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Labor Unrest Spreads After Nigerian Price Increases

April 30, 1988

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Labor Minister Abubakar Umar met with leaders of 22 unions Friday as labor unrest spread throughout Nigeria following a rise in the price of gasoline, Lagos radio reported.

It said the union officials asked the government of President Ibrahim Babangida to reconsider the gasoline price increase, to lower prices for food and other basic commodities, to raise salaries and to release labor leaders detained since a series of strikes began about two weeks ago.

The broadcast said other representatives of Nigeria’s 42 trade unions did not show up for the meeting, including those representing striking civil service and bank workers.

On April 10, the government raised gasoline and diesel fuel prices by 3 percent and that was expected to be the first of a series of price increases. The action followed recommendations by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to increase petroleum prices to help cut Nigeria’s $1.5-billion deficit.

Since the oil-boom days of the mid-1970′s, Nigerians have regarded cheap gasoline as one of their rights. Even with the increases Nigerian gas sells for about 40 cents a gallon.

Many Lagos banks remained closed for the second day and others operated with skeleton crews because of striking workers, the News Agency of Nigeria reported. Banks in Kano, Makurdi, Calabar and Ibadan also were affected.

Planes were grounded throughout Nigeria for most of Friday when air traffic controllers joined the strike.

Aviation Minister Anthony Okpere later reopened the Lagos international airport and denied any strike took place. He blamed the closure on saboteurs who he said ″disrupted the function″ of control tower equipment.

Medical and health workers in Lagos walked off the job Friday, the news agency said.

Six people were killed in April 13 riots that began as a protest by university students and led to the government’s closing more than 20 colleges and universities.

Labor unions then joined in the protests.

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