Friday, April 20, 2018

Union threatens oil production shutdown in Nigeria

LAGOS, Nigeria — A major union threatened Thursday to stop crude oil production and cripple Nigeria's economy as part of a nationwide strike and protests gripping Africa's most populous nation.

World oil prices climbed on the news. Nigeria is the fifth-largest oil exporter to the United States, and a shutdown would force American refineries to replace 630,000 barrels per day of crude.

The union's ability to enforce a shutdown, beginning Sunday, remains in question. But the threat of a strike caused jitters on global oil markets.

Nigeria has been paralyzed by a strike that began Monday after President Goodluck Jonathan's government abandoned subsidies that kept gasoline prices low. Overnight, prices at the pump more than doubled, from $1.70 per gallon to at least $3.50 per gallon. The costs of food and transportation also doubled in a nation where most live on less than $2 a day.

Anger over losing one of the few benefits average Nigerians see from being an oil-rich country, as well as disgust over government corruption, have led to demonstrations across this nation and violence that has killed at least 10 people.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, which represents about 20,000 workers, said it would be forced to "apply the bitter option" of closing down all oil and gas production if the government refused to reinstate the gasoline subsidies.

Union president Babatunde Ogun said if fields are shut down, it could take six months to a year to restart them.

Negotiations between labor and the government ended Thursday night without any announcement. Officials said they would resume Saturday.

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