Nigerian workers began a national strike after fuel costs more than doubled, threatening to shut ports and disrupt output from Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Corp. in Africa’s largest crude producer.
The Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, representing more than 8 million workers, called an indefinite strike to force President Goodluck Jonathan to reverse a decision to scrap fuel subsidies. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, the oil workers’ union, ordered its 24,000 members to stay away from work.
“The objective is that the government must reverse the fuel price increases before we end the strike,” Owei Lakemfa, secretary-general of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the country’s largest trade union grouping, said today by phone from Abuja, the capital. Peter Esele, president of the Trade Union Congress, said members have also joined the strike.
Gasoline prices in Nigeria, where two-thirds of the population of about 164 million live on less than $1.25 a day, surged after Jonathan abolished 1.2 trillion naira ($7.4 billion) of subsidies on Jan. 1. The price had been capped at 65 naira a liter, undermining investment in refineries that resulted in the West African nation importing about 70 percent of its fuel.
Banks, businesses, schools and most offices were shuttered and streets deserted today in Lagos, the country’s economic capital, and Abuja. Protest marches are also planned in major cities across the country, union officials said.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria “has fully joined the strike,” and will “gradually shut down oil production,” Babatunde Oke, a spokesman for the union known as Pengassan, said by phone from Lagos.
Nigeria produced an average 2.2 million barrels of crude a day in December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and is the fifth-largest provider of oil imports to the U.S. At least 90 percent is pumped by Shell, based in The Hague, Exxon Mobil Corp., San Ramon, California-based Chevron, Total SA and Eni SpA in joint ventures with the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.
President Jonathan announced a plan yesterday to provide 15 billion naira in zero-interest loans to transportation companies to help them acquire new buses and bring down transport costs. “Whatever pains we feel now will be transient, they will be very temporary,” he said.
Nigeria’s House of Representatives passed a motion yesterday urging the government to return fuel subsidies and to allow more time for consultation on the issue.