By Gilbert da Costa
10 October 2008
Oil workers in Nigeria say they will embark on an indefinite strike if the government fails to reverse the sale of two state-owned oil and gas companies within two weeks. The government says privatizing the two companies will make them more efficient and profit-driven.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers described the plan to sell off the Pipeline Products Marketing Company and the National Gas Company as a mistake that needs to be corrected.
They also demanded the resignation of Irene Chigbue, the head of the Bureau of Public Enterprises - over her handling of previous privatization deals.
Bureau of Public Enterprises spokesman Aniegbo Anichebe said the sale of the oil pipelines and gas companies, scheduled for 2011, is in the best interest of the industry.
He said, "When you look at that sector, take a look at the oil marketing companies when they were not privatized and look at what is happening to them now that they are privatized. We sold some of them at 10 Naira; the highest was 20 Naira per share. Now some of them are like 200 Naira per share and at least people are getting dividends."
The Nigerian government recently announced the restructuring of the oil and gas sector to make it more independent and profit-driven.
Analysts said the sale of the two companies could lead to massive job losses. The government is yet to issue a response to the strike threat.
But an oil workers' strike could be devastating for the industry, which is struggling as results of disruptions caused by militants in the oil-producing southern region.
Last month, Nigeria's most prominent militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, declared an oil war in the region and launched strings of attacks on industry targets.
Daily oil production has been cut by about a quarter because of the attacks.