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Nigeria Cuts Fuel Prices, Strike Suspended

Nigeria ordered a cut in fuel prices with immediate effect Monday, trying to avert a looming general strike that unions said will target oil exports in one of the world's top-10 producers of crude.

The largest labor union in Africa's largest oil producing country, the Nigeria Labor Congress, has suspended a planned nationwide strike.

Nigeria Labor Congress spokesman Uchenna Ekwe says the union will go to court on Wednesday to push the Nigerian government to maintain the price of fuel.

"We suspended the action because of two reasons," said Mr. Ekwe." One, our lawyers advised that we wait for tomorrow's court hearing, that and also that the government has reduced the pump price What we are saying is that the government has no choice but to subsidize the price of fuel if they are not determined to get their refineries working."

Although Nigeria is one of the world's top oil producers, it does not have the capacity to refine the oil so it relies heavily on gasoline imports. Until recently, government subsidies have maintained low prices of gasoline, which is something most Nigerians consider a birthright. But the government has been working to remove the fuel subsidies and deregulate the domestic market.

The minister of information in Nigeria, Chukwuemeka Chikelu says the money that had gone to oil subsidies should be used for social services such as education and health care. The Nigerian government has been trying to pass legislation to block strikes held by the Nigeria Labor Congress because it says the union should concentrate on working conditions and not on the price of gasoline.

A four-day general strike last month was widely observed, but did not affect the oil sector in Nigeria.

The union says the gas prices are not back to the subsidized prices, but are close and as long as the government keeps prices down it will not re-launch the strike effort.