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Nigeria’s Power Grid and Airports Paralyzed by Union Strikes Amid Wage Dispute

Nigeria is currently facing a significant disruption as major labor unions have initiated an indefinite strike, resulting in a nationwide shutdown of the power grid and halting operations at major airports. This strike, which began on June 3, 2024, stems from a standoff between unions and the government over a new minimum wage.

Passengers at Lagos’s domestic airport were left stranded as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) failed to reach an agreement with the government. The strike marks the fourth major action by these unions since President Bola Tinubu assumed office last year.

The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) reported that union members forced operators to vacate power control rooms, leading to the shutdown of at least six substations and the entire national grid by early Monday morning.

Airlines such as Ibom Air and United Nigeria have suspended their flights indefinitely due to the strike. The unions have instructed their members in the electricity and aviation sectors to cease operations in solidarity with the strike.

The unions are demanding a substantial increase in the monthly minimum wage from the current 30,000 naira ($20) to nearly 500,000 naira ($336), while the government has countered with an offer of 60,000 naira ($40). According to Information Minister Mohammed Idris, meeting the union’s demands would significantly impact the economy, adding 9.5 trillion naira ($6.3 billion) to the government’s wage bill.

President Tinubu’s administration has faced mounting pressure as inflation soars to a nearly 30-year high, exacerbated by recent economic reforms, including the removal of fuel subsidies which previously cost the government $10 billion annually.

Despite efforts to stabilize the national grid, TCN officials report ongoing obstructions by union members. The unions have also called for a reversal of a recent electricity tariff increase for high-consumption users, which was part of the government’s strategy to reduce subsidies.

As the strike continues, the situation remains fluid, with significant implications for Nigeria’s economy and daily life.

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