Nigeria braces for mass strike over fuel, power price hikes

(Bloomberg) –Nigerians are bracing for a potential general strike by the two largest labor-union federations over the rising cost of fuel and electricity.
While the government is trying to dissuade the Trade Union Congress and Nigeria Labour Congress from their plan to begin their protest on Monday, talks between the parties have so far been inconclusive. A court in the capital, Abuja, issued an injunction on Sept. 24 barring the industrial action from going ahead.
Squeezed by dwindling oil revenue, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has recently deregulated the fuel market, abolishing expensive subsidies that the state has paid since the 1980s. Nigeria’s power-distribution firms have also introduced a new tariff regime that requires most consumers to pay 50% more for electricity.
The economy of Africa’s biggest oil producer is struggling to recover from the damage done by the coronavirus pandemic and is forecast by the World Bank to shrink 3.2% in 2020. The worst-case scenario could see a contraction of 7.4%, according to a report published in June.
Earlier this week, both organized labor bodies, whose members include Nigeria’s two largest oil-worker unions, endorsed an indefinite strike from Sept. 28 unless the government reverses the decisions.
The TUC “appeals to all Nigerians to get ready for the unprecedented mass action,” it said in a statement.
While the labor unions haven’t been served with any court order banning their strike, they could still call off their plans, NLC President Ayuba Wabba said by phone.
“The government knows our position,” he said. “If there is progress, then we are open to dialogue towards resolving the issue.”

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