[Marxism] Nigerian general strike

LouPaulsen at comcast.net LouPaulsen at comcast.net
Thu Jun 10 13:49:37 MDT 2004


>From the Nigerian media:

Thursday, June 10 2004
 
Strike cripples economic activities • Obasanjo in US for G8 meeting

Our Correspondents 

Activities in most commercial cities in the country were paralysed 
on Wednesday as workers stayed at home in compliance with the 
nationwide strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress to protest 
the hike in fuel prices. 

In Lagos, bare-chested youths turned the streets into mini-football 
fields, entertaining a sprinkling of fans who watched from the 
sideways or balconies. 

A few motorists who ventured out of their homes were either directed 
to seek alternative routes or "forced" to watch the matches for a 
few minutes before being allowed to proceed to their destinations. 

Banks; schools; filling stations; loading depots; markets; stores; 
and eateries were closed and the city's trademark yellow buses and 
taxis were off the roads too. 

Squads of heavily armed policemen stood guard at known trouble spots 
near the city's usually crowded bus stops. 

At the Lagos Ports, business activities were also paralysed by the 
strike, which began hours before President Olusegun Obasanjo left 
Abuja for the United States to attend the G8 summit. 

Our correspondents reported that although the gates to the ports 
were opened for business, the withdrawal of trailers and vehicles by 
the various unions hindered the movement of containers and other 
cargoes at the ports. 

Security agents, drawn from the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Ports 
Authority Police Command and the State Security Service, provided 
security at the main entrance of the ports ostensibly to avert 
possible vandalisation and unauthorised entry into the ports. 

Many operational staff and officers and men of the Nigerian Ports 
Authority and the Nigeria Customs Service did not turn up to carry 
out normal cargo clearance. 

The Deputy President, South West, Nigeria Labour Congress and 
President-General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Mr. 
Onikolease Irabor, told our correspondents in a telephone interview 
that the strike would continue at the ports in line with the 
directives of the NLC. 

However, some airlines at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, 
engaged in skeletal services amid tight security. 

A combined team of security personnel of the Federal Airports 
Authority of Nigeria, men of the Air Force and those of the Nigeria 
Police was drafted to the airport apparently to forestall any break 
down of law and order. 

Authorities of the few airlines that operated however complained of 
low turn out of passengers, attributing the development to the 
withdrawal of commercial vehicles on the roads. 

In some of the parastatals visited by our correspondents, only top 
management staff were seen at their duty posts while the junior 
workers stayed away from work. 

At the international wing of the airport, the regular international 
flights were carried out without interruption as airlines such as 
Virgin Atlantic, Emirate and Bellview landed. 

The NLC headquarters was however, a hive of activity, as a carnival-
like atmosphere came over the comrades when pop singer and President 
of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, Mr. Charles 
Oputa, a.k.a Charly Boy, rolled up in his wine-coloured jeep. 

Union officials told the Agence France Presse that NLC president, 
Mr. Adam Oshiomhole's police bodyguard was withdrawn at 1:00 am, but 
that he had not been detained. 

Oshiomhole, at a press conference said that the strike would 
continue until there was evidence that the cost of fuel was actually 
coming down. 

He alleged threat to his life when he said that four security 
vehicles had been trailing him since the strike was announced last 
week. 

In a statement, Oshiomhole said that the Police had been advised to 
enforce the court order that prices of fuel should be reverted to 
their pre-January regime. 

The statement addressed to Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa 
Balogun, read in part, "We are constrained to draw your attention to 
the statement of the Federal Government issued yesterday in which 
government decide to obey the court order and revert fuel tax to 
price tax level. 

"It was announced that government has directed petroleum marketers 
to revert to these prices immediately and that your good your good 
self (IG) had been directed to enforce compliance. 

"This letter serves to request you to enforce the order. This is 
particularly important and urgent because the speedy compliance of 
NNPC and all marketers will help in the efforts by labour to bring 
to an end to the on-going strike." 

In Abuja, civil servants were caught between support for the unions 
and fear of losing their jobs. 

Some workers turned up at their offices but did little work, 
gathering in small groups to discuss the situation. 

However, banks shunned a circular by the Central Bank of Nigeria 
directing them to open their doors to customers during strikes. 

A few of the bankers that turned up for work, however, locked 
themselves inside their offices without carrying out any 
transaction. 

An official of one of the banks told our correspondents, that the 
failure of the banks to operate was in compliance with the directive 
of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Other Financial 
Institutions Employees and the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, 
Insurance and Other Financial Institutions that bank workers should 
join the strike. 

The General Secretary of the NUBIFIE, Alhaji Mamman Muhammed, 
said, "No bank is operating here. We have advised all bank workers, 
both junior and senior, to stay at home, which was complied with. 
>From the report, we have, all banks in Lagos did not open for 
business." 

Two police vans with armed mobile policemen were stationed at the 
entrance of the Federal Secretariat to forestall any possible 
attack, while another police van was also stationed at the Federal 
Ministry of Finance. 

But in Kano, only organised sector premises – banks, filling 
stations, schools and government offices – were closed, while 
markets, private transport and stores worked normally. 

Meanwhile, around 10.30 am on Wednesday, Obasanjo departed the 
Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja for Savannah, Georgia, 
United States, where he and other African leaders will lobby 
industrialised nations to support programmes of economic and 
political reform. 

The President had left in a similar fashion in February this year 
barely a few hours after the NLC agreed to suspend a similar strike 
to protest the high price of fuel. 

The PUNCH, Thursday, June 10, 2004  




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