Nigeria loses electricity and major airports close as unions demand higher wages amid record inflation

GOMBE, Nigeria (AP) Africa’s most populous country came to a standstill Monday, with power outages and major airports closed, as Nigeria’s biggest labor unions went on strike to demand a pay rise amid the worst of the crisis. of the cost of living in decades.

President Bola Tinubu’s economic reforms, including ending fuel subsidies, have resulted in inflation rising to a 28-year high.

In this latest strike, the fourth since Tinubu came to power a year ago, workers shut down the national electricity grid and drove out operators at a key transmission station, the Transmission Company of Nigeria said, adding that other workers sent to restore power were blocked. .

Elsewhere, government workers either did not show up or blocked entrances to offices, including airports in the capital Abuja and the economic hub of Lagos. Hundreds of passengers were stranded as local airlines suspended flight operations.

All aviation workers must stay away “until further notice”, their association said.

We demand a living wage, the Nigerian Labor Congress said in X, describing what they currently earn as a starvation wage. It and the Trade Union Congress represent hundreds of thousands of government workers across key sectors.

Unions want the current minimum monthly wage of 30,000 naira ($20) to rise to nearly 500,000 naira ($336). The government offers 60,000 naira ($40).

The union’s demand will increase the government’s wage bill by Sh9.5 trillion ($6.3 billion), which is capable of destabilizing the economy, Information Minister Mohammed Idris said.

Analysts have warned that a monthly minimum wage of about $336 is not sustainable for Nigeria’s states, most of which struggle to pay wages.

“It’s one thing to sign it (the new wage bill) but it’s another thing for you to be able to sustain it,” said Muda Yusuf, head of the Nigerian Center for the Promotion of Private Enterprise.

The unions defend their demands by pointing to the expensive lifestyle of Nigeria’s public officials.

After Nigeria’s president ended decades-old but costly fuel subsidies on his first day in office, the price of gas doubled in one of Africa’s biggest oil producers. Prices for public transport and goods rose.

Tinubu’s government also devalued the naira to encourage foreign investment, which further increased the prices of basic commodities in the import-dependent country of more than 210 million people.

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