Nigerian oil workers grouped under the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, or Nupeng, plan to start a national strike tomorrow to protest delays in subsidy payments to fuel importers and retailers, an official said.
“The strike is going ahead tomorrow as planned,” Isaac Aberare, general secretary of the union, said today by phone from Lagos, the commercial capital. Union officials will discuss the dispute later today with Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, a meeting that could possibly head off the walkout.
Africa’s top oil producer depends on fuel imports to meet domestic needs and pays importers the difference between regulated prices and import costs. In January, the two biggest trade unions in the country organized a week-long strike when President Goodluck Jonathan tried to scrap the subsidy. The strike and protests shut down businesses and threatened oil production, forcing the government to partially reinstate it, raising the gasoline price to 97 naira a liter, or $2.35 a gallon, from 65 naira.
The Finance Ministry said on Aug. 16 that fuel importers and retailers in Nigeria threatening a strike over unpaid subsidy bills are trying to force the government to pay unverified claims. Importers alleging they haven’t been paid are trying to “blackmail” the government in order to avoid sanctions for fraudulent claims, the ministry said, referring to allegations of false claims by importers.
A parliamentary committee said in April the government paid 1.1 trillion naira illegally to importers between 2009 and 2011.
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