By Angela Ukomadu
LAGOS, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Nigerian labour unions agreed with the government on Monday to suspend a planned strike over fuel and power price rises hours before businesses were due to grind to a halt, the labour minister and trade unions said.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), which represents millions of workers across most sectors of Africa’s biggest economy, including parts of the oil industry, last week announced its plans to embark on a general strike.
Nigeria cut costly subsidies in September to allow the petrol price to be determined by the market and increased the power tariff. President Muhammadu Buhari had said Nigeria could no longer afford the subsidies but the unions said a reversal of price hikes was needed to avert the strike.
The strike was due to begin on Monday but Labour and Employment Minister Festus Keyamo said in a statement, posted on Twitter, that an agreement was reached between the government and unions at 2:53 a.m. (0153 GMT). “Strike suspended,” he wrote.
He said the deregulation of petrol pump prices would remain in place and the government would roll out a financial support package for workers, and a joint committee comprising of government officials and labour union members would over a two-week period examine the justification for the electricity tariff policy.
A communique issued by the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) stated that the strike had been suspended and outlined the details outlined by Keyamo.
Africa’s top oil exporter has been under pressure from international lenders such as the World Bank to carry out reforms to qualify for budget support loans after the coronavirus pandemic triggered an oil price crash that slashed the government’s income.
Cheap fuel prices have long been seen by many in Nigeria as a benefit of living in an oil-producing country. Previous attempts to eliminate subsidies were scuppered due to social unrest.
(Reporting by Angela Ukomadu and Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
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