Nigeria fuel union calls off strike over subsidy


A Nigerian fuel union called off Friday’s planned nationwide strike over the government’s non-payment of fuel subsidies after fraud investigations into the country’s gasoline subsidy scheme.

Fuel stations in the capital Abuja have been shut this week as the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) held back supplies to the government hub as a warning ahead of Friday’s planned action.

However, the threat of widespread fuel shortages in Africa’s second-biggest economy was averted, albeit temporarily, when NUPENG called off the strike, Reuters reports.
“The strike action has been called off … within two weeks we will come back again to sit down (with the government) to look at the issues again,” NUPENG National President Achese Igwe told reporters on Friday. Igwe added that NUPENG tanker drivers had been sent back to work to distribute fuel to Abuja depots.

Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance said this week that it will not pay fuel marketers who have been found to have committed fraud, and government officials have claimed that it is the fuel companies who are driving the strike threat.

Igwe said that the issues raised with the government included the payment of subsidies to marketers, outstanding wages for its staff and what it called unfair labour practices by foreign oil companies, especially Shell and Chevron.

Shell and Chevron were not immediately available for comment.

The finance ministry on Wednesday distributed a list of 25 local oil companies that it says collected a combined 61.33 billion naira in subsidies for fuel they never delivered.

A high-level politician said on Thursday that some companies had started to repay some of this money, suggesting that the government and fuel firms are reaching a compromise.
“From the report we got today from the Minister of Finance, some of the indicted marketers have started refunding,” Senator Peter Obi told reporters at the presidential villa.

President Goodluck Jonathan had attempted to remove fuel subsidies in January, but more than a week of protests and strikes prompted their partial reinstatement.

The protests, which began about fuel prices but turned into an anti-corruption drive, prompted a wave of investigations into the subsidy regime and a parliamentary report uncovered a $6.8 billion fraud – one of the biggest graft scams in Nigeria’s history.