- Nigeria's trade union now gives the government two weeks to reduce fuel prices while temporarily calling off the nation-wide strike. Negotiations between trade union leaders and the federal government started today, after trade unions during four days have demonstrated their power to cause an almost complete stand-still throughout the country.
As the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on 11 October called for a nation-wide strike to protest price hikes in petroleum products, the trade union expected a four-day mass action if government did not meet its demands. Nigeria's federal government so far has failed to respond to the NLC's claims, but the strike nevertheless is suspended for two weeks, as originally planned.
In these two weeks, NLC President Adams Oshiomhole hopes, the government may reach a negotiated deal with the unions. Negotiations started today, but trade union and government leaders stuck to their original positions.
The NLC demands a return toe the previously agree maximum prices of petroleum prices with or without government subsidies. According to the trade union, Nigeria, which is the world's sixth largest oil exporter, should offer its population affordable fuel prices to create jobs and to make transport costs lower for the poor.
The government, on the other side, sticks to its IMF-backed policies of deregulating the national petroleum market and cutting subsidies. According to Information Minister Chukwuemeka Chikelu, fuel subsidies favour all segments of the Nigerian population and in particular those sufficiently rich to own a vehicle. Money would be better spent targeting the poor directly, Mr Chikelu holds.
The NLC however has organised several powerful strikes against the government's fuel policies during the last two years. The 11-14 October strike action has, according to the union, proven the most successful mass action so far, demonstrating the strength of the NLC and the popularity of the union's arguments.
Trade union leader Oshiomhole reports of record participation of Nigerian workers from every single state in the federation. The NLC celebrated the strike and protest marches as a popular uprising against the government's free market policies.
If no solution to the fuel price crisis is found during the next two weeks, Mr Oshiomhole again will call Nigerian workers to paralyse the country. The NLC thus seems to have strong cards at its hands as it now enters negotiations with the federal government.
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