The unions lose another battle to Obasanjo's campaign to open up the oil business
Another round in the battle to liberalise the oil business goes to President Olusegun Obasanjo after the once mighty Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) backed down from its campaign to bring back subsidised domestic fuel prices and called off a national strike, due to start on 21 January. The Court of Appeal in Abuja on 20 January ordered the union to suspend the proposed strike, at the same time ordering the federal government to stop collection of the new 1.50 naira per litre fuel tax it had announced in the 2004 budget. On paper, it is a temporary reprieve for the government because the Appeal Court is due to consider the matter again on 26 January but it seems the NLC has lost the momentum. Even if the government eventually has to forego the N1.50 fuel tax (that's equivalent to one US cent a litre), that may be a small price in its bid to open up Nigeria's oil business and solve the persistent supply shortages. Last year, Obasanjo had already pushed through a 35 per cent increase in fuel prices, taking them to around N40 a litre, much closer to average international price levels.
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