Africa

Nigeria fuel strikes blocked, but unions defiant

Protests in Lagos against fuel price rises (3 January) Image copyright AP
Image caption Protesters across Nigeria have shown their anger at the ending of fuel subsidies

A court in Nigeria has ordered trades unions to call off a national strike planned for Monday against soaring petrol prices.

The ruling follows widespread protests about the ending of government fuel subsidies, which has caused the cost of petrol to double since 1 January.

One union said it planned to go ahead with the strikes regardless of the ruling.

Union lawyers did not attend the hastily convened hearing.

The judge at the National Industrial Court ruled in favour of a government petition calling for the strike to be stopped.

"Economic activities within the country will be adversely affected, as will the health and safety of the citizenry, if the impending strike is allowed to hold," Justice Babatunde Adejuwon said.

Nigeria's two biggest labour groups, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trades Union Congress, have called for nationwide strikes and street protests to begin on Monday, unless the government restores the fuel subsidies.

The Nigerian Labour Congress issued a statement following Friday's ruling.

"There is no going back on next week's protests and shutdown," it said.

Although Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil exporter it has not invested in the infrastructure to produce refined fuel, so has to import much of its petrol.

Many Nigerians regarded the government fuel subsidy - in place until the start of 2012 - as the only benefit they received from the country's vast oil wealth.

Most of Nigeria's 160 million people live on less than $2 (£1.30) a day, so the sharp price increases have hit people hard.

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