Nigeria Oil Workers' Unions Threaten Strike Over Violence

ABUJA Feb. 1, 2007 (AP)

The two main Nigerian oil workers' unions on Thursday threatened a strike next week to protest against rising violence in the country's petroleum-producing southern region.

Dozens of workers, foreign and Nigerian, have been seized in attacks in the Niger Delta region in recent weeks, and the unions said they would protest by a work stoppage beginning Monday.

The 20,000 blue- and white-collar union members "are of the opinion that the environment is not safe enough for them to continue operation," said Peter Akpatason, one of the union's leaders on behalf of both unions.

"So they want to stay at home pending when the government and other stakeholders are able to put arrangements in place to guarantee safety and security of life and property," he told reporters after meeting with Energy Minister Edmund Daukoru.

Officials said the government was concerned by the violence and that President Olusegun Obasanjo would address the unions' concerns in the hope of averting a stoppage.

Periodic oil-worker union strikes shut down fuel deliveries across Nigeria, but rarely shut down production or exports from Africa's biggest producer of crude. Nigeria is the world's eighth-largest exporter and a main supplier of oil to the U.S.

Kidnappings and militant attacks in the region where the crude is pumped has cut nearly one quarter of Nigeria's normal 2.5-million-barrel-a-day output, helping send crude prices to historic highs.

Violence in the region is motivated partly by criminality and partly by militancy aimed at trying to force the federal government to give the region greater control of oil funds.

Hostage takings are common, but most captives are released unharmed.

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