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Nigeria's Labor Unions Threaten General Strike Over Fuel Price Hikes

Labor union leaders in Nigeria are threatening a general strike, if fuel distributors do not reduce the price of gasoline. Fuel prices in Nigeria rose sharply following the recent deregulation of the sector.

In interviews in Saturday newspapers, the leader of the Nigeria Labor Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, is calling for public support for his union's fight against fuel price rises.

The NLC is threatening a general strike as early as Monday, unless filling stations keep fuel at the agreed September prices.

Fuel distributors last week made an agreement with the NLC to cap the pump price of fuel. The agreement averted a previous threatened general strike, after deregulation of the oil sector by the federal government resulted in a 15 percent increase in the pump price of fuel.

However, fuel operators did not honor the agreement, and prices remained high.

Angry labor leaders have staged protests at service stations, and six NLC officials were arrested, and remain in detention for their actions.

As one of the world's 10 top fuel-producing nations, Nigeria has traditionally provided cheap gasoline.

In the past, Nigerians have fiercely resisted any fuel price rises, but there has been some support for the government's privatization program, which is billed as a means of ending chronic fuel shortages and corruption in the sector.

It is not known how effective a general strike would be, but several leading oil companies have seen share prices on the Nigerian stock exchange falter because of the uncertainty created by the threatened strike.