Nigerian oil workers in nationwide strike

Aug. 22, 2012 at 9:16 AM
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ABUJA, Nigeria, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Nigeria's capital Abuja has been experiencing fuel scarcities since the country's petroleum workers went on strike a week ago.

Now the industrial action begun by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Federal Capital Territory chapter may spread nationwide.

NUPENG is pursuing the national strike to pressure the government to pay billions in outstanding subsidy claims, along with other demands.

In a last-minute attempt to avert the strike, Nigerian Minister of Labor and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu brokered a meeting with NUPENG this week. The union said that the outcome of will be a deciding factor whether the strike will be called.

NUPENG said it cannot afford to continue to lose members to unemployment due to government's refusal to pay the outstanding subsidy claims.

If NUPENG and the government cannot reach agreement, then the union has called for a nationwide strike to begin Friday.

"The position of the oil workers still stands," NUPENG Acting General Secretary Isaac Aberare said in a report in the Nigerian Pilot publication.

"This time there is not going to be anything like jaw-jaw as such because we have done it before but it did not yield any fruitful result. The union is going to speak the language that government understands."

The NUPENG FCT chapter strike disrupted the end of Ramadan Eid al-Fitr travel for many people, The Daily Trust newspaper reported.

The affect could be much more widespread is the strike expands to cover the entire country.

"If the government fails to address the payment of subsidy, the union will embark a on nationwide strike ... because the jobs of our workers are on the line," said NUPENG President Achese Igwe said at a news conference in Lagos.

"It is against this backdrop that we call on the Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to pay all outstanding subsidy payments to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. and private depot owners, who are being asked by the same government to import fuel."

Igwe said his union's members weren't paid during Eid al-Fitr, making it "impossible" for them to enjoy the holiday with their families.

"It is either they are paid or we cripple economic activities," Igwe said.

Nigerian Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said last week that the government wouldn't pay subsidies to individuals and firms indicted in the 2011 oil subsidy fraud, which saw millions of dollars diverted from the government's revenues.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting some oil marketers accused of fraudulently receiving monies from the government in connection with fuel importation in the 2011 energy scandal.

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