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Comment on Nigerian strikes by Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima

June 22nd, 2007 08:40

To understand the predicament of President Omar Yar’Adua of Nigeria, please read about “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves”.

The new administration of President Omar Yar’Adua of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is now at the mercy of the trade unions as the nationwide strike against hikes in the prices of petroleum products and Value Added Tax (VAT) enters the third day Friday. The government has already conceded to suspend the increase of VAT, but has not reverted to the old price of N65 per litre of gasoline.

And the leadership of the striking trade unions has insisted on the old price of N65 per litre. The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar and President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, said the industrial action would continue until the Federal Government reverts pump price of petrol from N75 to N65.

The NLC and TUC have won the support of the majority of the population. And they issued a joint press statement to commend Nigerians for the high level of compliance, mass support, and participation across the 36 states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

The government has accused the NLC and civil rights groups of politicizing the issues raised over the hikes in the pump price of fuel, VAT and workers welfare. Because, the NLC and allied bodies publicly rejected the controversial results of the last presidential election and refused to support the inauguration of the new government of the brazenly corrupt ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Nigeria.

The disputes over the hikes in the VAT and pump price of gasoline products were caused by the last President, the unpopular Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who had increased VAT and the pump price of petrol without following the due process. And with only a week to the end of his administration, he quickly sold off the Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries to two of his cronies and sold other priced government assets to his proxies and political supporters. But the troubles of the new President, Alhaji Omar Yar’Adua started, when he decided to continue with the unpopular political and economic legacies of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

The Voice Of America reported Friday, that Mr. Bernard Ugbi, the Assistant General Secretary of the Nigeria National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers warned that things could get far worse by Friday.

“We just hope that the government will see reason with labor and come to terms with the demands of labor. But if not, it is escalating, and it would be so difficult if it enters into the weekend because right now all filling stations all over the country are being shut down. It then means that the whole streets will be empty. And even the banks are being closed down. And so, these are the effects that will come if the government does not come to terms with labor. “In fact, you have the National Union of Electricity Employees. They are the ones that handle electricity. You have the amalgamated workers’ union who are handling water areas. So all those areas, they will shut down,” Ugbi, said in an interview with the VOA.

The nationwide strike has crippled business activities as public schools, public offices, banks, and most private businesses have been closed. Some public taxis and transport buses are still running with some local and international flights. But many flights have been postponed or cancelled. Economists say Nigeria will be losing about N50.5-billion daily until the strike ends.

The success of the strike has confirmed that the new government of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Nigeria did not secure the mandate of the electorate at the last elections.

Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima

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