- The most violent strike in the history of democratic Nigeria has come to an end as trade unions and the government reached a compromise over the fuel price hike. At least 14 union activists have lost their lives during the strike.
Yesterday, Nigeria's main trade union declared the general strike to be over. The strike had been called after the government unliterary announced a price hike on oil products of around 50 percent. The eight-day strike ended as union and government mediators reached a significantly lower increase in fuel prices.
The Central Working Committee of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), after long hesitation, yesterday agreed to accept the government's final offer on a reduced price hike. Prices were set at naira 34 (approximately 0.25 euros) per litre for petrol and naira 32 per litre for kerosene and diesel.
The eight-day strike thus resulted in a modest reduction in fuel prices. While the government originally had decided to cut subsidies and rising fuel prices by about 50 percent, the new prices agreed upon signify a price hike of 31 percent.
Several union sources however do not hide their dissatisfaction over the result produced by this large strike effort. Unions had to accept the government's last offer in order to ease the deteriorating situation for many Nigerians. Also, the growing chaos and violence was seen as unsustainable for trade unions.
- Given the sacrifices and deprivations which Nigerians have had to contend with in the last eight days, the NLC has a compelling duty to avail the people some relief by suspending the strike action, NLC President Adams Oshiomhole told the press in Nigeria.
The union leader however urged Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to take measures that would ameliorate the impact of the price increases especially on workers as well as urban and rural poor.
During the massive strike actions the last week - starting on Monday 31 May - Nigerian armed forces were reported to have attacked several demonstrations. At least 14 activists were reported killed during the clashes. The violence was particularly felt in the streets of Lagos, the country's economic capital, where security forces' action was stepped up during the last days of the strike.
Union leader Oshiomhole however praised the Nigerian masses, which he said had "boldly and unanimously asserted their sovereignty and resolved in the face of policy insensitivity and authoritarian intolerance exemplified by the recent price increases and the subsequent repressive measures to sustain it."
On the other hand, the political leadership of Nigeria yesterday also launched its version of the events, rejecting any kind of responsibility for those activists killed in the demonstrations. Political sources point to individuals that had "provoked" the assaults.
Although the strike yesterday was called off and activists were asked to cease their demonstrations, reports from Lagos this night indicated that calm still not had returned to the metropolis. As protests and insecurity went on, commercial establishments were reported to keep their doors closed.
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