Nigerian workers suspend strike over cost of living crisisThu, 03 Aug 2023 10:22:22 GMT

Nigerian workers have suspended a nationwide strike over the rising cost of living following the removal of a petrol subsidy scheme, the government and union leaders said Thursday.Hundreds of workers across all sectors went on strike on Wednesday in compliance with the directives of the two main unions — the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). The presidency said Thursday’s strike had been suspended following talks between the two union leaders and President Bola Tinubu late on Wednesday.”Consequent upon the fruitful and frank discussion with President Tinubu and their confidence in his ability to encourage open and honest consideration of all the issues put forward by the Labour Movement, the Labour Leaders resolved to stop further protest,” the presidency said in a statement.The presidency added that union leaders had “opted for further constructive engagement with the government to resolve all outstanding issues as they affect the working people and Nigerians in general.” Union leaders confirmed the suspension of the strike to AFP. Tinubu ended a fuel subsidy scheme — pushing up prices of food, transportation and other services — on May 29, during his inauguration as the new leader of Africa’s most populous nation. In Abuja on Wednesday, some 400 protesters led by NLC leader Joe Ajaero and his TUC counterpart Festus Usifo, marched through the capital carrying placards and chanting slogans. They denounced low wages, lack of social amenities and adequate welfare as well as mass poverty.The protesters stormed the parliament and smashed one of the gates before presenting their petitions to Senate leaders. The protesters were accompanied by armed police and soldiers.  Many businesses were closed Wednesday, including government offices, banks and markets. Only a few vehicles were on the roads as the workers marched towards the city centre. But in Lagos and other cities across the country of some 210 million people, the strike action was mixed, with some markets, shops and government offices remaining open in the sprawling city of over 20 million people.In the southern states of Abia, Ebonyi and Cross River striking workers took to major roads and headed to government offices to present their demands. The oil-rich country imports the bulk of its petroleum products due to problems at four domestic oil refineries.Under the now-dropped subsidy scheme, the government covered the difference between the cost of import and prices at the pump.Last week both unions gave the government until Wednesday to restore the subsidy or faced nationwide action.The unions were also asking the government to fix the decrepit refineries in order to end fuel imports, which has been a huge drain on foreign reserves and resources.