Nigeria is on the brink of even deeper economic disruption with oil workers threatening to shut down output of crude. The country is in the grip of a nationwide strike over the government’s decision to lift a fuel subsidy, which more than doubled the price of petrol.
The protests have been running for days and union leaders show no sign of backing down.
The president of the main Pengasson union, Babatunde Ogun said: “We are hereby notifying the President of Nigeria and indeed all Nigerians that Pengassan has been forced to go ahead and apply the bitter option of ordering the systematic shutdown of oil and gas production with effect from midnight of Saturday January 14, 2012.”
The strike has shut down schools, hospitals, and transport and businesses in the main cities. Protests have turned violent in some places, leading to several deaths. .
One protestor on the streets of Lagos said:
“Of course there is an order to sit at home, if you are not at home, you are on the streets protesting. So, if you are not for us you are against us, so you better go home and stay at your house. But, those of us on the streets we are saying no to injustice, we are saying no to corruption and we are saying enough is enough.”
Industry officials doubt unions would be able to stop crude exports completely because much of production is automated and Nigeria has crude stored in reserves. But even a minor stoppage could have a big impact on the economy.
Analysts say the subsidy fuelled corruption and keeping it would force Nigeria into huge external borrowing. President Goodluck Jonothan says the money raised by ending the subsidy would fund infrastructure projects.