Nigerian Minister To Meet Unions Over State Oil Company Strike

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Nigeria’s petroleum minister said on Wednesday he would hold talks with trade unions to resolve a strike over restructuring at the state oil company in Africa’s biggest crude producer.

President Muhammadu Buhari has prioritised reforming Nigeria’s oil sector, long mired in endemic corruption and mismanagement, as a sharp fall in crude prices has prompted the worst crisis in years in the continent’s biggest economy.

On Tuesday, the minister, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, who also heads the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), said Buhari had approved a restructuring of NNPC into upstream, downstream, gas power marketing, refinery groups, and ventures divisions.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) said 7,000 of its members, including refinery workers, petroleum tanker drivers and maintenance staff went on strike at midnight on Wednesday.

“The main reason for this is that we are in the dark. These changes have created real apprehension among our members,” said the union’s acting general secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, adding that no decision had been taken on the strike’s duration.

Kachikwu said he was “concerned” by the industrial action, which PENGASSAN said also included members of another union, and sought to clarify the changes.

“We did not unbundle NNPC, what we simply did was a reorganisation. NNPC has not been unbundled in the sense of breaking up NNPC into different institutions,” he told Reuters, adding that the moves were a bid to provide proper stewardship.

“We are going to have a meeting with them right now. I don’t want the industry shut down – I am going now to resolve the issues very soon,” said the minister.

An NNPC spokesman could not immediately be reached to confirm the industrial action but a Reuters reporter said gates to the company’s head office in the capital, Abuja, were closed as were seven NNPC fuel stations in the city.

NNPC mega stations in oil-producing Rivers and Bayelsa states are active but some independent marketers have shut down.