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Committee Set To Resolve Nigeria Workers’ Concerns

Protesters hold placards and shout slogans on Ikorodu road in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos January 3, 2012. Hundreds of demonstrators in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos shut petrol stations, formed human barriers along motorways and hijacked buse

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has announced a committee to address concerns of workers’ unions following the government’s decision to remove a popular consumer fuel subsidy.

Special adviser and spokesman for President Jonathan, Reuben Abati, said the Nigerian leader has not given up on implementing policies that would benefit citizens.

“Leadership is about doing what is right, and he [Mr. Jonathan] is convinced that what he is doing is right. [He’s also convinced] the Nigerian people in the long run will see the wisdom of the decision of the administration,” said Abati. “He has announced a committee led by a former chief justice to continue to meet with labor leaders and other stakeholders, to make it clear that the de-regulation [subsidy removal] is in the best interest of Nigerians.”

Displeased with the government’s action, main workers’ groups called for nationwide strikes and demonstrations beginning Monday unless the administration restores the popular consumer fuel subsidy. The workers’ unions urged Nigerians to stockpile supplies for basic needs, including food and water, after announcing that the strike will begin Monday.

Fuel prices doubled to about 88 cents a liter this week, after the elimination of the subsidy. This sparked protests, with demonstrators blocking access to gas stations and police firing tear gas to break up the crowds.

Abati maintains the government’s decision will ultimately help consumers.

“Although there may be initial pain, [in the long term, there will be gains] to Nigerians and to the national economy,” said Abati.

He said President Jonathan’s appointed committee will continue to engage the workers union to resolve their concerns.

“The whole intention of de-regulation is to check wastage in the system, inefficiencies and corruption,” continued Abati. “The emphasis is on increasing competitiveness and also ensuring that there is greater transparency in the gulfstream sector.”

He said the administration is redoubling efforts to lessen the effects of the removal of the subsidy following a cabinet meeting Wednesday.

“The main issue of discussion is that every ministry, department and agency can be immediately mobilized to begin to deliver on the robust program of action by the government to alleviate poverty and to cushion the immediate pain that the people may be experiencing,” said Abati. “Government wants to ensure that nobody uses the current situation in the country to exploit the people of Nigeria.”