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Nigeria Strike to Proceed Monday Despite Court Order

A protester carries a placard during a rally against fuel subsidy cuts in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, January 6, 2012.
A protester carries a placard during a rally against fuel subsidy cuts in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, January 6, 2012.

The spokesman for the Nigeria Labor Congress says a general strike against rising fuel prices scheduled to begin today (Monday), will proceed. The move comes despite an industrial court order restraining the country’s labor unions from striking.

Owei Lakemfa says Nigerians have lost faith in the government after talks between the administration and main workers’ unions failed.

“There are going to be general protests and street rallies, and it will be indefinite,” said Lakemfa. “We are protesting the government decision to increase to the price of petrol by between 120 and 220 percent, which is unprecedented. It has already led to a lot of hardships. Food prices have increased and there is hyper-inflation, and these are the things we told the government will happen from the beginning.”

Fuel prices doubled to about 88 cents a liter after the elimination of the fuel subsidy.

The administration ended fuel subsidies January 1, which caused petrol prices to soar, sparking angry anti-government protests. Protestors say the government’s use of force to control demonstrations has left at least one person dead and many others injured.

Lakemfa said Nigerians are sharply opposed to the government’s decision to remove a popular consumer fuel subsidy, which he says is a crushing economic blow to citizens.

“Nigerians are coming out today to protest against government insensitivity and also its callousness in shooting protesters,” said Lakemfa.

Officials of the government say President Goodluck Jonathan has established a committee to address citizens’ concerns over rising fuel prices after the administration removed the subsidy.

But, Lakemfa said the administration has yet to re-engage main union workers’ groups to address their concerns.

“We were in discussions with the government and actually the president led those discussions. He then asked us for another meeting, but before that meeting he aborted the discussion and then unilaterally increasing prices of petroleum products. So, it’s government that aborted that discussion,” said Lakemfa. “What we are saying is that let us continue [the] discussions and revert to the old prices.”

The government has previously announced that the removal of the popular consumer fuel subsidy will begin April 1 this year, but took its decision January 1.

In an interview with VOA, special adviser and spokesman for President Jonathan, Reuben Abati, said the Nigerian leader has not given up on implementing policies that will benefit citizens.

Abati maintains the government’s decision will be constructive to Nigerians. “Although there may be initial pain, the long term gains for Nigerians generally, will be a lot more beneficial both to Nigerians and the national economy,” said Abati.

The government says the end of the subsidy will save the government $6.2 billion this year.