Monday, May 23, 2016

Nigeria labour union calls off strike

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the umbrella body for union workers, has suspended its three-day general strike.

The strike was called to protest the 70 percent increase in the price of petrol by the federal government.

Nigeria’s oil dependent economy is facing recession following the drop in oil prices in the international market, which has left little or no choice for President Muhammadu Buhari to raise the price of petrol. 

Nigeria, which is the seventh oil producer in the world, subsidises petrol for its citizens.

When that subsidy was removed, Nigeria's main labour union protested by calling for a nationwide strike, which many people have described as largely ineffective in most parts of the country.

So, after three days of sporadic protest across the country, union leader Ayuba Wabba said they're suspending the industrial action to resume negotiations with government.

“Congress will resume negotiations with government on the twin issues of the hike in electricity tariff and an increase in the pump price of petroleum products,” he said, adding that the union “remains committed to genuine dialogue.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)'s action had little impact nationwide.

A second union, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), had also planned to take part in the strike but abandoned its plans in response to the court ruling.

A wave of strikes the last time Nigeria tried to cut fuel subsidies, in 2012, ensured that authorities eventually reinstated some of the subsidies.

A fall in oil prices has eaten into the foreign reserves of Nigeria, which relies on crude sales for around 70 percent of national income. The central bank has adopted a fixed exchange rate in an attempt to prevent further depletion of its reserves.

Last week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari had been “left with no choice” but to raise petrol prices.

Despite being a major oil producer, Nigeria has to import nearly all of its fuel as its refineries are largely out of action after years of neglect and mismanagement.

At the same time, Nigeria’s President on Friday said he ordered a heightened military presence in the restive Niger Delta region to deal with a resurgence of attacks on oil and gas facilities, a day after yet another pipeline explosion.

British Foreign Minster Philip Hammond warned on Saturday military action would not end a wave of attacks in the southern swamps because it did not address rising anger among residents over poverty despite sitting on much of Nigeria's oil wealth.

The rise in attacks in the Delta in the last few weeks has driven Nigerian oil output to a more than 20-year low, worsening a drain on public finances.

A group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers has claimed responsibility for several sophisticated attacks.

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