Nigeria Oil Union Begins Nationwide Strike

LAGOS (Dow Jones)

Oil production and loading will be shut down by midnight Wednesday as part of ongoing nationwide strike, a leader of one of the oil unions said late Wednesday.

"We have instructed our people (members), especially those at the Department of Petroleum Resources, to ensure that all loadings ongoing should be facilitated to ensure that production and loading should be shut down by midnight today," Bayo Olowoshile, general secretary of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Employees of the DPR hold the keys to the loading terminals. They're needed at the loading terminals to monitor how much crude is being loaded onto vessels for export from Nigeria.

Unions on Wednesday began a nationwide strike to protest price increases for gasoline and other fuels, as well as the value added tax rate increase implemented by the previous government.

The government has responded by reducing the increase in gasoline prices and reversing the 100% hike in the VAT rate, but the workers are insisting on a complete reversal of the gasoline price hikes.

Olowoshile said that despite the directive by Pengassan to its members, the union had not foreclosed last-minute discussions by the government to the end the strike.

"We expect negotiations with the government tomorrow (Thursday), but we know that the government may want to meet us today," he said.

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