- The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) today decided to call off the three-day general strike and mass protests over fuel price increases. The trade union, meeting in Lagos, found that most petrol stations were now obeying by a court order and government appeals to keep prices at a set level.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of Nigeria's trade unions this morning met for several hours in Lagos to evaluate the situation. Several labour groups participated at the meeting, according to the Lagos daily, 'This Day'. After long discussions, NLC leader Adams Oshiomhole announced that the strike now was to be called off.
Only yesterday, Mr Oshiomhole told the press in Abuja that the NLC was unwilling to end the strike despite a government order to slash fuel prices. According to the union leader, petrol stations in Abuja, the federal capital, were abiding by the government order, but around the country, fuel prices remained higher than agreed upon.
Mr Oshiomhole thus yesterday urged workers and the Nigerian people to "continue to participate in the action until justice is attained." He further announced that union members would check the prices at fuel stations around the country before the NLC would consider calling off the strike.
The general strike was called for on Wednesday as the union observed that a 9 February court order in its favour was not being respected by petrol stations. After a similar strike over government-raised fuel prices in February, a court ordered the union to stop the strike and froze fuel prices at about naira 40 per litre.
Since then, however, most private petrol stations slowly have increased fuel prices, reaching an average of around naira 52, causing anger among Nigerians. The NLC had thus resumed its February strike, as "government carried out increases in fuel price in violation of the ruling of the court," according to Mr Oshiomhole.
While Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday urged petrol stations to abide to the February court ruling, many distributors pledged to reintroduce lower prices. During the day, many petrol stations had lowered prices towards naira 40, but most were still not meeting the court's and the union's demand.
Nonetheless, union leader Oshiomhole said he was now encouraged by the positive trends. "We have received reports that marketers have readjusted their prices down substantially," he said after the Lagos meeting today. There was, therefore, no reason to carry on with the protest.
The nationwide strike is believed to have cost Nigerian businesses large sums in lost revenues. It also causes extra insecurity on the fragile oil market as Nigerian oil exports would have been threatened if the labour protest had continued.
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