THE NEW YORK TIMES: Nigerian Strike to Continue But Oil Exports Flow: “Unions vowed to extend a general strike over fuel prices in Nigeria to a second day on Tuesday, helping drive world oil prices to record highs even though shipments from Africa's top producer were unaffected.” (ShellNews.net)
Posted October 12, 2004
LAGOS (Reuters) - Unions vowed to extend a general strike over fuel prices in Nigeria to a second day on Tuesday, helping drive world oil prices to record highs even though shipments from Africa's top producer were unaffected.
The strike brought most Nigerian cities to a standstill and closed many industries, but airlines ran delayed services and workers in the OPEC nation's crucial oil industry maintained operations.
``The strike continues tomorrow because, before we can tinker with the strike, we have to have irreversible progress,'' said Adams Oshiomhole, head of the umbrella union body, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) after talks with government on Monday.
The talks were adjourned until Thursday.
The unions plan to suspend the ``warning strike'' on Friday, but are threatening a total, indefinite stoppage in late October unless the government cuts pump prices, which could have a greater impact on the OPEC nation's economic mainstay.
``The nationwide strike has affected the movement of people in the towns and cities, but it has not affected production or exports,'' said a spokesman for Nigeria's top oil producer Royal Dutch Shell.
``We are taking measures to make sure it has a minimal impact on operations.''
U.S. crude oil prices hit a record high of $53.80 a barrel due to a big supply halt in the Gulf of Mexico and fears about the strike in Nigeria, the world's seventh biggest exporter.
The white-collar oil union PENGASSAN said its members were still manning oil installations despite the strike.
``We did not shut down the facilities because safety is very paramount to us. Our men are still on the oil platforms and export terminals,'' he said.
The five major oil producers in Nigeria, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Total and Agip, have contingency plans to keep oil flowing even under total strike conditions.
``Even if the unions pull out I can deploy non-unionized staff to provide essential cover,'' an oil executive said.
VIOLENCE AT UNIVERSITY
Hundreds of students at Lagos State University in the commercial capital Lagos blocked a major road to the border with Benin, and smashed a bus and car windshield, eyewitnesses said.
Streets in most major cities were emptier than usual and many businesses were closed as people heeded the unions' call to stay at home.
The government, which is removing fuel subsidies as part of its economic reform package, hiked the price by 20 percent to 53 naira (40 cents) a liter two weeks ago.
Ordinary Nigerians see cheap fuel as one of the few benefits of the nation's huge oil industry.
The strike is the second major threat to Nigerian oil supplies in recent weeks. Fighting between troops and ethnic militia in the Niger delta in September forced hundreds of oil workers to evacuate and closed about 30,000 barrels per day.
Oil bosses said the greatest threat to output could come from mass protests if they prevented non-unionized staff getting to work. ``My main concern is mob action which could get out of control,'' the oil executive said.
The NLC has become the most powerful political opposition to Obasanjo since he took office in 1999, returning Nigeria to civilian rule after 15 years of military dictatorship.
Last month a high court ruled the NLC only had the right to strike over working conditions. The government has also introduced a new law to outlaw the NLC.