Although today is a Wednesday, it is more like a Saturday for much of Nigeria. Tomorrow and Friday will also resemble Saturdays. Starting today, every employee of the Federal Government of Nigeria will go on strike for at least three days, possibly more. The demonstration has to do with immense frustrations over a promise the government made early in the year to institute a new minimum wage. They said it would begin in July. After seeing no change in salaries, workers threatened to strike, but the government promised a salary increase to the new minimum wage by October. Surprise, surprise, the workers have yet to see the increase. Workers are prepared to strike for longer than three days should they not see the intended result they are hoping for. In a country that is incurably religious (mostly Christian and Muslim, scary to me at times how intense people are about religion here), this has severe implications for the upcoming Muslim Festival (Eleya). Last night on the news, a prominent mosque leader from Abuja, the nation’s capital, warned that this strike has implications to ruin the entire holiday, as many Muslims around the country are preparing to leave for Mecca (the pinnacle of the Islamic religion). With a nation-wide strike in place, these people’s plans could be destroyed. Other Muslims making preparations for the upcoming festival could also be severely hindered.
This is the first time federal government employees have gone on strike this year. Teachers working under the state government of Oyo (the state I am living in), however, have already gone on strike this year from June to July, also over minimum wage and salary disputes for teachers of the state. My mom falls under this category, as she is a teacher at a public school here in Ibadan. This morning, we had a long talk about the labor strikes as she was making me breakfast (normally I make breakfast for myself on weekdays because she is at school). When I initially asked her how many times she has been on strike this year, she just started laughing.
Furthermore, all university employees at every single university in Nigeria have begun a strike today that could potentially last for over two weeks. Since May, universities in the eastern part of Nigeria have been on strike over salary grievances, particularly a minimum wage adjustment. Due to the fact that state governments in the east and the federal government have yet to do ANYTHING about their dispute, universities all over Nigeria are joining them in their strike beginning today, to help support their argument and to show that all universities are in this together. How does this effect me? It’s too early to tell, but it’s possible that I won’t be starting classes until January. Although I am supposed to start classes on November 29th, registration for non-freshman doesn’t begin until December 7th. Classes begin anytime from around December 9th-14th. Therefore, with the Christmas and New Years holidays, it is very feasible that I won’t be taking any classes until January. Welcome to Nigeria!