Nigerian Oil Industry Could Face 'Total Shutdown'

PENGASSAN, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, said that Nigeria could face a total shutdown of its oil industry if the general strike over fuel prices is not resolved by Sunday. "The ongoing negotiations between the government and labor must be concluded on or before midnight Sunday," PENGASSAN said in a statement after an emergency meeting of its national executive.

Compared with other unions, PENGASSAN has taken a softer stance on the strike launched on Monday. The indefinite walkout was called by the umbrella Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), whose affiliate members include the blue-collar oil union NUPENG. PENGASSAN belongs to the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the central union of white-collar workers, which is backing the NLC in the campaign against higher fuel prices.

The strike was called to force newly re-elected president Olusegun Obasanjo to reverse his June 20 hike of gasoline prices by more than 50 percent.

Production and exports of Nigeria's more than 2 million barrels per day of crude oil have not been affected by the strike, which has shut Nigeria's seaports, businesses, industry and the downstream oil sector. Oil companies said they could maintain production for a couple of weeks but that they have no control over junior oil workers involved in loadings at export terminals. The work of PENGASSAN members includes monitoring of quality and volumes of exports at special terminals operated by Shell, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco as well as Agip.