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Nigeria Labor leaders call for a two-day nationwide strike

Labor leaders in Nigeria called a two-day nationwide strike in protest at last month's elections, to coincide with the inauguration of a new government.

Owei Lakemfa, a spokesman for the umbrella blue collar union, the Nigeria Labor Congress, said workers are being asked to stay at home and hold neighborhood rallies on May 28-29. The white collar counterpart, Trade Union Congress, also agreed to call for a strike, he said.

The unions argue that the April elections which gave a sweeping victory to President-elect Umaru Yar'Adua and the ruling People's Democratic Party were fraudulent and unacceptable. They have called for a re-run of the vote.

The handover from President Olusegun Obasanjo to Yar'Adua will mark the first time Nigeria has seen power transferred from one civilian leader to another since the country wrested independence from Britain in 1960. Annulments and military coups ruined all earlier attempts for such a transfer in the country of 140 million people, Africa's largest oil producer.

But international observers as well as a majority of Nigerians say the April vote was undemocratic. Thugs openly stole ballot boxes, electoral officials stuffed boxes with votes marked for Obasanjo's ruling party and ballot shortages prevented citizens from making their voices heard in many opposition strongholds.

In some wards where the vote failed to occur at all, the ruling party was announced the runaway winner, international observers have said. The weak, fractured opposition has rejected the results, but has not been able to muster comprehensive protests.

The workers' unions are considered among the few organizations capable of rallying supporters.

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