A union representing 20,000 oil and gas workers in Nigeria announced on January 12 that it would shut down all production from January 15 unless the government restored a petrol subsidy it scrapped on January 1.
The Pengassan union said if the government refused, it would be “forced to go ahead and apply the bitter option of ordering the systematic shutting down of oil and gas production”.
Pengassan president Babatunde Ogun had told members to “be on red alert in preparation for total production shutdown”.
He said his union could accept the scrapping of the subsidy, but only if the government had “built new refineries, ensured regular power supplies, provided social infrastructure such as railways and roads”.
He said President Goodluck Jonathan must take firm measures to “eliminate corruption associated with supply and distribution of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the oil industry.”
Petrol prices in Nigeria have more than doubled since the subsidy was scrapped, causing travel and food costs to rise too in a developing country where most people survive on less than ￡1.30 a day.
Jonathan said removing the subsidy was necessary to save the country about ￡5 billion a year. He has promised to invest that in much-needed infrastructure projects.
Workers who have joined mass demonstrations in Lagos, Abuja and Kano since unions launched a national strike on January 9 say the government must stamp out corruption first.
Almost all shopkeepers are honouring the strike. Some union activists have reportedly threatened to overrun any shops that try to open, warning that anything they find inside will be redistributed.
Foreign oil firms say they are monitoring the situation closely and the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation says it hasn't yet changed its production and shipping forecasts.
[This article is reprinted from Morning Star.]