Nigeria announces measures to offset rising costs as strikes loomSun, 01 Oct 2023 08:43:54 GMT

Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Sunday proposed a temporary minimum wage hike and more cheap gas-powered public transport among other measures to help offset the impact of his economic reforms as labour unions threatened a national strike. Speaking in a national broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 63rd independence day anniversary, Tinubu’s announcement came after he ended a long-standing fuel subsidy that cost the government billions of dollars a year and also liberalised the naira currency. Government officials say the reforms were needed to revive Africa’s largest economy and investors have applauded them, but Nigerians are struggling with a tripling of fuel prices and inflation now at 25 percent.”Reform may be painful, but it is what greatness and the future require,” the president said.”There is no joy in seeing the people of this nation shoulder burdens that should have been shed years ago. I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.”The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) — the two major unions who represent industries from aviation workers and nurses to teachers and bankers — called an indefinite strike for October 3 because they say the government failed to address their concerns.There was no immediate response from unions on the new measures announced by Tinubu, though they have promised to go ahead with the planned strike.- Increased minimum wage-In his broadcast, Tinubu said after talks with labour and businesses, the federal minimum wage for the lower-grade workers would increase by 25,000 naira a month ($32) for the next six months.He said the government was also preparing to speed up the introduction of gas-powered buses for public transport, which would lower the costs of transport — one of the main complaints for Nigerians since the fuel subsidy removal. Social security cash transfers to the poorest Nigerians would also be extended and investments made available for small businesses, he said. Tinubu — a former Lagos governor elected in February in a highly contested ballot — has promised to bring in more investment to Nigeria and tackle the country’s complex security challenges, from jihadists to bandit militias carrying out mass kidnappings.The Nigerian leader has also sought to shake up the country’s central bank, whose previous director critics say was reasonable for unorthodox monetary policies that kept investors away. The former central bank director has been replaced and arrested.The fuel subsidy had been in place for decades and kept petrol prices at artificially low. But the measure costs the government billions because though Nigeria is a major oil producer, it imports most of its fuel because of a lack of functioning refineries.The NLC and TUC went on strike in August over the same issues, with many businesses, government offices, markets, banks closed for a day in the capital Abuja. But the call to strike met with more mixed response from businesses in the economic capital Lagos.