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Nigeria faces general strike
Updated: 2004-10-11 14:36

Nigeria has entered the first day of a general strike planned by unions in protest against rising fuel prices, with oil executives in Africa's top producer confident there will be no immediate disruption to exports.

But analysts say exports could be hit if unions call a prolonged total strike if negotiations with the government do not yield an agreement within a two-week period following the end of this week's four-day action.

"Normally these things build up progressively so it won't be total paralysis on Monday," one senior oil executive told Reuters.

Nigeria's main union body the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) says that steep fuel hikes caused by the phasing out of fuel subsidies -- a key measure in President Olusegun Obasanjo's economic reform package -- are impoverishing Nigerians, many of whom live on less than a dollar (56 pence) a day.

Last month a Nigerian high court ruled that the NLC, which has already called four general strikes over fuel prices in the last year, did not have the right to strike over matters unrelated to working conditions.

Relations between the government and the NLC have soured in the last week after unions refused to negotiate with a government delegation saying it was made up of civil servants who did not have the power to make decisions.

NLC president Adams Oshiomhole has also criticised the government for using strong arm tactics by tear gassing union protests and having him detained for questioning by security agents on Saturday.

The NLC has emerged as the most powerful political opposition to Obasanjo since he took office in 1999, returning the country to civilian rule after 15 years of military dictatorship.

Despite its huge oil wealth, Nigeria imports $2 billion (1.1 billion pounds) worth of gasoline and diesel a year because of the shambolic state of its four refineries.

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