Nigerian aviation workers have begun a two-day strike to protest against working conditions and wages. The strike, which started on Monday, has led to roadblocks to the domestic terminal of Lagos airport, causing traffic delays and threatening flight cancellations. The aviation sector in Nigeria regularly faces jet fuel shortages, which can lead to local flights being grounded and international carriers struggling to repatriate revenue from ticket sales due to a shortage of foreign currency. The strike has been organised by unions representing pilots, engineers, control tower operators and other airport workers who are protesting against unpaid wages, the failure of the government to implement a minimum wage for the industry and plans to demolish the Lagos offices of some aviation agencies to allow expansion of the airport. The workers have threatened to strike indefinitely later this month if their grievances are not addressed.
Abdulrasaq Saidu, secretary general of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, said: “It is time for us to release aviation workers from the bondage of this imperialist aviation management that we have been having for years.” In the commercial capital Lagos, chanting workers blocked roads to the domestic terminal, creating a traffic jam and forcing passengers to finish their journeys to the terminal on foot. International flights were not affected. Police and army personnel watched from a distance. Earlier in the federal capital Abuja, workers blocked the main toll road to the airport, forcing travellers to leave their vehicles and hop onto motorbikes to access the terminal buildings. But the striking workers later moved and traffic began moving smoothly, witnesses said. In northern Kano state, flights were on schedule although aviation workers picketed at the airport.
The strike is likely to add to problems in Africa’s largest oil producer. The aviation sector is a vital component of Nigeria’s economy, contributing significantly to GDP and providing employment for thousands of people. However, it has been plagued by problems for many years, including poor infrastructure, inadequate funding, corruption and mismanagement. The government has been criticised for failing to address these issues and for allowing the sector to deteriorate to such an extent that it is now a major obstacle to economic growth.
The strike comes at a time when Nigeria is facing a number of other challenges, including a worsening security situation, rising inflation, and a shortage of foreign currency. The country has been hit hard by the global pandemic, which has led to a sharp drop in oil prices, Nigeria’s main source of revenue. This has put pressure on the government to find new sources of income and to diversify the economy away from oil. However, progress has been slow, and many Nigerians are frustrated by the lack of progress in addressing the country’s many problems.
The aviation workers’ strike is just one of many protests that have taken place in Nigeria in recent months. In October 2020, there were widespread protests against police brutality and corruption, which were met with a violent crackdown by security forces. The government has been accused of using excessive force and of violating human rights. The protests have since died down, but tensions remain high, and there are concerns that further unrest could erupt if the government fails to address the underlying issues.
In conclusion, the aviation workers’ strike is a symptom of the wider problems facing Nigeria’s economy and society. It highlights the need for urgent action to address the many challenges facing the country, including corruption, mismanagement, and inadequate infrastructure. The government must take bold steps to reform the aviation sector and to create a more conducive environment for economic growth and development. Failure to do so risks further unrest and instability, which could have serious consequences for Nigeria and the wider region.