by Chi Ibe
The latest twist to the NLC anti fuel subsidy removal strike has seen Nigerian oil workers threatening to shut down the country’s production.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), which is the biggest oil union, announced yesterday, 11 January that it was ready to join the mass action staged by organised labour and civil organisations.
Babatunde Ogun, president of the oil union, PENGASSAN, said in a statement that since the Federal Government has decided to be callous minded, the union has directed all production platforms to be on red alert in preparation for total production shutdown.
This move, if seen through, would have a major impact on the Nigerian economy. Final decision to pause output has not been confirmed but Ogun said workers have stopped sending production reports back to the government, which was “one of the very first steps in shut down process.”
Of all the events that has ensued in the past few days since the strike began, this seems to pose the biggest threat so far and the Federal government is obviously biting their nails.
“The government is worried about the threat to shut down oil production because if they go ahead to carry out their threat that action will worsen our economic problem which the government is trying to solve, this is why the government is calling on labour and the civil society to come for dialogue,” Labaran Maku, minister of information, told Reuters.
Although industry executives are saying it’s impossible for the union to completely halt oil exports as most of the processes were automated and some workers were non-unionized, still a small cut in output would mount pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, which relies on crude exports for 95 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.