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Nigeria Union Calls Strike Over Fuel Subsidy End

FILE: Nigeria union and civil society protesters following the threat of removal of the fuel subsidy by the government in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Protests also erupted in 2012 when Abuja moved to end the subsidy.

ABUJA - Nigeria's main labor union, the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) said on Friday it plans to go on strike from Wednesday to protest against a tripling of fuel prices in what would be the first big test for new President Bola Tinubu after he scrapped a costly fuel subsidy.

The government hopes lifting the subsidy - which caused prices to rise to 557 naira per liter from 189 naira at the fuel pumps - will help alleviate a funding crisis.

But Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) President Joe Ajaero, after an emergency meeting of the union's executive council in Abuja, said the price hike should be reversed.

"The Nigeria Labor Congress decided that if by Wednesday next week that NNPC, a private limited liability company that illegally announced a price regime in the oil sector, refuses to revert itself for negotiations to continue, that the Nigeria Labor Congress and all its affiliates will withdraw their services and commence protests nationwide until this is complied with," Ajaero said.

The subsidy cost the government billions of dollars annually but was popular as it helped keep prices low in Africa's biggest oil producer. Now-President Tinubu had promised to end it during his election campaign.

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.

In an offsetting political move on Friday, Tinubu said Nigeria needs to review its minimum wage policy to reflect the current position it finds itself in. Nigeria's minimum wage is 30,000 naira ($65).

"We need to do some arithmetic and soul searching on the minimum wage," he told ruling party state governors at his offices in Abuja, adding that revenue collection should be strengthened.