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Bloomberg: Nigeria’s Striking Oil Workers Leave Export Terminals (Update2)

By Julie Ziegler

June 21 (Bloomberg) — Nigerian oil workers left the country’s export terminals as a nationwide general strike began its second day, intensifying the protest against an increase in domestic fuel prices.

“What we did is halt exports,” said Lumumba Okugbawa, the deputy general secretary of the Petroleum & Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, one of the main oil workers’ unions. “We tried to make it everywhere.”

Union leaders are meeting today with the federal government after talks stalled yesterday.

The unions want a full reversal of an increase in automobile-fuel prices to 75 naira (59 cents) from 65 naira that was implemented last month by outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo. The strike is the first major test for President Umaru Yar’Adua, who took office on May 29.

Earlier this week, the government agreed to cut the increase by half, reducing pump prices to 70 naira. It also met a union demand to repeal a doubling of the value-added tax, imposed last month in the last days of Obasanjo’s administration.

Okugbawa confirmed all union workers had left Nigeria’s export terminals.

Companies may have tried to put managers into the jobs they left vacant, he said.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, pumping about 2 million barrels a day in May, Bloomberg data show. About half of Nigeria’s exports go to the U.S., where crude rose as high as $69.88 a barrel today on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“The strikes and turbulence in Nigeria may contract the supply of Bonny Light crude oil,” said Thina Saltvedt, an analyst at Nordea Bank AB in Oslo. Bonny Light, Nigeria’s blend of crude, “contains a high volume of light naphtha valued to make petrol.”

Complying Fully

Chevron Corp. spokesman Femi Odumabo said union workers were “fully complying” with the strike. Odumabo declined to comment on whether the walkout was affecting production.

Precious Okolobo, a spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Nigeria venture, said he was “unaware” of whether workers had left the terminals. He reiterated yesterday’s statement that Shell was doing everything possible to minimize the impact on production.

Levi Ajuonuma, a spokesman for the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Co., said his agency is “coordinating with the government to respond” to the strike.

“Everybody is appealing to the unions to call off the strike,” Ajuonuma said in an interview from Abuja, adding that he hasn’t been able to verify whether workers left the terminals. Pengassan employees of NNPC certify crude exports and play a key role in loading them.

The strike shut businesses throughout the nation and emptied the streets of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center. Most filling stations were closed and concern grew that fuel would run short.

A station in the Ikoyi area of Lagos owned by the state oil company sold fuel for 74 naira a liter, above the regulated price of 70 naira. Cars lined up more than half a mile (800 meters) to refill tanks.

Segun Adeniyi, a spokesman for Yar’Adua, couldn’t be reached for comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Ziegler in Lagos at
Last Updated: June 21, 2007 10:37 EDT

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