Striking Nigeria workers protesting the government’s removal of a popular fuel subsidy are scheduled to return to work Tuesday.
The main workers’ unions including the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) decided to return to work after the government announced a partial rollback of this month’s price increase.
But the Joint Action Force, a civil society group, is dismissing the suspension of the strike as a “sell-out,” insisting that the government totally reinstate the fuel subsidy. Since it was ended, petrol prices have doubled and transportation prices have increased.
“We reject the declaration by the NLC and the TUC…,” said Abiodun Aremu, the chairman of the group.
“The [point of] the strike,” he continued, “is to force a reversal of [high] fuel prices. [The negotiations were] not about… a reduction in the price of fuel,” said Aremu. “We are determined to continue [the strike] because the demands of Nigerians are for the reversal [of the decision to end the subsidy] and not price reductions. It is to that extent that we deplore the suspension of the strike by our partners in the NLC and the TUC.”
The unions had demanded a return to fuel prices to the levels before the $8 billion subsides were eliminated and prices increased. But, in a televised address Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan said that given “hardships being suffered by the Nigerian people,” fuel prices will drop to about 60 cents per liter. That is a reduction of about 35 percent, but remains higher than the 45 cents per liter Nigerians paid before the subsidy was removed.
Some observers say the end of the strike has weakened the uncompromising stance of Joint Action Force. But, Aremu said his group is not discouraged in its effort to fight for the rights of what he says is the financially burdened Nigerian.
“There is no doubt that that would be a temporary setback, but it is not in any way going to deter us, because this is not the first time we have waged this struggle. We have used the options of mass actions and the complete shutdown of the city to sustain a stable price in the past,” said Aremu.
Aremu said members of his organization are meeting Tuesday to decide its next line of action.
“The [just ended] strike that was declared and which made workers stay at home,” said Aremu, “was not possible [without] enforcement. [My] group enforced the successful strike. So, what we will do is to organize Nigerians once again to ensure a total reversal…[With] maximum rallies and protests…, we will make it impossible for even workers to go to work.”