Nigerian General Strike!

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Nigeria’s main trade unions, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trades Union Congress (TUC), have declared mass backing for an indefinite general strike and mass demonstrations from Monday unless the removal of a fuel subsidy is reversed.

Last Sunday’s withdrawal led to petrol prices more than doubling overnight.

There has already been a furious reaction to the huge increase, with one protester being shot dead by police in Irolin, Kwara state, on Tuesday, as tens of thousands of Nigerians demonstrated in cities across the country.

Also on Tuesday, an angry crowd assaulted a soldier in the main commercial city of Lagos after protesters forced at least three gas stations to stop selling fuel at hiked prices.

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) spokesman Chris Uyot said yesterday: ‘We have the total backing of all Nigerian workers on this strike and mass protest.’

Uyot added that there was no room for dialogue with the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, which has claimed it will spend the money saved by removing the subsidy on improving the country’s erratic electricity supply, as well as health and education.

Prices have increased from 65 naira ($0.40; £0.26) per litre to at least 140 naira in filling stations and from 100 naira to at least 200 on the black market, where many Nigerians are forced to buy their fuel.

A joint unions statement issued on Wednesday said: ‘After exhaustive deliberations and consultations with all sections of the populace, the NLC, TUC and their pro-people allies demand that the presidency immediately reverses fuel prices to 65 naira.’

The statement added a coalition of groups will strike starting next Monday.

It said: ‘From Monday, 9th January 2012, all offices, oil production centres, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets and banks, among others, will be shut down.’

The statement stressed that the general strike can only be stopped if President Jonathan restores gas prices back to $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per litre), from its new price of at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per litre).

Nigerian Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido said the subsidy cost the government about $8bn last year and was ‘unsustainable’, adding that ‘subsidies should be for production and not consumption’.

The IMF has long urged Nigerian governments to remove the subsidy.

Several previous governments have tried to remove the subsidy, but have backed down in the face of widespread public protests and reduced it instead.