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Nigerian petrol strike ICFTU condemns intimidation

Nigerian petrol strike: ICFTU condemns intimidation of union leader

Brussels - Nigerian authorities are committing serious acts of intimidation against senior leaders and activists of the Nigerian trade union movement, said the ICFTU today. In a spate of incidents which began to flourish in the days prior to the general strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) after talks with the government to reverse petrol price increases of 25% broke down, the Nigerian authorities subjected the trade union leader Adams Oshiomole to unlawful arrest and ill treatment. Furthermore, two of his close associates, Philip Shuaibu and Obadiah Bapven, were also subjected to physical violence.

NLC President Oshiomole was arrested at gunpoint in the morning of 9th October 2004 at Nnamdi Azikiwe airport in Abuja just before boarding a domestic flight to Lagos. Arrested without warrant but with undue force, the NLC leader, who is also a member of the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body and of its Committee on Freedom of Association, was wrestled to the ground and dragged along the airport tarmac into an unmarked car by 15 members of the State Security Service (SSS).

Released at 6pm that evening amidst claims by the Nigerian authorities that the arrest was a misunderstanding, Oshiomole sustained injury and needed to go to hospital for treatment following severe bruising to both knees and to his left arm.

As the world's largest trade union organisation, the ICFTU expressed outrage at the maltreatment of Oshiomole in a letter to Nigerian President Obasanjo on 11 October.

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The arrest and subsequent manhandling of Oshiomole was nothing short of an "attempt at bullying, in retaliation to the previous day's announcement of the 4 day strike" said the ICFTU from its headquarters. "Further intimidation of NLC officials including of Innocent Ogwuche and Emmanuel Udoh in a separate incident only supports this view. The whereabouts of these two trade unionists remain unknown" (*).

The NLC called the general strike, which started on Monday, highlighting that the government's liberalisation policy will worst affect the very poorest citizens of Africa's most populous country.

Amid reports of a shooting in the Northern Nigerian city of Kaduna when police opened fire to disperse protesters at a road block, the ICFTU underlined to the Nigerian authorities that Oshiomole's ill treatment constituted a serious flaw and hindrance to his ability to carry out legitimate trade union activities without fear and intimidation.

" [This contravenes] internationally recognised labour standards, notably the ILO Convention 87 of Freedom of Association, which [the Nigerian] government has ratified and whose principles it is bound to uphold."

As the strike enters its second day and with discussions between the NLC and the Nigerian authorities having stalled without conclusion, the mass action is due to be suspended on Friday when unions will attempt to reengage the government in talks to drop its unswerving support for a policy of unrestrained liberalisation later this week.

* This information is correct as of 11th October 2004.

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