No deal on Nigeria strike

2012-01-15 12:14

Abuja - Trade unions in Nigeria said Sunday they would not go ahead with plans to disrupt oil exports, despite failing to reach a deal with the Nigerian government over rising petrol prices.

Unions last week took to the streets for five straight days, protesting the scrapping of a government fuel subsidy on January 1, which doubled the price of a litre of petrol at the pump to about $0.90s.

The strike was suspended over the weekend to allow for talks but could resume on Monday, the unions said.

While the main umbrella labour groups admitted no breakthrough had been made in talks with the government on Saturday, they said that as long as negotiations continued they would not push members of the Petroleum and Gas Workers' Association to shut down crucial crude exports.

If industrial action resumes, ports, airports, banks and shops could all be affected. Many public sector employees are also expected to rejoin the strike on Monday.

So far, the government has offered no indication it will re-introduce the subsidy, saying the money is needed to invest in the country's infrastructure.

Nigeria is the largest oil exporter in western Africa and the eighth biggest in the world. While it is a major supplier of raw crude to the West, the country lacks enough refineries and must import much of its petrol for commercial and domestic use from abroad.

Many Nigerians feel the subsidy at the pump was one of the only benefits citizens received from the country's natural resource wealth. Despite the vast reserves, many in Africa's most populous nation of 160 million people live in poverty.

The government has threated striking civil servants with a "no work no pay" rule, in order to force them back to their jobs.

There is growing concern that the labour action, coupled with ongoing sectarian tensions between the country's Christians and Muslims, could set Nigeria on the path towards civil war.