Nigerian Labor Party Threatens Strike
The Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) threatened on February 15th to call a general strike in May if the West African government pushes ahead with plans to deregulate the country’s downstream oil sector.
The NLC also said that an aim of the strike would be to force the government to make good on its pledge to institute a 25 percent inflation-linked annual wage increase.
The labor group’s warning came amid another round of fuel shortages in the OPEC producing state. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that deregulating the downstream market to allow for free-market oil prices is the solution to ending long-running fuel scarcities.
But, NLC Secretary General John Odah said that the government had caused the current four-week fuel shortage to justify price hikes.
Odah said that: “Government is blackmailing Nigerians by causing artificial scarcity.” The nation had been crippled by NLC-led protests over fuel prices in June, forcing Obasanjo to scrap a 50 percent increase in gasoline prices.
A committee formed during the crisis had recommended that prices be increased gradually, with the NLC submitting a dissenting report.
A panel was formed in parliament in early February to draft the necessary legislation to deregulate the downstream oil sector, but the NLC remains strongly opposed to the plan.
On February 13th, Nigeria announced that seven vessels would arrive carrying refined products, mostly gasoline, to help end the current fuel shortage.
The NLC and the white collar PEGASSAN oil workers union have blamed the scarcity of refined products on the mismanagement and disrepair of the country’s four domestic refineries, which have been running at levels far below their combined nameplate capacity of 445,000 b/d.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)