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Nigeria

No link between strike and violence, say Nigerian unions

Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

Nigerian trade unionists have denied any connection between their general strike and sectarian violence in the north of the country, as oil workers threaten to stop crude production in support of a general strike against the end of fuel subsidies.

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A riot broke out in the central Nigerian city of Minna Wednesday, leaving a police officer dead.

The government slapped a 24-hour curfew on Niger state, of which the city is the capital, after crowds burnt the office of the legal practice of a ruling party member, a local electoral office and the office of a campaign supporting the state governor.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

Police said on Wednesday that they did not know the cause of the violence.

Trade unionists are trying to keep violence out of their protests, sparked by soaring fuel prices, according to Tokunbo Korodo, an official of the Lagos branch of the Nupeng oil and gas workers’ union.

“Everybody is cooperating to make sure the protest is peaceful,” he told RFI.

And, while some foreign press reports have seemed to imply a connection between the union action and violence by the Boko Haram Islamist group in the north, he says the movement has cut across sectarian lines.

Muslims pray while Christians form a protective human chain around them
Muslims pray while Christians form a protective human chain around them Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

“The issue of Boko Haram, the problem of Boko Haram has been in existence before these protests started and there’s no way we can link them together,” Korodo says.

“Some of the people that talked to the masses today at our gathering in Ojota in Lagos, both Muslim and Christian they all came, their leaders came and they embraced one another. They said there is no need to attribute this protest to religious crisis or the issue of Boko Haram.”

Nupeng and white-collar oil workers’ union Pengassan said they would shut down oil production if talks with the government fail to bring a solution Wednesday.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer at about 2.4 million barrels a day.

Pengassan says that the government should repair refineries, build new ones and improve infrastructure before removing subsidies, since the country currently imports the majority of its fuel, partly because of its badly maintained refineries.

The government claims that deregulation will lead to more refineries being built.

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