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Striking Workers ‘Dare’ Nigerian Government to Withhold Pay

  • Peter Clottey

A protester holds a banner during a demonstration against a fuel subsidy removal in Lagos, Nigeria, January 9, 2012.

A protester holds a banner during a demonstration against a fuel subsidy removal in Lagos, Nigeria, January 9, 2012.

The head of information of the Nigeria Labor Congress says striking union workers are daring President Goodluck Jonathan to carry through with the threat. This came after Nigerian officials ordered government workers to go back to work or not get paid.

Chris Uyot said workers will continue to protest until the government rescinds its controversial decision to remove the popular fuel subsidy.

“We dare them to do it, because in the first place, where is the money that the workers will use to survive this increase of fuel price?” asked Uyot. “Most people in Nigeria buy fuel 250 Naira per liter [$1.55]. Now how will an average worker be able to survive with that high increases in fuel prices?”

Mr. Jonathan has so far refused to change his mind, saying the subsidy is not affordable.

Jonathan says getting rid of it will save at least $8 billion this year, which he promises to use on infrastructure and social programs. Fuel prices doubled to about 88 cents a liter after the elimination of the subsidy.

The administration ended it on January 1, which caused petrol prices to soar, sparking angry anti-government protests.

Uyot said Jonathan would have lost the presidential election last year if he had campaigned on it removal.

“Why did President Jonathan not use that as a campaign issue when he was coming to power? After we had voted him to power, he can’t just wake up one day and decide to punish Nigerians and tell them that it will be to their benefit when we know that it will not,” said Uyot. “We will never stop this strike. Every day we hold this strike, I can tell you we have more Nigerians in the streets.”

Economists say the ongoing strike could weaken the economy if a solution is not found soon. Uyot said the government is to blame if the strike hurts the economy.

“It is not our problem. It is the government’s problem. It is the government that is trying to weaken the economy. We are also saying that President Jonathan’s government is the greatest threat to democracy in Nigeria,” said Uyot.”

He said the indefinite protest is the only tool available to the workers to express their displeasure with escalating prices of food and fuel following the government’s removal of the subsidy.

“We don’t have any line of action except to ensure that the government reverts to the [previous] price of fuel. What we are doing now, we will continue to do it until [the administration] does so.”

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