Nigerian Oil Workers Threaten to Shut Down Production

Posted January 11th, 2012 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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A Nigerian oil workers union says it is taking the first steps toward shutting down production to protest soaring gasoline prices.

The Pengassan union said Wednesday its workers are refusing to send production reports to government officials — the initial move toward cutting off production. The union says it has put oil platforms on red alert to prepare to close down.

A shutdown could devastate Nigeria's economy and even the threat of one may affect global oil prices. Nigeria is Africa's top oil producer and exports more than 2 million barrels of crude a day.

Thousands of Nigerians demonstrated for a third straight day Wednesday against the government's cancelation of a fuel subsidy. Ending the price support has doubled the cost of gasoline since New Year's Day.

Labor unions have called for an indefinite strike. The government is threatening not to pay civil servants who do not return to their jobs.

Union leaders are urging President Goodluck Jonathan to listen “to the voice of the people.” The president is refusing to reinstate the subsidy, saying the government can no longer afford it.

Most Nigerians live on less than $2 a day and the fuel subsidy was one of the few benefits they received from the country's oil wealth. Some economists called the subsidy corrupt and wasteful, saying it encouraged smuggling into neighboring countries where fuel was more expensive.