Nigerian air travel could shut as unions pledge to join strike

26 September 2020 - 09:17
By Reuters
Nigeria's airports could shut down on Monday.
Image: File Nigeria's airports could shut down on Monday.

Nigeria's airports could shut down on Monday as four key unions said they would join an indefinite nationwide strike to protest an increase in power and petrol prices.

A Thursday statement issued by four unions representing pilots, engineers and other aviation professionals said they are "in full support" of a strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress, which represents millions of workers across most sectors of Africa's biggest economy.

"All workers in the aviation sector are hereby directed to withdraw their services at all aerodromes nationwide as from 00hrs of 28th September," the unions said in a statement seen by Reuters.

The signatories included National Union of Air Transport Employees, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Aviation said negotiations are happening at a high level; union leaders met yesterday with the Labour, Petroleum and Power ministries at the presidential villa, but reached no consensus.

Nigeria's government removed pump-price controls on petrol earlier this month, and roughly doubled power tariffs in an aim to shore up a budget battered by a fall in oil prices and an economic contraction brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Petrol subsidies drained billions from government coffers, while experts said artificially low tariffs were holding back much-needed investment in the nation's dilapidated power sector.

International lenders such as the World Bank have pressed Nigeria to make the reforms to qualify for budget support loans.

But the unions said the increases were poorly timed due to the economic hardship created by the pandemic, with high inflation and a recession looming after the economy contracted in the second quarter.

Union leaders previously said a reversal of the price hikes would avert the strike.