Union threatens oil production shutdown in Nigeria

January 13, 2012 • World News

Angry youths protest on the streets following the removal of a fuel subsidy by the government, in Lagos, Nigeria, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. A union representing 20,000 oil and gas workers in Nigeria threatened Thursday it would shut down all production starting Sunday to take part in the crippling nationwide strike over spiraling fuel prices. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A major union threatened Thursday to stop the beating heart of Nigeria’s economy — crude oil production — as part of a nationwide strike and protests gripping Africa’s most populous nation.

World oil prices climbed on the news. Nigeria is the fifth-largest oil exporter to the U.S., and a shutdown would force American refineries to replace 630,000 barrels per day of crude.

The union’s ability to enforce a shutdown, beginning Sunday, across the swamps of Nigeria’s southern delta to its massive offshore oil fields, remains in question. But the threat of a strike caused jitters on global oil markets as traders worldwide worried about supply.

Nigeria has been paralyzed by a strike that began Monday after President Goodluck Jonathan’s government abandoned subsidies that kept gasoline prices low. Overnight, prices at the pump more than doubled, from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter). The costs of food and transportation also doubled in a nation where most people live on less than $2 a day.

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