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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 July, 2003, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Nigeria: Can strikes solve the problem?
Nigerians protest in Abuja against massive fuel price increases
Nigerian trade unionists have called off a nationwide general strike as it entered its ninth day after the government agreed to reduce fuel prices.

President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Adams Oshiomhole said the 29 trade unions affiliated with his umbrella body had voted to a return to work.

"Given the sacrifices and the privations which Nigerians have had to make or contend with over the past eight days, the NLC has a compelling duty to avail the people some relief by suspending the strike action," he told reporters.

Was a general strike the right tool for affecting change in economic and political policy? Did the unions overstepping their boundaries?


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

This government has shown how insensitive and remote it is from the hardship and suffering of the poor masses. I would have expected this government this term, to focus on accountability and transparency in all facets of governance. Simply put, if I knew how the revenue from oil is being disbursed then, perhaps I will not be inclined to go on strike when valid excuses are put forward to justify the removal of subsidies. In my view, make accountability transparent and JUST MAYBE the "leakage" will stop. What is the point in filling a basket with water. We all know it is going to disappear.
Ola, UK

it is the only language our rulers understand. They are not all that inclined to respond to peaceful protests; if Obasanjo were to be wise general, he would have settled the matter before it got to this degenerated level.
Niyi Obileye-farinde, Lagos, Nigeria.

We need a refinery in Nigeria not a strike. Why can't we produce our own fuel? The President needs to build a refinery and not increase fuel prices. When are we going to grow up! We have everything needed to produce our own fuel. Maybe someday when we have unselfish leaders.
U. Umana, USA

The masses can't be held responsible for the Government's inability
Garuba Dauda., Nigerian, resident in America
The Nigerian leadership has lost it's sense of direction and it can only be brought back to its track by a united action like the current strike. The masses can't be held responsible for the Government's inability to curb smuggling of the product out of the country. Neither are they to be punished for the low value of the Naira which is always compared with the dollar in terms of what other countries pay for fuel. Nigerians are not being paid in dollars and if they have to pay more for the product that God has given to the Nation without a corresponding adjustment in their salaries, then nothing short of a mass strike would make the leaders know that an increase in the price of fuel generally leads to inflation in all other items. All other industries need fuel to transport their raw materials and do we need to talk about the people who have to transport foodstuffs from the rural areas to the city? If the government can't be sensitive to the yoke that such an outrageous increment would place on the neck of its citizens, then the citizens need not think twice before embarking on a Nationwide strike.
Garuba Dauda., Nigerian, resident in America.

Nigeria is a poor country whose people are having an endless delusion of grandiosity. Except for some wealthy countries here in the middle east, no country in the world is run on the illusion that every need of the people can be met by its government. No strike in the history of Nigeria benefited the people who brought it about. I believe the government is sincere in its promise to improve the lot of its citizens. It is going to take a painful process. This is it! The NLC is deceiving the people into believing that the government is the one paying the cost of the strike. The NLC should simply register as a political party, urge its members to vote it to power and let's see how they can run an economy with a Santa Claus mentality. The government needs to save money to repair roads, hospitals, schools, and create jobs for the millions of jobless Nigerian youth rather than dole out c! heap petrol that mainly benefits smugglers. How many taking part in the strike now even own cars to buy petrol for?
Dr. Robert Sanda, Saudi Arabia

The strikes are necessary and are a way to force the government to reason. Most Nigerians are desperately poor while the country remains a power house in crude oil rewards in Africa and the world. Where is the government machinery meant to stamp out smuggling activities? Why is that machinery not working? Why have the local refineries not been properly maintained? Why has the government not diversified refining of petroleum products to make them more readily available rather importing? Until these questions are convincingly answered, the strikes remain a desperate, but only credible option for the downtrodden.
Terkuma Yaro, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

What other option does the NLC have?
Ndubuisi, UK
The strike option is not the best response to the recent hike in petrol prices, but what other option does the NLC have? Considering that this is a government that does not listen to reason and facts, the NLC is speaking the only language that it understands.
Ndubuisi, UK

Increasing fuel prices will only result in increasing the level of hardship in Nigeria. The government should be sensitive to the plight of the masses and work hard at fighting corruption within its ranks.
Olukayode Akinyemi, Nigeria

The situation is really bad here in Ondo town. At the general hospital where I work, all services have been grounded. Skeletal services were supposed to be rendered by senior officials but the hospital is as dry as anything.
Dr Olanrewaju David, Nigeria

Calling the strike off while talks continue would be a better way of keeping the huge support we currently have
Biola, Nigeria
This strike is causing more suffering to ordinary people than is necessary. It should have been organised better. People are running out of money because they cannot get to the bank. Calling the strike off while talks continue would be a better way of keeping the huge support we currently have. Allow people to go back to work tomorrow so that we can start again on Monday.
Biola, Nigeria

The masses continue to be misled by both sides; a government that proposes radical change in words only and a body of opportunists cashing in on government inadequacies. The masses are poorly informed and the government is poorly run. Obasanjo's party currently has a majority; he should use this to the maximum to effect changes and reduce waste. Only then will he have the moral right to demand sacrifices.
Joseph, UK

In Port Harcourt life had been relatively normal for the first two days of the strike. The roads remained busy and a lot of businesses remained open. However, this morning the strike has escalated as most Nigerian employees in major oil companies have stopped working. I am an expat with a major oil service company and our security department advised us to return to our residencies. The situation in Port Harcourt has been very peaceful so far.
Richard, Nigeria

This strike for once will convey a clear message that power rests with the people
Eddy Ukorah, Lagos, Nigeria
The strike in its third day appears to be achieving its objective. At least it has forced the government to come to the negotiating table with the NLC. And there is speculation that the government has conceded some figures which is a pointer that the strike is biting harder. For a government noted for insensitivity and stubbornness to problems concerning the Nigerian people, this strike for once will convey a clear message that power rests with the people.
Eddy Ukorah, Lagos, Nigeria

The refineries in Nigeria are in a terrible state of disrepair and all calls to the government to repair them go unheeded because of corruption and bad advice. If the government tried to get the refineries operating properly they would not have to import and would be able to support subsidised fuel for the nation.
SP, Nigeria

The Nigerian populace have suffered for too long in the hands of the same politicians with the same strategy of economic strangulation. I think they should be made the priority for once and their feelings respected!
Tony Nwagbolu, UK

One can see a government that is yet to demonstrate that it is competent
Anthony Akinwale, Nigeria
I am writing from Ibadan on Tuesday morning. The roads leading out of my neighbourhood around the university are blocked. But let us look beyond the thick smoke of burning tyres in the horizon. What does one see? One can see a government that is yet to demonstrate that it is competent, and one can see Adams Oshiomole and his comrades who love the photo opportunity that an incompetent government offers.
Anthony Akinwale, Nigeria

So far the strikes have not affected our offshore operations. However some of the guys on board are due to go off, but they have been informed that all travel arrangements have been cancelled due to security threats. Some of these guys were involved in the "hostage" strike situation a couple of months ago. As the rig we are working on is so close to land, we have on more than one occasion been threatened with invasion by the community. Due to these previous threats, it is now a concern that these strikes will renew the threat of rig invasions. Here's hoping that all turns out safe and well.
H & D, 2 Scottish oil workers, Nigeria

The best thing for the labour union to do is to have a dialogue with the government
Udoh, N, Kaduna, Nigeria
This strike is very unfortunate. I was going to work this morning when I noticed the labour workers stopping buses and asking passengers to step down. People want to go to work! The best thing for the labour union to do is to have a dialogue with the government.
Udoh, N, Kaduna, Nigeria

I'm at my office 'cause I'm in the oil sector. I throw all my support to whatever action NLC is taking to alleviate the suffering the masses are passing through in an oil rich country. The situation on ground speaks volume about the government that is in charge.
Abdul, Nigeria

We have known for many years now that the oil subsidy in Nigeria was completely unrealistic and it could not continue if the country was to grow. It is time we Nigerians started realising that there is no success without sacrifice.
Charles, Nigeria

There is tension in the air
Adewale Odeniyi, Nigeria
The strike is in full force! I am in one of the western states (Oyo State, Ibadan). Many people are at home. The University of Ibadan is in chaos - protests everywhere. There is tension in the air. The few people that came out had to walk the distance to their destination 'cos the taxis are not out due to strike action. May God help us! (Amen)
Adewale Odeniyi, Nigeria

I believe the government will fail in its current drive. Democracy demands that you listen to the majority. Obasanjo cannot claim to be more interested in Nigerian development than the rest of us. We know who benefits from such increases. This is a government that pays 300% severance benefits to politicians for 4 years of inaction yet civil servants who put in 35 years don't earn 200% as gratuity!
Gbenga Victor, Nigeria

I am at the office in Port Harcourt's Transamadi business district where I work for an oil service company. Most companies are not at work, only essential workers are on duty. When a government is imposed on the people, that is what brings this kind of reckless increase.
Ugo, Nigeria

The petrol price increases are clearly signs of a government running out of ideas
Osa, USA/Nigeria
Strikes have almost become a damaging institution in every sector of the Nigerian society particularly our universities and hospitals. While this particular struggle may seem in the interest of the masses,it merely reinforces a self-destructive practice The petrol price increases are clearly signs of a government running out of ideas.However its about time we began examining other methods of crisis resolution.Unfortunately this government has not encouraged that option either.
Osa, USA/Nigeria

The oil belongs to the Nigerian people just like Iraqi oil belongs to the Iraqi people. They should decide what happens to their resources, not their government.
Inga Vikse, NY

Neither strikes nor the increase in fuel prices will solve Nigeria's problems. What will stop the problem is a relentless fight against corruption.
Johnson Agbakagba, Nigeria

A general strike may over time lead to more confrontation and possibly destruction of lives and property. The unions should have explored all other possibilities such as dialogue and negotiation in order to solve this economic problem.
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leone




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