News24

Nigerian oil union calls off strike

2012-08-24 07:41

Abuja - Nigeria's main oil workers union Nupeng on Thursday shelved a planned strike to protest the refusal of government to pay subsidy claims to indicted petrol importers.

"The strike action has been called off... Within two weeks we will come back again, to sit down to look at the issues again," National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers President Igwe Achese told reporters after talks in the nation's capital.

He directed tanker drivers to resume the distribution of petroleum products to Abuja which has been hit with scarcity since last week, causing long queues of motorists at petrol stations.

"We have also directed immediately that our tanker drivers should go back to work and make sure product is being lifted into Abuja" he said.

Panic buying

In Lagos, long lines formed on Wednesday because of panic buying.

NUPENG had called for the strike to start on Friday, but the government entered into a truce with its leaders on Wednesday to avert it.

The union claims some 15 000 of its members have not been paid by petrol sellers, saying the government is to blame for the salary backlog because the authorities have not made fuel subsidy payments to petrol sellers.

The petrol sellers have claimed they cannot pay tanker drivers because of cash shortages.

The government has pledged to carefully vet fuel subsidy payments after investigations revealed massive corruption in the programme.

To make fuel affordable, Nigeria has frozen the price of a litre at 97 naira (R5.11), lower than market rate, and fuel sellers expect subsidy payments from the government to make up the difference.

However, the subsidy programme has been found to be rife with corruption, including false claims and overpayments.

In April, a parliamentary probe said Nigeria lost $6.8bn between 2009 and 2011 through the subsidy programme.

Some indicted importers have since been taken to court.