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
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.
© afrol News
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