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NAL Staff writer

In what has now become a cat and mouse chase between Nigeria’s federal government and coalition of workers unions, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has directed its members to embark on a nationwide strike starting from Monday, January 9 over the fuel subsidy removal.

“From Monday 9, January 2012 date, all offices, oil production centres, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets, banks, among others, will be shut down,” says NLC President Abdulwaheed Omar in Abuja.

Government agency, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) on January 1, stopped fuel subsidy payments to oil marketers, which forced the price of refined crude oil to increase form N65 to N141 per litre.

Meanwhile, at an emergency executive council meeting held at the State House on Wednesday, President Goodluck Jonathan approved a short term relief measure to “mitigate the harsh effects of the removal of subsidy on petrol.”

Government announced its intention to distribute “1,600 mass transit buses to major cities with effect from January 9,” the same day that labour is expected to down tools. The emergency “mass transit” scheme, government claimed, was part of its Urban Mass Transit Programme.

Busses for mass transportation will be operated by private individuals / companies under loan agreement payable over a period of five-year at 5 percent interest rate. Application and processing for the mass transit scheme will span a period of two-year, until 2014.

Labaran Maku, Nigeria’s Minister of Information along with that of Trade and Investment Olusegun Agagau, and Transportation Minister Idris Umar briefed State House press corps on out come of the emergency meeting.

Also, the executive council “approved the immediate payment of domestic debts owed contractors and the payment of salary to civil servants on January 20.”

Government is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nations. Unemployment rate is tagged around 4.5 percent, and inflation rate at 9 percent [source:IMF].

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