STRIKE ACTIONS IN NIGERIA

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Sweethoney
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PostSweethoney on 2nd November 2012, 3:43 pm

The origin of strike in Nigeria was not recorded however, strike or industrial actions in Nigeria tends to be frequent. Nigeria has witnessed a huge increase in the number of industrial action since independence. No year passes in Nigeria without any sector of Nigerian economy witnessing industrial action.

Different pressure groups in Nigeria can embark on strike to press their demand home. The groups include; Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) workers, Electricity workers, Academic staff union of Universities (ASSU) etc. What these means is the working class in several sectors had been infuriated and imbued with fighting spirit to protect jobs and improve their overall living standards. The opportunity to express their anger and reverse the condition to suit them has temporarily or occasionally leads to strikes.

By definition – strike means the temporary stopping of work by the group of workers or employers in order to express a grievance or enforce a demand (Hyman 1972). The groups enforce their demand through collective mass action.

Nigeria is a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which recognizes the right to strike as a fundamental right. The abolition of forced Labour Convention No. 105 of 1957 prohibits the use of forced or compulsory Labour as a punishment for having participated in strike. Article I sub paragraph (d). Also, the voluntary conciliation and Arbitration Recommendation No. 92 of 1951 states in paragraph 7 that no provision of the recommendation may limit any member of the right to strike. (wakinipaedea). As a member of the international community, it is incumbent on any group in Nigeria to organize and embark on strike.

Since Military rule ended in 1999, Nigeria have had several massive general strikes. (WWW.Socialistworld.net. 12/10/2004) They have had five general strikes since June 2000. It was a protest provoked by jump in fuel prices. This was under the regime of President Obasanjo.

Most Nigerian did not see why they, living as they do in an oil – producing country have to pay more for fuel when world price goes up but the cost of oil production has not. Therefore every threat to increase the prize of fuel has lead to outrage and anger among the Nigerian workers and the poor masses leading to strike. The four days strike in September 2000 was caused by 25% rise in fuel price as government tries to carry forward its neo – liberal policies. The new increase was imposed towards the end of September less than 48hrs after the Nigerian Federal High Court decided that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC – the main trade union federation) was not entitled to call strike. Immediately the state owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) jacked up fuel prices by 33%.

The main causes of strikes in Nigeria has been increased the price of petroleum product. In the recent years, this has been demonstrated in massively supported general strikes. This protest against hikes in prices occurs in June 2003 & June 2004.

Another reason for strike by Nigerian people was not just rising in price of fuel. It is the severe disillusionment with the results of the rule of President Obasanjo and other capitalist politicians since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999. Apart from booming mobile phone market and high oil prices the country’s economy has stagnated, while the elite have continued to loot and thoroughly rigged the 2003 elections to ensure they stayed in power. Their anger was likened when the Federal Court ruled that it was legal for both the Foreign and Finance Ministers to be paid in US dollars rather than the Nigerian Currency. Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo Iwuala gets $247,000 a year, one of the highest paid ministers in the world. She made it clear that a dollar pay was a condition of her leaving her position as a world bank vice – president and returning to Nigeria.

The fifth general strike in Nigeria since June, 2000 was not only followed by Nigerian Workers but also by small shopkeepers, market women etc. with the support of almost the entire population. The financial Times commented that the Trade Union has become ‘the country’s most high profit opposition movement’. For this reason Nigerian Government prepared to act against the trade unions. It tried to pass a new law that it hoped to break up both the NLC and individual unions. It wanted to use the Federal High Court decision to intimidate the NLC Leaders from calling further strike actions. This was a test by the government and its imperialist backer’s to see how far they can go in dismantling workers and trade unions right in Nigeria. The Obasanjo government tested the water to see how far it can go in using repression to intimidate both workers leaders and trade unions in general. This they did by arresting the NLC President Adams Oshiomole and detained for no just reason. Their actions helped to increase workers’ anger. However, since then the fuel prices has continued to rise and people continued to strike.

In June, 2007under the Leadership of President Umaru Yar’Adua. Another general strike stroke Nigeria. This one was caused by request for 15% increase in basics pay. During the strike, government offices, private company petrol stations, ports, airports, schools and hospitals closed down. Commercial vehicles were off the road and major highways became football pitches for youth, oil exports in all terminals except one were prevented. In short the strike paralyzed’ Nigeria.
The people saw the strike as opportunity to express a strivings to free themselves from the shackles of poverty. About 70% of Nigerian population live in extreme poverty, in the mist of all these Obasanjo in the mid of his tenure increased the price of crude oil by 15%.
In addition to that six companies including Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC); Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited were sold to foreign and local private companies without resolving Labour concerns.

Other causes of the 2007 strike. The pay as you earn (PAYE) was changed to10% of gross pay instead of the previous policy of taxing only basic pay. The poor perceived government actions as punitive measures to compound their problem as (VAT) Value added tax was increased by 100% increase in VAT affected the people as because they spend the bulk of their earnings on consumption items increase in petroleum product automatically increases the price of all other good and services. People strike because there was no economic rationale for price increase. The board which regulates price increase never met and people considered the increase in the petroleum product illegal.
So the strike was therefore declared to achieve the following – reversal of the N10 increase in fuel, Removal of 100% increase in Vast, payment of 15% increase in basic pay of public sector workers and review of sales of refineries and power generating plant.

HOW TO END STRIKE


In less than 24 hrs to the strike in a desperate effort to end the avert the strike, government offered the following concessions; increase in VAT was revoked, 15 percent salary increase to be effected for federal employees with effect from I January 2007, N 10 increase per liter to be revised., then president Umaru Yar’ Adua promised not to increase price of petrol in the next one year; He signed an under taking to set up committee that will include labour representative to examine pricing mechanism and never to take any disciplinary action against any worker that participated in the strike.
Then labour called off the strike in the midnight of 23 June 2007. Ref: Sunday punch 24 June, 2007: 13 wikipedia & encyclopedia. Academic staff union of universities was formed in 1978. It is one of the trade unions. It has a story of military action, it was formed in 1978, a successor to the Nigerian Association of university Teachers formed in 1965 and covering academic staff in the university of Ibadan, Nsuka, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Lagos.



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