Nigeria: New tax provokes general strike threat

The New Year has seen Nigeria gripped by a wave of anger following President Obasanjo’s sudden imposition of a new fuel tax.

While the sum involved is small, 1.5 naira (about I US cent), the principle of imposing a tax on petrol is explosive especially coming so soon after the withdrawal of subsidies on fuel prices.

On 6 January, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) gave the government a 20 January deadline to reverse the measure or face a general strike from 21 January.

This is the third time in seven months that the issue of increased fuel prices has led to a mobilisation for a general strike. Last July, Nigeria saw its best ever supported general strike, which last eight days. Then, in October, the resumption of the general strike was only called off at the last minute after some concessions were won from the government. But these concessions were never implemented. Obasanjo continued with his policy of deregulation and privatisation, with the backing of Western imperialism. Now the latest fuel tax has meant a further turn of the screw.

Mobilising meetings have already started for the strike action, with large-scale rallies planned from 15 January onwards.

Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) are fully involved in this mobilisation for a general strike. DSM members are active in trade unions, the National Conscience Party (NCP), student organisations, and the Labour-Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) that was formed last year.

The DSM argues that a determined struggle has to be waged over wider issues than just the new fuel tax and that the labour movement needs to present a socialist alternative to the government.

For up-to-date details visit the DSM website –

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January 2004