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Nigeria Banks to Cut Services as Workers Plan General Strike

Nigeria’s lenders, including Diamond Bank Plc and Standard Chartered Plc, will run limited branch services from Jan. 9 during a nationwide strike to protest the scrapping of fuel subsidies that doubled gasoline prices.

“There will be skeletal services, people on essential duties will come to work,” Abdulrahman Yinusa, chief financial officer at Lagos-based Diamond Bank, which operates 220 branches with 3,000 employees, said by phone today.

Trade unions called an indefinite nationwide strike and threatened to shut down ports, fuel stations, banks and oil operations in Africa’s largest crude producer if the government fails to restore the fuel subsidy. President Goodluck Jonathan will hold an emergency meeting with governors of 36 states tonight in Abuja, the capital, to discuss measures that can help ease higher prices.

“Going on strike or closing down government is not the solution,” Gabriel Suswam, governor of Benue State, told reporters in Abuja. “We need to stand up as a country together and sacrifice so that we can guarantee the future of this country.”

‘Extremely Cautious’

Standard Chartered’s 29 branches and 683 workers will “definitely” be affected by the strike, Diran Olojo, a Lagos-based spokesman for the lender, said in an e-mailed reply to questions. While branch operations may be affected, ATMs and electronic banking services will be running, Udom Emmanuel, executive director at Zenith Bank Plc, Nigeria’s second-biggest lender by market value, said in a phone interview.

“We are being extremely cautious, the lives of our staff come first,” Folanke Ani-Mumuney, a spokeswoman for Lagos-based First Bank of Nigeria Plc, the nation’s third-largest bank by market value, with 648 branches, said by phone today. “Our normal policy is to remain open.”

The Bloomberg Nigerian Banking Index, which tracks the performance of the 10 most capitalized banks, fell for a third day, retreating 0.7 percent to 271.51 by the close in Lagos.

Jonathan abolished 1.2 trillion naira ($7.5 billion) of subsidies on Jan. 1, promising to use the savings to boost investment in power plants and roads in Africa’s most populous nation. Nigeria imports more than 70 percent of its fuel because of a lack of refining capacity.

Oil workers will join the strike called by the Trade Union Congress and Nigerian Labor Congress, Nigeria’s two main labor federations, according to Babatunde Ogun, president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan.

The naira dropped 1.4 percent to 162.05 per dollar, the biggest decline since Dec. 27, as of 4:54 p.m. on the interbank market in Lagos, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, paring its second weekly advance to 0.2 percent.

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