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AFX News Limited: Nigerian unions vow to continue general strike

Forbes

06.21.07, 9:57 AM ET
 
LAGOS (Thomson Financial) – Nigerian union leaders have vowed to press ahead with their general strike, launched yesterday, until the government of incoming President Umaru Yar’Adua reverses a decision to hike petrol prices by 15 pct.

‘We are pressing forward with the strike’, Owei Lakemfa, spokesman for the umbrella Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) told Agence France-Presse, amid signs early today the shut-down was having an effect.

None of the major oil companies operating in the world’s sixth largest exporter of crude oil has reported any disruption to production or exports so far.

A spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell (nyse: RDSA – news – people ) in Nigeria said the strike has not yet affected oil production or exports.

‘There is no effect that I can confirm, not yet anyway,’ Precious Okolobo, a spokesman for the biggest operator Royal Dutch Shell said.

Unions called on their members to set up ‘compliance squads’ to ensure the strike achieved its aim of paralysing the economy, after negotiations with the government broke down.

Police used tear gas against strikers manning a barricade in Lagos today, dispersing a mixture of union officials, students, residents and local thugs to clear a road, an AFP reporter said.

Idris Aloma of the National Union of Road Transport Workers said barricades will be extended to all the major junctions in Lagos. ‘There won’t be movement until the strike is over.’

Fuel prices have soared to three or four times the normal price on the black market, meaning higher public transportation costs.

Banks, schools, petrol stations and businesses were closed in many parts of the country.

Lagos’ main port Apapa was still open but only just ticking over as Nigerian Port Authority workers and customs staff followed the strike.

The majority of domestic flights have been cancelled or disrupted, airlines and travellers said.

International flights were obliged to make a refuelling stop elsewhere in the region: KLM (nyse: AKH – news – people ) in Accra, Iberia in Niamey and British Airways (nyse: BAB – news – people ) in Palma de Mallorca.

Neither the NLC nor the white-collar Trade Union Congress (TUC) said they were expecting to hold further talks with the government.

The Nigerian government said in a statement last night that it is doing everything possible towards ensuring an early resolution of the strike.

‘Government wishes to warn however, that while it respects the right of any worker to embark on a strike action, that right should not be used as an excuse to instigate a breakdown of law and order,’ the secretary to the government Babagana Kingibe said.

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