Nigeria unions halt street protests, but strike resumes

2012-01-16 09:04

Abuja – Nigerian unions have decided to call off street protests due to security concerns, but a week-old nationwide strike over soaring fuel prices will remain in place, a labour leader said today.

“We came to a conclusion that we will stay at home, that is stay off the streets, in order to make sure that we don’t in the first instance endanger innocent lives because of the security situation in the country,” Nigeria Labour Congress chief Abdulwahed Omar told Channels television.

Asked if the strike would continue, he said, “yes, but we have suspended the street protests.”

Omar said President Goodluck Jonathan had raised the security concerns during his meeting with labour leaders late yesterday aimed at ending the strike in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer.

He said Jonathan spoke of “serious security reports indicating that there is every likelihood that people outside organised labour may try to hijack the street protests.”

Omar also said Jonathan “told us that he has decided to put on hold the issue of full deregulation pending the provision of certain things, especially in the areas of palliatives and so on ...”

The president’s position however, was apparently not enough for unions to announce an end to the strike, with labour leaders demanding a return to pre-January 1 petrol prices before further negotiations can occur.

A nationwide strike and protests that began on January 9 have brought tens of thousands into the streets and shut down Africa’s most populous nation.

While the strike was suspended for the weekend, labour leaders warned it would resume today if a deal had not been reached. An earlier threat to shut down oil production however has been put on hold.

Unions launched the strike after the government deregulated the downstream petroleum sector and ended fuel subsidies on January 1, which more than doubled petrol prices overnight.

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