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Nigeria Court Stalls Labor Unions' Fuel Subsidy Strike

FILE - People sell black market fuel on the street in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

ABUJA — Nigeria's industrial court on Monday stopped the two main labor unions from going on an indefinite strike this week to protest the removal of a popular decades-old petrol subsidy, which caused prices nearly to triple, court documents showed.

The Nigeria Labor Congress said last week it would begin an indefinite strike from June 7 to force the government to reinstate the subsidy, which began in the 1970s, and revert to old petrol prices, in the biggest political test for new President Bola Tinubu.

In 2012, a wave of strikes ensued when Nigeria tried to introduce a similar measure, with authorities eventually reinstating some subsidies. Tinubu, then in the opposition, was among those who opposed ending the subsidies.

His government approached the National Industrial Court on Monday and got an injunction stopping NLC and Trade Union Congress from striking pending a substantial hearing.

"The defendants/respondents are hereby restrained from embarking on the planned industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the motion," the court ruling showed.

The labour unions were not represented in court and could not be reached for comment.

Government representatives were meeting NLC leaders at the presidential villa on Monday evening over the subsidy removal and higher cost of living. A separate meeting was planned with TUC members on Tuesday.

TUC, in a statement on Monday, issued a raft of demands to the government, including a rise in the monthly minimum wage to 200,000 naira ($433.79) from 30,000 naira with effect from this month and that the new wage should not be taxed.

Tinubu said last week Nigeria needed to review its minimum wage but did not say to what level.