- After the Nigerian government announced its withdrawal of a new fuel taw, which had been termed "unconstitutional" by trade unions, union leaders today agreed to call off the general strike that had just begun. Earlier, an Abuja court had deemed both the tax and the strike illegal.
The federal government of Nigeria today announced the withdrawal of the naira 1.50 (euro/US$ 0.01) kobo fuel tax recently introduced in the budget 2004 proposal, following ruling by the Abuja Court of Appeal. This is contained in a statement signed by the Secretary to the Nigerian government, Chief Ufot Ekaette.
The Appeal Court in Abuja late yesterday had ruled that the federal government should withdraw the unpopular fuel tax and the country's main trade union, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), should suspend the strike action pending hearing on the substantive suit, which comes up on Monday, 26 January.
The government in its statement said it "accepted in totality" the ruling of the court on the suit it filed in respect of the proposed strike by the NLC over the naira 1.50 fuel tax. "Government accepts the verdict of the court and hereby suspends the payment of the price modulator on fuel until the substantive issue is finally disposed of," said the statement.
This decision, the statement finally said, was based on the Nigerian government's "belief in, and practice of rule of law." Trade union leaders last week had accused the government of the opposite, namely introducing arbitrary taxation in violation of constitutional processes.
Meanwhile, the NLC held its National Working Committee meeting today, during which it announced the suspension of the strike in compliance with the court's ruling. "Work resumes on Thursday, 23 January," the trade union committee told its members in a short statement today.
NLC President Adams Oshiomole told the press in Abuja that the trade union would respect the court order, but added that this would be based on reciprocity by the Nigerian government. Mr Oshiomole also warned that another strike would be called if the tax was reintroduced.
In his reaction to the withdrawal of the tax and the strike order, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed "appreciation "to Nigerians for their "understanding and gave assurance that government would abide by the court ruling." The President further observed that the court decision and government's compliance all boil down to "the beauty of democratic governance."
The small but controversial fuel tax had been part of a set of reforms in Nigeria's run-down downstream oil sector, launched by President Obasanjo. Earlier government cuts in fuel subsidies have prompted three general strikes, organised by the NLC.
Although Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa's greatest oil exporting nation, fuel supply in the country has been a constant problem. The two national oil refineries are run-down and far from producing enough petroleum products for the national market. These products therefore have to be imported and are heavily subsidised so that they can be affordable among the poverty-ridden population majority.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.