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Nigeria's Striking Workers May Increase Pressure


Unions in Nigeria have vowed to intensify a three-day old strike called to protest a hike in fuel prices. As Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja, union officials and government representatives met Thursday night but failed to make progress in ending the strike.

Unions are threatening to disrupt power and water supplies in a bid to exert more pressure on the government as the crippling strike began its third day.

The Nigeria Medical Association has announced its intention to join the shutdown if the government continues to hold out against the demands of organized labor.

"Members of the medical association are also Nigerians, and Nigerians are very angry with those things that were done by the last administration in its dying days," said Dr. Daniel Gana, the national president of the association.

"We are at work at the moment because we believe the services we [are] rendering, if we withdraw them, it is the poor that would suffer, not the ruling class or those in government. But if the government refuses to accede to the demands of NLC [Nigeria Labor Congress], we will join the action. We are warming up and mobilizing our members," he added.

Union leaders have vowed to press ahead with their action until the government backs down completely and returns the price of gasoline to 65 naira, about 50 cents, a liter.

Most parts of Nigeria are at a virtual standstill with no early end in sight.

While the strike has paralyzed economic activity, oil exports from the world's eighth largest exporter have been mostly unaffected.

Oil union officials tell VOA that the possibility of halting oil exports is being discussed at a meeting on Friday.

Oil receipts accounts for about 80 percent of government revenue and closing the export window could prove costly for the nation's economy.

Some estimates suggest the country is losing more than $100 million daily as a result of the strike.

Despite the current hardship, many Nigerians support the strike, because fuel prices affect the cost of most basic goods.

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