Thousands of protesters have marched through the streets of Abuja to protest against key policies, including privatization of refineries.
Nigerian unions have fiercely opposed the planned deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry. They argue that the planned withdrawal of subsidies on petroleum products would lead to higher prices and inflict more hardship on Nigerians, especially the poor.
Nigeria's umbrella labor union, the Nigeria Labor Congress, led a protest Thursday that culminated in a huge rally in central Abuja. Nigeria Labor Congress President Abdulwaheed Omar told the cheering crowd that the protest rallies were aimed at compelling the government to rescind the deregulation policy.
"We say a capital no to deregulation that will only inflict hardship on Nigerians," said Abdulwaheed Omar.
The government says it planned to end subsidies on petroleum products sold to Nigerians because it could no longer sustain the more than four billion dollars a year spent on subsidies.
The government was opposed to the protest, which it believed was unnecessary and could turn violent. Dora Akunyili is the information minister.
"Organizing a national protest to drive home issues that could be resolved through constructive dialogue might create opportunity for hoodlums to foment trouble at a time when we are in the process of implementing the post-amnesty programs in the Niger Delta," said Dora Akunyili. "Federal government remains open to negotiations, debates and constructive dialogue on the issue of deregulation and indeed on other issues."
The Nigerian Labor Congress is also pushing for a new minimum wage for workers and the implementation of a report of a committee on electoral reforms. The minimum wage is currently $50 in Nigeria. The NLC is demanding a minimum monthly wage of around $260.