ABUJA – Nigeria’s two main labour unions have called for a general strike from Wednesday unless the government reverses a plan to increase petrol prices by up to 67 percent, a joint statement said on Saturday.
Last week, the government announced it was scrapping a costly fuel subsidy scheme and raising the price of gasoline, which many Nigerians rely on for electricity generation as well as transport.
The West African nation is grappling with its worst economic crisis for decades because a slump in oil revenues has hit public finances and caused a shortage of hard currency needed to fund fuel imports.
However, raising fuel prices is sensitive, because many Nigerians see the subsidy as the only benefit they derive from living in Africa’s top oil producer which is gripped by graft and poverty despite its energy wealth.
Nigeria imports almost all its gasoline because its refineries have been neglected for years.
The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, representing millions of workers in the private and public sectors, called on its members to shut down Nigeria from Wednesday unless the government abandoned its plans.
The strike would be indefinite and would also cover airports, seaports and banks, they said in a statement.
“Nigerian are therefore advised to stock sufficient food items that will last for a while for the prosecution of the current struggle against (a) neo-liberal agenda in Nigeria,” the unions said.
The West African country tried to end fuel subsidies in 2012, doubling the price of gasoline overnight, but later reinstated some of the subsidy to end a wave of strikes called in protest.
Nigeria has for years set a cap on prices for fuel sold at home and paid importers the difference via subsidies. But in its 2016 budget, the cash-strapped government did not allocate any money for the subsidies.