Association's (FOBTOB)
11th Annual National Delegates Conference in Jos, Plateau
State, on May 30. As one of Nigeria's largest private sector
trade unions, FOBTOB used its annual Delegates Conference as
an opportunity both to point out the harmful effects of the
global economic recession as well as widen organized labor's
harsh criticism against the GON for its failure to address
several national issues, including trade liberalization,
minimum wage, electoral reform, corruption, and the Niger
Delta crisis. LabOff described our support for job growth,
trade and investment support, and the need for a functioning
tripartite dialogue in Nigeria, which drew praise from union
leadership and other members of the more than 300 conference
participants. End Summary.

2. (U) FOBTOB President Gabriel Babalola presided over the
11th Annual National Delegates Conference in Jos on May 30,
which included LabOff as a "Guest of Honor" and more than 300
labor union leaders and members from the food, beverage, and
tobacco industries. Babalola made it immediately clear that
they are feeling the pain of the global economic downturn,
specifically large scale layoffs in more than 18 companies
and the complete shut down of five other corporations in the
food and beverage industry. He also used the conference to
slam the GON's trade liberalization policies, which he
condemned for "dumping foreign products in the country,
widespread unemployment, and weakened worker protections."
Babalola reiterated the NLC's and TUC's public demands for a
higher minimum wage, accusing the GON elites of "plundering
the economy" through "parasitic, avaricious and
self-centered" corruption. Babalola also discussed the GON's
electoral reform policies, which he characterized as "unable
to confer confidence and legitimacy." Finally, Babalola
called on the GON to resolve the Niger Delta crisis via
amnesty, echoing the pleas of his petroleum union colleagues
who are affected most by the conflict, and demanding more
security for their workers in the region.

3. (U) LabOff delivered remarks which conveyed Mission
Nigeria's efforts to support job growth, trade and
investment, as well as the USG's support worldwide for ILO
efforts to encourage tripartite dialogues (which include
management, labor and government), and the need for such a
functioning dialogue in Nigeria. He specifically pointed out
Mission Nigeria's commitment to its Framework for Partnership
with the people and government of Nigeria, highlighting trade
policies, agricultural programs, and training, which has
resulted in more than 58,000 jobs across the country. LabOff
also recognized the contributions of organized labor and its
role in promoting decent and productive work in conditions of
freedom, equality, and dignity. LabOff's remarks pointing
out the utility of a structured, sustainable, and meaningful
tripartite dialogue--mainly to find tangible solutions to
Nigeria's most pressing labor issues--drew loud applause and
later praise from several labor leaders and members in the
audience. Ladi Iliya, NLC Vice President and Chair of the
National Women Commission, specifically praised the remarks
as "capturing the essence of the conference" and later told
LabOff that "the appointment of 'Sister' Hilda Solis as Labor
Secretary is a timely event that is going to make our
movement proud."

4. (U) Comment: The Food, Beverage, and Tobacco Senior Staff
Association (FOBTOB) is a major trade union affiliate, with
56 branches throughout the country. It was clear from FOBTOB
President Gabriel Babalola's remarks that they were looking
to widen organized labor's call for the GON to raise the
minimum wage, as well as address other national priority
issues such as electoral reform, corruption, and the Niger
Delta. It was also clear from Babalola's remarks that
despite Nigeria's weakened economic state, FOBTOB shares an
excellent working relationship with the industry and several

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corporate Managing Directors in particular with whom it has
amicably negotiated important labor issues in the past, such
as working conditions and job protection. While this
cooperation could provide a model for effective dialogue,
FOBTOB's relationship with the GON is not nearly so
collegial, being characterized by the GON's unresponsiveness
to labor union concerns. End Comment.

5. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Lagos.