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NLC threatens to go on another strike

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By Abraham Adekunle

Union said it won’t give any notice if petrol price increases.

Even though the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had earlier had a meeting with the Federal Government, the union has threatened to go on an indefinite strike this time round if the current price of petrol increases. This was announced as oil marketers indicated that the cost of premium motor spirit (PMS) would rise to between N680 and N720 per liter in the coming weeks. This is due to the increase in the rate of dollar, which was trading at between N910 to N950 per dollar at the parallel market.

According to the marketers, this price change would occur if the dollar continued to trade at that rate. They also hinted that dealers seeking to import PMS were being forced to put the plans on hold due to the scarcity of foreign exchange to import the commodity. The marketers had promptly announced this development as soon as the rate of the dollar in the exchange market reached the N900 mark. Dealers also said that the CBN Importers and Exporters official window for foreign exchange, which had a lower exchange rate of about $740 per liter, had been unable to provide the $25m to $30m required for the importation of PMS by dealers.

IPMAN PRO had called for government intervention.

As a result, eager dealers who were willing to import the product into the country suspended the endeavor. In fact, they had revealed that the only marketer, Emadeb, who imported the commodity recently, was now finding it tough to recoup its investment due to the depreciation of the naira. Essentially, senior officials of major oil dealers in the country who spoke to the media had said that the PMS price hike was imminent unless the local currency appreciates in the coming weeks.

Leaders of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), and Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria (PPROOA) had said that the government needed to intervene in the situation. Specifically, the public relations officer of IPMAN had stated that the price was now driven by the fluctuations in forex, so Nigerians should expect an increase soon. “It is simple mathematics, once the dollar is going up, have it in mind that the prices of petroleum products would definitely increase because the products are dollar-driven,” he was quoted to have said.

FG will try to gag the NLC through a court order.

Meanwhile, Joe Ajaero, the president of the NLC, who spoke on Monday at the African Trade Union alliance meeting in Abuja made the announcement. Since the implementation of the removal of fuel subsidy, organized labour had criticized the exorbitant increase in the price of the product, and they had made their stance known that palliatives must be shared to workers to cushion the effects of the policy. At the event, Ajaero said that the Nigerian workers will not give any notice of strike actions if the petrol price increases in the coming days.

In his words, he said that the government is contemplating increasing the fuel price, and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment will only go to the Federal Ministry of Justice to come up with injunctions to hold the hands of the union not to respond. This strategy was used against the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), forbidding them through a court order not to go on strike. “Let me say this, Nigerian workers will not give any notice if we wake up from our sleep to hear that they have tempered with prices of petroleum products,” he stated. The deduction is that the union will move on to an indefinite strike action once the price hike takes effect.

A protest was previously held against government policies.

On July 26, 2023, NLC issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse all “anti-poor” and “insensitive” policies. These include the increase in the price of PMS as well as that of public school fees, among others. However, the government said that the union was restrained by the industrial court from going on strike regarding fuel subsidy removal. As a result, organized labour led its members on a nationwide protest on August 2, 2023, the day that the gate of the National Assembly Complex was brought down by protesters. Following that development, the government commenced a dialogue with the leadership who promptly called off the protest.

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