Mon, Jan 16, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Nigerian unions say fuel strike will resume today

AP, LAGOS, NIGERIA

A nationwide strike in Nigeria over spiraling fuel prices will continue, two major unions said yesterday after negotiations with the government failed.

The statement from the Nigeria Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress came as confusion remained over whether a threatened shutdown of oil production will occur in Africa’s top oil exporter. A major oil workers union had promised to stop production at midnight on Saturday in solidarity with the demonstrations, jeopardizing the country’s production of 2.4 million barrels of oil a day.

During negotiations on Saturday between the unions and government, organizers asked the government to restore an estimated US$8 billion a year in fuel subsidies that keep gasoline prices low in Africa’s most populous nation, the statement said. The government countered by promising to lower prices slightly, the unions said.

The talks broke down just before midnight, and the unions said that demonstrations against the government’s decision would resume today.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not show up for a meeting with union representatives held at the presidential villa in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, nor did Vice President Namadi Sambo. Instead, the nation’s Senate president and its House speaker represented the government along with other officials.

Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati could not be reached for comment yesterday. It was unclear whether any negotiations between the government and the unions would be held yesterday.

The strike began on Jan. 9, paralyzing the nation of more than 160 million people. The root cause remains gasoline prices: Jonathan’s government abandoned subsidies that kept gasoline prices low on Jan. 1, causing prices to spike from US0.45 per liter to at least US$0.94 per liter. The costs of food and transportation also largely doubled in a nation where most people live on less than US$2 a day.

Anger over losing one of the few benefits average Nigerians see from living in an oil-rich country, as well as disgust over government corruption, led to demonstrations across this nation and violence that has killed at least 10 people. Red Cross volunteers have treated more than 600 people injured in protests since the strike began, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday.

The threat of a strike caused jitters on global oil markets on Friday. Fears of tightened global supplies could raise oil prices by US$5 to US$10 per barrel on futures markets this week.

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