Nigeria’s primary labor unions have initiated an indefinite strike, disrupting the national electrical grid and halting flights across the country. The strike arises from the government’s failure to agree on a new minimum wage. This is the fourth strike by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), two of Nigeria’s largest union federations, since President Bola Tinubu assumed office last year.

The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) reported that on Monday, union members forced operators out of power control rooms and shut down at least six substations, leading to a complete shutdown of the national grid at 2:19 AM (01:19 GMT). Consequently, Nigerian airline Ibom Air announced a suspension of flights, and United Nigeria reported that airports nationwide were closed, preventing their flights from operating. Both electricity and aviation unions directed their members to withdraw services in adherence to the strike.

The unions are demanding a substantial increase in the minimum monthly wage from the current 30,000 naira ($20) to nearly 500,000 naira ($336). The government has countered with an offer of 60,000 naira ($40). According to Information Minister Mohammed Idris, meeting the unions’ demands would raise the government wage bill by 9.5 trillion naira ($6.3 billion), potentially destabilizing the economy.

Since taking office, President Tinubu has implemented reforms that have spiked inflation to nearly a 30-year high, exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis in Africa’s most populous nation. The unions have pressured the government to provide relief to households and small businesses, especially after the removal of fuel subsidies, which previously kept petrol affordable but cost the government $10 billion annually.

The indefinite strike was declared on Friday following the collapse of negotiations over the new minimum wage. The unions stated that the strike would persist until an acceptable wage agreement is reached. The TCN mentioned that efforts were underway to recover and stabilize the national grid, but union activities were hindering these efforts.

Additionally, unions are demanding the reversal of a recent electricity tariff hike that affects high-consumption users, part of the government’s strategy to phase out subsidies.

Leave a Reply