Nigeria gasoline drivers strike over fuel prices
11 Jul 2008 13:28:05 GMT
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By Randy Fabi
ABUJA, July 11 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s gasoline tanker drivers went on an indefinite nationwide strike on Friday in protest over high fuel prices and the state of the country’s dilapidated roads, a senior union official said.
Global fuel prices have risen by 50 percent since the start of 2008, triggering protests around the world and raising fears of runaway inflation. U.S. crude <CLc1> climbed to a record high near $147 a barrel on Friday. “The high diesel price is biting very hard on Nigeria. It’s unbearable,” said Pius Ikechi, the deputy president of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers.
“This strike will be indefinite until the government does something tangible,” he said.
Nigeria is the world’s eighth biggest exporter of crude oil but its state-owned refineries have frequent production problems, largely due to mismanagement and vandalism, saddling it with an annual fuel import bill of some $4 billion.
A prolonged strike could lead to a shortage in diesel supplies which would cripple many businesses in the West African country, who rely on generators for power because the national electricity grid has all but collapsed.
The union said thousands of its drivers would stay off the roads to force the government to help stabilise surging diesel prices, which have risen 110 percent in the last few months to around 170 naira ($1.44) per litre. In some areas of the north, diesel costs as much as 200 naira per litre, Ikechi said.
The union wants prices back under 100 naira a litre.
Talks were expected to continue later on Friday when the union meets with Oil Minister Odein Ajumogobia, a spokesman for the state oil firm Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. said.
The union said the government had failed to meet a July deadline to improve the roads in Nigeria.
Poor road maintenance and increasing congestion in the oil hub of Port Harcourt, the commercial capital Lagos and other major cities have made it increasingly dangerous for drivers transporting highly flammable fuel.
The rising cost of living is taking a heavy toll in Africa’s most populous country, where 90 percent of the population live on less than $2 a day. Primary school teachers are also holding a nationwide strike to demand better pay. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/ ) (Editing by Nick Tattersall and Sami Aboudi)