- The general strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) went into effect today. Nigerians and international labour support the union's protest against government's sudden fuel price hike.
Nigerians today showed they were serious about the planned strike against the fuel price hike, and went to the streets instead of to their workplaces. The government had unilaterally imposed price hikes of more than 50 percent on petrol, kerosene and diesel. Massive protest marches were registered after a last-minute intent to negotiate with government had failed.
While strikers filled the streets, the Nigerian government held the action was illegal and an invitation to chaos that could threaten the nation's young democracy. A court order restraining trade unions from going on strike was disregarded, to the government's great concern.
- The proposed strike poses a great danger to the nation and the economy in particular and we must allow reason to prevail rather than embarking on a strike that may be hijacked by miscreants to a great disadvantage of the nation and innocent Nigerians, said Deji Omotade of the Ministry of Labour, who had led government delegation to the talks.
Meanwhile, strikers got support from Nigerians at large, who turned into streets to protest both the fuel price hike and, apparently, the recent elections that had been seen as fraudulent by many. Support also came from outside, with many international trade unions stating their solidarity.
Secretary Guy Ryder of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) today appealed directly to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene personally in efforts to bring about dialogue between the NLC and the government.
Amid reports coming in of incidents of intimidation and heavy-handed tactics on the part of the police, including a tear gas attack on a group of demonstrators being addressed by NLC General Secretary Adams Oshiomole, the ICFTU called for "fairness and transparency on the part of the Nigerian government in dealing with national trade unions."
As one of the main promoters of the Africa-wide recovery plan, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), across the continent, President Obasanjo had publicly backed the call for wider involvement of social partners, including trade unions, in development, the ICFTU reminded President Obasanjo.
- And yet, in his own backyard, a petrol price hike affecting millions of workers and their families was implemented unilaterally, Mr Ryder said.
The strongly worded ICFTU letter states that "We are stunned at the abrupt decision of the government to approve a price hike ... without any prior process of consultation of the social partners aimed at mitigating the devastating effects that it will have on the purchasing power of workers in particular and the population in general."
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