Posted by Reuters on
Nigeria's umbrella union body said on Tuesday it would give the government until Sunday to reverse a 20 per cent hike in domestic fuel prices in the world's eighth largest oil producer or it would call a general strike.
ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria's umbrella union body said on Tuesday it would give the government until Sunday to reverse a 20 per cent hike in domestic fuel prices in the world's eighth largest oil producer or it would call a general strike.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called five general strikes since last year over rising gasoline prices brought about by the government's deregulation of the domestic fuel market, a key measure in President Olusegun Obasanjo's economic reform package.
A four-day "warning strike" earlier this month failed to force the government to reverse the price hike, with unions saying they will launch further strikes until they achieve their objective.
"If nothing is done by the president ... on Sunday the NLC and civil society will meet ... to consider and announce the new date of the next round of strikes and how long it will last," NLC boss Adams Oshiomhole told reporters after a meeting late on Tuesday.
Most businesses including public transport were paralyzed by the last strike, but Nigeria's 2.3 million barrels per day of crude output and exports were unaffected.
A committee comprising lawmakers, government officials and union leaders tasked with designing measures to cushion the impact of higher prices is expected to submit its report to Obasanjo on Wednesday.
The increase in fuel prices to 53 naira (40 cents) per liter is a result of the government's economic reform program which earlier this year received the informal endorsement of the International Monetary Fund (news - web sites).
The government argues that fuel subsidies would be better spent on poverty alleviation and infrastructure projects.
Unions argue the price hikes have stoked inflation and further impoverished the average Nigerian, who lives on less than a dollar a day.
Despite being a leading producer, Nigeria has to import about $2 billion worth of gasoline a year because of the shambolic state of the country's four refineries, which unionists say are kept in disrepair by state oil executives benefiting from lucrative fuel import contracts.
The NLC has become the most powerful political opposition to Obasanjo since he took office in 1999, returning Nigeria to civilian rule after 15 years of military dictatorship.
Last month a Nigerian court ruled the NLC did not have right to strike over matters unrelated to working conditions. Obasanjo has also tabled a labor law which could eliminate the NLC's official monopoly as the umbrella union.
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