At least 10 people were shot dead in Nigeria's biggest city of Lagos on Monday, as police battled angry mobs rioting in the streets to enforce a second week of a crippling strike against increased fuel prices, the President of the Nigeria Labor Congress, Adams Oshiomhole said.
The mobs burned tyres on major streets and smashed the windscreens of cars and commuter buses taking people to work. Anti-riot police fired teargas and shot in the air to disperse the protesters.
Lagos Police spokesman Emmanuel Ighodalo told IRIN that the police was determined to prevent the rioters from "molesting people going about their business". But he denied reports that there had been casualties.
"Anybody who died must have been killed by the hoodlums who went on rampage this morning," he told IRIN.
Oshiomhole however told a news conference in the capital Abuja: "The information we have this morning is that the police killed over 10 people in Lagos this morning. It is very unfortunate. This bloodbath which the police is promoting is heightening tension in Lagos."
The general strike to protest a 54 percent rise in fuel prices that was announced by President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government on June 20, entered the second week despite a split among union leaders about continuing the work stoppage.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the country’s biggest umbrella body with 29 affiliates, has vowed to continue with the strike, describing government concessions as insufficient. But the Trade Unions Congress (TUC), another grouping of senior staff unions, has opted out of the strike, saying it was pleased with the progress of negotiations with the government.
The white-collar Petroleum and Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), said on Sunday it was withdrawing its threat to disrupt vital oil exports and suspending participation in the strike in line with the directive of the TUC.
Its blue-collar counterpart, the National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers of Nigeria (NUPENG), however, said it was backing continuing strike. "We’re an affiliate of NLC and we’re certainly for the strike," Peter Akpatason, NUPENG president, told IRIN.
He added he expected gaps in negotiations between government and union leaders to be closed by the end of Monday. "Otherwise we’ll have no choice but to resume pulling out our members from oil facilities," he added.
The government withdrew its 40 naira (US $0.31) a litre of petrol price increase, offering instead 35 naira (US $ 0.27) a litre in order to stop the strike. But the unions insist the new price is still to high and would not halt current inflationary pressures. They want it reduced to 32 naira (US $0.25) a litre.
NLC president Adams Oshiohmole on Sunday urged Nigerians to disregard what he called the decision of “a section of TUC” to suspend the strike. "We must all be ready to make this last difficult mile together no matter the odds," he said.
But on Monday, Oshiomhole said the government had offered the unions a gasoline price of 34 naira a litre (US $0.26). He said the leadership of the unions will meet on Monday night to decide if accept or reject the offer.
The government has said Nigeria should no longer have to spend US $2 billion a year on subsidising fuel that was already extremely cheap by international standards.
Labour leaders argue the steep price increases for petrol, diesel and kerosene would only aggravate poverty among Nigeria's 120 million people, 70 percent of whom live on less than one dollar a day.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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