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Oil Industry Unions Join in Nigeria's Strike - 2004-10-13


Two major oil industry labor unions have joined a general strike In Nigeria to protest rising fuel prices. A court rejected the government's lawsuit to halt the strike, which started Monday.

The strike, launched by Nigeria's largest labor union, the Nigeria Labor Congress, entered a third day Wednesday.

The Nigerian government petitioned a high court to halt the strike, but a lawyer for the Labor Congress, Femi Falana, says the judge refused to hear the case.

"The government filed a motion which came up for a hearing this morning," he said. "It was meant to stop the strike in part to get an order for the Nigeria Labor Congress not to go on strike any longer but the court refused to hear the application."

Mr. Falana says that two oil industry unions, NUPENG and PENGASSAN, have joined the strike and have threatened to shut down the oil industry if the government continued to try to prevent the strike action. The strike has already contributed to the record high worldwide oil prices.

The strike began Monday in response to the rising fuel prices triggered by the government's measures to deregulate the energy market. Prices went up 25 percent since last month when the government began implementing the deregulation program.

The government says deregulation will help Nigerians in the long run by bringing competition into the energy sector and by generating revenues needed for social services.

But many people in Africa's largest oil-producing country see low fuel costs as a national right, and argue that the government should control gasoline prices.

The president of the NLC, Adams Oshiomhole, says he is happy with the participation in the strike, which shut down businesses in Nigeria's two main cities.