Nigeria Unions Call for Fuel Price Strike, Protests

Posted January 4th, 2012 at 11:30 am (UTC-5)
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Nigeria's main unions have called for nationwide strikes and demonstrations beginning next Monday, unless the government restores a popular consumer fuel subsidy.

The Nigeria Labor Congress and Trade Union Congress made the announcement Wednesday after holding talks in the capital, Abuja.

In a joint statement, the unions warned that general strikes, mass rallies and street protests will begin on January 9.

Fuel prices doubled to about 88 centers a liter this week, after the government eliminated the subsidy.

The soaring fuel prices sparked protests through the oil-rich country on Tuesday, with demonstrators blocking access to gas stations and police firing tear gas to break up the crowds.

The Nigeria Labor Congress has claimed police fatally shot one protester in Kwara state. Police have denied that charge.

The fuel subsidy was one of the few benefits that ordinary Nigerians received from the nation's oil wealth. Most live on less than $2 a day.

Government leaders say money from the $7.5 billion program will now be spent on infrastructure and social programs.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest exporter of oil. But it must import refined fuel because the country's refineries lack the infrastructure to process the oil.

Human Rights Watch has accused the country's governing elite of squandering and siphoning much of the nation's oil wealth, leaving little for health services and education.

Militants in the oil-rich south attacked the oil industry and government for years, demanding that more oil wealth be shared with poor communities.