Nigeria Labor Unions Suspend Strike Over Fuel Prices

Posted January 16th, 2012 at 8:05 am (UTC-5)
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Nigerian union leaders say they are suspending a nationwide strike over fuel costs, after the president announced a partial rollback of this month’s price increase.

The head of the Nigeria Labor Congress, Abdulwahed Omar, told a news conference in Abuja Monday that unions are suspending the strike and the demonstrations that have taken place in Lagos, Abuja and other major cities.

Unions launched their a strike a week ago to protest removal of the government’s consumer fuel subsidy. Fuel prices doubled when the subsidy ended January 1.

In a televised address Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan said that given “hardships being suffered by the Nigerian people,” fuel prices will drop to about 60 cents per liter. That is a reduction of about 35 percent, but remains higher than the 45 cents per liter Nigerians paid before the subsidy was removed.

The recent protests, combined with escalating violence in the north, have raised fears Nigeria is sliding toward chaos.

President Jonathan said Monday the protests had been “hijacked” by those who are trying to “promote discord, anarchy and insecurity.”

Soldiers were deployed Monday to sites where demonstrations have been taking place. Witnesses in the commercial capital, Lagos, say police shot into the air and fired tear gas to disperse several hundred protesters who had gathered on a highway. No injuries were reported.

The troops also used barricades to block streets in Lagos and were searching cars at roadblocks.

The fuel subsidy was one of the few benefits most citizens enjoyed from the country’s oil wealth.

President Jonathan has said Nigeria can no longer afford the $8 billion fuel subsidy. He promised to use the money saved on infrastructure and social programs.

Some economists have said the subsidy was wasteful. But protesters allege that government corruption and mismanagement are responsible for the oil-rich nation’s poverty.