Liam Thompson
Tue, Sep 5, 2023 10:11 AM

Workers in Nigeria Protest Gas Subsidy Removal, Threaten to Shut Down Economy

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Workers in Nigeria Protest Gas Subsidy Removal, Threaten to Shut Down Economy
Workers from all sectors in Nigeria are demanding improved welfare and protesting the government's removal of gas subsidies. The Nigeria Labor Congress initiated a two-day "warning strike" in response to the rising cost of living and the suffering inflicted on the workers and masses. If their demands, including increased wages, are not met, they threaten to shut down Africa's largest economy. President Bola Tinubu's efforts to revamp the economy have faced criticism for causing hardships without providing sufficient relief. The strike is expected to disrupt activities in many sectors, further impacting the already struggling economy.

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) -- Workers from all sectors in Nigeria walked off their jobs on Tuesday to protest the growing cost of living caused by the government's removal of gas subsidies, threatening to "shut down" Africa's largest economy if their demands for improved welfare are not met.

The Nigeria Labor Congress workers association began a two-day "warning strike" on Tuesday, their second in over a month. They met last week and complained that the decision of Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu to remove gas subsidies has "unleashed massive suffering on Nigerian workers and masses."

Last-minute efforts to avert the strike failed on Monday evening after the labor unions' leaders shunned a meeting called by the Labor Ministry. Drawn from all sectors including health and electricity, the workers' strike is expected to disrupt activities in many offices, further hurting Africa's largest economy whose growth has been slowed by declining government revenues and oil theft.

The president of the labor association, Joe Ajaero, said there would be a "total and indefinite shutdown of the nation" in two weeks unless the government fulfills the workers' demands including an increase of wages.

Sworn in as president in May, Tinubu's bid to revamp Nigeria's economy has led him to introduce some bold measures, which he said would save more money, strengthen the naira currency, and attract investors. But those steps also caused hardship for millions in the country with critics accusing Tinubu of not acting fast to cushion the effects of his policies.

After he ended the yearslong subsidies for gas on his first day in office, the price of petrol more than doubled, resulting in a similar hike in the price of other commodities. The government's devaluation of the currency further increased the prices, including foodstuff.

Tinubu's administration has taken several steps to alleviate the hardship, including a $5.5 million package comprising both a loan and grant to states. But the workers have said such steps are not enough with their wages still the same.

Many workers are no longer able to pay for transport to work, Ajaero said, speaking of the "excruciating mass suffering and the impoverishment experienced around the country."

The government, meanwhile, said a strike would worsen the condition of Nigerians and requested more time to find ways to resolve the dispute. "We cannot do this in an atmosphere devoid of industrial peace," Labor Minister Simon Lalong said.

This protest and strike highlight the intensifying tensions between workers and the government in Nigeria. The removal of gas subsidies, albeit with the intention of revamping the economy, has had severe consequences for the working class. The increased cost of living, coupled with stagnant wages, has left many struggling to afford basic necessities.

The workers, represented by the Nigeria Labor Congress, have taken to the streets to demand improved welfare and increased wages. They argue that President Tinubu's policies have not adequately addressed the hardships faced by millions in the country. The sudden removal of gas subsidies led to skyrocketing petrol prices and subsequent price hikes in other essential commodities.

While the government has attempted to mitigate the effects of the gas subsidy removal by providing a financial package to states, the workers argue that more needs to be done. Transportation costs have become a significant burden, preventing many from even reaching their workplaces.

This strike is not the first demonstration of workers' discontent in Nigeria. It follows weeks of similar actions and protests, highlighting the growing frustration and desperation among the working class in Africa's largest economy.

The strike, if prolonged and escalated as threatened, could have far-reaching consequences for the Nigerian economy. The disruption caused by the walkout will further hinder economic activities, compounding the challenges already faced due to declining government revenues and rampant oil theft.

President Tinubu's administration must now tackle this volatile situation and find a resolution that addresses the concerns of the workers. The government's plea for time to find a solution may give rise to a renewed sense of urgency to prevent a complete shutdown of the nation.

The stakes are high for both the workers and the government. The workers are desperately seeking relief from the rising cost of living and demanding a fair increase in wages. On the other hand, the government is striving to steer the economy towards a more sustainable path, attract foreign investment, and strengthen the national currency.

However, it is crucial for the government to strike a delicate balance between economic reforms and the welfare of its citizens. The removal of gas subsidies, while necessary, should have been accompanied by measures to alleviate the immediate burden on the working class.

The clock is ticking, and the fate of Nigeria's economy hangs in the balance. The government must collaborate with the labor unions to reach a favorable agreement that ensures the well-being of workers while also promoting economic growth and stability. Failure to do so risks exacerbating the already precarious situation and deepening the divide between the government and the people it is meant to serve.

Source of content: OOO News 2023-09-05 News

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