- The Nigeria Labour Congress has announced "nationwide strikes, protests and boycotts beginning from Wednesday, 21 January," in response to hiking fuel prices. The trade union holds that current fuel taxes are both "illegal and unconstitutional" and violate earlier government-union agreements.
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Aliyu Adams Oshiomhole on a recent press conference said workers were upset by the new petroleum tax, "which government arbitrarily imposed on Nigerians on New Year day" and the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry "that has led to the spiralling and continuous increase in the prices of petroleum products."
According to Mr Oshiomhole, the Nigerian government had gone ahead to implement the new petroleum tax even before the National Assembly began deliberations on the budget proposal. "This is illegal and arbitrary as only the legislature is empowered to enact law on taxes," the trade union leader declared.
A trade union meeting in Abeokuta in Nigeria's Ogun state - on 12 January thus had decided to take action, the NLC yesterday informed in a communiqué. Trade union leaders found strong words against the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying the nation was now "faced with an emerging threat of a civilian dictatorship."
The so-called "serial and unending increases in the prices of petroleum products" since the emergence of the Obasanjo government in 1999 again are the issue provoking unions to take action.
According to the NLC, petrol prices have increased from naira 20 per litre in 1999 to naira 100 in 2004. The union demands an immediate price reduction to naira 34 per litre petrol and naira 32 for kerosene and diesel. In particular, the introduction of the "illegal" naira 1.50 fuel tax had to be reversed.
Union leaders further demanded an "adoption by government of immediate and urgent measures aimed at reviving the refineries into full scale production; urgent encouragement of setting up of private refineries, to facilitate competition between public and private refineries; ... immediate reversal of the proposed naira 10,000.00 per bed space and teaching fees in universities; and a halt to the demolition of toll gates."
Regarding the four run-down oil refineries, NLC thus opposes the privatisation concept presented earlier this month by President Obasanjo. The trade unions, fearing job losses, rather want the state to modernise its refineries and private capital to construct new ones. The NLC however agrees in the need of strengthening Nigeria's refining capacity so that less expensive refined oil has to be imported.
Trade union leaders also called on President Obasanjo's government to "reconsider its style of leadership and disposition to ensure that they are in conformity with democratic norm and culture and meet the promise of democratic governance." The federal government was rapidly losing credibility, the NLC held.
Conclusively, the trade union conference had decided on nationwide strikes and protests, which are to begin on 21 January. The duration and character of these actions were to be decided by the unions within few days.
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