Strike bites in Nigerian cities

Nigeria’s main cities are reported to be very quiet on the first day of a general strike called by trade unions. Office blocks are empty in central Lagos, with long queues at petrol stations. Schools and offices are shut in the northern city of Kano.

Nigeria’s main cities are reported to be very quiet on the first day of a general strike called by trade unions.
Office blocks are empty in central Lagos, with long queues at petrol stations. Schools and offices are shut in the northern city of Kano.
Streets are deserted in the capital, Abuja, with no public transport seen.
The government offered concessions on fuel and value-added tax rises on Tuesday, but the trade union federation said it was “too little, too late”.
Nigeria’s Labour Congress also want the government to reverse the sale of oil refineries.
The strike is seen as the first major test for new President Umaru Yar’Adua since he took over last month.
The BBC’s Alex Last in Lagos says that for the strike to really hurt the government, it has to have an impact on the oil industry which provides 90 percent of its revenues - and that usually takes some time. In the past strikes have not lasted long.
The government has already reached a separate deal with oil and transport unions who went on strike last Friday, leading to fuel shortages.
Bus fares doubled
The unions were angry at a series of measures pushed though in the last days of the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, who stepped down last month.
The price of petrol was increased from 65 naira (51 US cents) a litre to 75.
The government has now reportedly offered to reduce this to 70 naira (55 cents).
Transport fares have doubled in some areas following the fuel price hike.
The government has also offered to increase civil service salaries by 15 percent - another union demand.
Our reporter says that subsidised fuel is one of the very few benefits Nigerians have seen from their oil wealth since the government has failed to provide even basic services.
This is why the unions are insisting in a complete reversal in the fuel price rise.
“Those who are in power don’t really know how the people feel,” Lagos resident Taiwo Ogunloye told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.
He said he would join in the strike and stay at home and watch TV “as long as there is light”, he said.

Tough choice
Dino Mahthani, West Africa correspondent of the UK’s Financial Times, told the BBC that the government was stuck between a rock and a hard place on the refineries. He says that despite being a major oil producer, it has hardly any refining capacity because the equipment is in such a poor state.
To give the owners an incentive to put money into the refineries, the government should stop subsidising the price of fuel, he says.
But this would lead to a lot of angry people in the cities, who would accuse the government of making their lives harder, he says.
A further complication is that the new owners are among the richest people in the country, with strong links to the ruling party.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer but had to import most of its petrol because of the poor state of its refineries.

 

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