NIGERIAN labour unions have finalised plans for a nationwide rally on September 28 to protest the recent government decision to remove the country’s petrol subsidy and to hike electricity tariffs as a means of generating extra revenue.
Badly hit by the recent coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria’s economy is in the doldrums as the lockdown precipitated by the spread of the virus has resulted in a collapse in the price and demand of crude oil. With over 90% of government revenue coming from the sale of petroleum, the Nigerian government is severely cash strapped and is desperately looking for money from other sources.
Already, the government has had to borrow about $10bn from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to finance the 2020 budget. Faced with a impossible set of choices, the government has opted to remove the subsidy it pays on domestic petrol and has also hiked electricity tariffs to help full the black hole in its finances.
These measures have not gone down well with the Nigerian public, however, with civil society groups saying the common man is being asked to pay for the government’s failing. One major criticism the government is facing is that it did not save for a rainy days when oil prices were high and revenue generated during boom times was squandered through irresponsible governance.
Earlier this month, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) gave the government two months to rescind both decisions but not getting any response, it has decided to call a nationwide day of action. It is not yet clear if the NLC resolved to commence a nationwide strike after the September 28 rally but this is a distinct possibility.
NLC president Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the congress condemned the increment of the tariff and advised the federal government to urgently repair Nigeria’s refineries. Government removal of the subsidy led to an increase in electricity tariffs from about N30.23 to about N62.33 per kWh, while the price of petrol increased from about N145 to about N161 per litre.