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Nigeria Unions Threaten to Expand Strike


Nigeria’s nationwide strike enters its third day Friday with a threat from Union leaders to shut down basic services such as water and electricity unless the government repeals a 15-percent increase in gasoline costs. On day two of the strike (Thursday), schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses were closed, with minimal public transportation. Most international flights were also cancelled. So what should the country expect today?

Bernard Ugbi is the assistant general secretary of the Nigeria National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers. He told VOA from Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region that things could get far worse Friday.

“We just hope that the government will see reason with labor and come to terms with the demands of labor. But if not, it’s escalating, and it would be so difficult if it enters into the weekend because right now all filling stations all over the country are being shut down. It then means that the whole streets will be empty. And even the banks are being closed down. And so these are the effects that will come if the government does not come to term with labor,” he said.

Ugbi said the unions intend to shut down utilities such as water and electricity.

“In fact, you have the National Union of Electricity Employees. They are the ones that handle electricity. You have the amalgamated workers’ union who are handling water areas. So all those areas, they will shut down,” Ugbi said.

He reiterated the unions’ demand for the government to repeal a 15-percent increase in gasoline cost.

“Actually the main crux of the matter right now is the petrol that was 75 Naira has come down to 70. But we are saying that it should go back to the original price of 65 Naira before we can talk.

Ugbi said the government did not take the people into consideration when it raised the price of gasoline. And the unions do not trust President Umaru Yar’Adua’s offer to half the gasoline price.

“The fact remains that the Nigerian people are suffering from hardships. It’s just unfortunate the past administration did this about 24 hours before they handed over. But Yar’Adua who says he is a servant leader, he should act as a servant leader by going back to the original price. But he cannot just stand and say we doing something half way. We are in a democratic dispensation and therefore the people should taken into consideration when such decisions are being taken,” Ugbi said.

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