Nigerian Oil Unions Plan Jan. 1 Strike Over Privatization

Nigeria’s two main oil unions plan to start an indefinite nationwide strike on Jan. 1 to protest proposals by the government to privatize its four state-owned oil refineries in the first quarter.

The plan to sell the refineries, which have a combined capacity of 445,000 barrels a day, is “against the overall national interest and in the interest of a few,” the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, or Nupeng, said today in a joint e-mailed statement.

The government’s plan will “transfer government monopoly to cartels that will dictate the market,” Babatunde Ogun, president of the manager-level Pengassan, and Achese Igwe, head of the blue-collar Nupeng, said in the statement. The two organizations have a combined membership of at least 25,000.

Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke told Bloomberg TV Africa in an interview in London that the government of the continent’s largest oil producer will pursue the plan after a presidential audit of the facilities last year recommended the sale due to inadequate government funding and what it described as “sub-optimal performance.”

“We would like to see major infrastructural entities such as refineries moving out of government hands into the private sector,” Alison-Madueke said in the interview. “Government do not want to be in the business of running major infrastructure entities and we haven’t done a very good job at it over all these years.”

While Nigeria is also Africa’s top crude exporter and the continent’s most populous nation with more than 160 million people, it relies on fuel imports to meet more than 70 percent of its needs. Its state-owned plants operate at a fraction of their capacity because of poor maintenance and aging equipment. The West African nation exchanges 60,000 barrels a day of crude for products with Trafigura Beheer BV and a similar amount with Societe Ivoirienne de Raffinage’s refinery in Ivory Coast, according to Nigeria National Petroleum Corp.

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