On Tuesday, September 26th, Nigeria’s two major workers’ unions, the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), announced an indefinite strike commencing on October 3rd, to protest the escalating cost of living crisis triggered by the government’s scrapping of a longstanding fuel subsidy. This move by President Bola Tinubu has exacerbated the financial strain on over 210 million Nigerians already grappling with a soaring inflation rate, which hit a staggering 25.8% in August, marking an 18-year high.
The unions’ decision underscores growing discontent among the populace towards the recent decisions and measures taken by the newly elected government. The termination of the fuel subsidy on Tinubu’s first day in office led to a more than twofold increase in petrol prices, subsequently driving up the cost of other essential commodities. The government’s devaluation of the Nigerian currency naira further amplified the price hikes, particularly impacting food prices.
Despite President Tinubu’s announcement of several intervention efforts aimed at alleviating the adverse effects of these policies, the unions argue that the government has been sluggish in implementing these measures.
The workers’ unions are also demanding a hike in their salaries to cope with the rising cost of living. Joe Ajaero, the president of the Nigeria Labor Congress, lamented the “massive suffering” induced by price hikes, stating that weeks of discussions with federal authorities have failed to produce any solutions to alleviate the current situation, leaving workers in “excruciating poverty and affliction.”
This strike signifies the third industrial action in under two months, showcasing escalating pressure on President Tinubu. While his policies are geared towards easing Africa’s largest economy, they have inadvertently exacerbated the financial strain on the populace.
The indefinite strike threatens to paralyze key sectors as the unions encompass a broad spectrum of workers ranging from government employees to those in various industries. Previous strikes in August over similar issues saw a significant shutdown of businesses, government offices, markets, and banks in the capital, Abuja, with a mixed impact in the economic hub of Lagos.
The unfolding labor unrest in Nigeria, a member of the OPEC oil exporters’ organization, underscores a critical juncture in the nation’s struggle to balance economic reforms with the welfare of its populace.