Nationwide strike begins in Nigeria over fuel subsidy removal

January 5, 2012 11:49 pm 

ABUJA, Jan. 5 — A nationwide strike is underway in Nigeria Thursday to protest the removal of fuel subsidies by the government, bringing Africa's top oil producer to a standstill.

The Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have ordered their affiliate unions and branches in the nation's 36 states and the capital Abuja to immediately begin mobilization for a strike to protest the removal.

The Nigerian government stopped the fuel subsidies on Sunday, saying the funds will be spent on refineries and infrastructure instead.

The Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) announced the formal removal of the subsidy, prompting fuel marketers to increase their prices from 65 naira (0.41 U.S. dollar) to as much as 200 naira (1.25 U.S. dollars) per liter.

Nigeria's removal of fuel subsidies has triggered protests in several cities, and mass strikes and protests are being called for.

A statement issued at the end of a joint emergency meeting of the NLC and TUC in Abuja Wednesday said the strike was called after exhaustive deliberations and consultations with stakeholders.

The statement demanded that the government immediately restore the fuel price to 65 naira (0.41 U.S. dollar).

If the government fails to do so, labor unions have threatened to stage a general strike, mass rallies and street protests across the country starting next Monday.

"All offices of oil production centers, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets, banks, among others will be shut down indefinitely. We advise Nigerians to stockpile basic needs, especially food and water," the statement said.

Nigeria has resorted to fuel imports to meet domestic consumption for years because its four state-run refineries are unable to operate normally. Yet Nigerians only pay a fraction of what Europeans pay for fuel. (PNA/Xinhua) DCT/utb

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