- Nigerian oil workers have suspended the proposed three-day strike late yesterday in protest at plans to remove a subsidy on petroleum products and the growing insecurity in the Niger Delta after last-minute talks with government and security officials in Abuja.
According to a joint statement by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) the decision was reached after two days of talks between unions and senior government officials at which it was agreed to create special panels to deal with workers' grievances.
The secretary general of PENGASSAN Bayo Olowoshile said the unions had resolved to give the government a little more time to fulfill its pledges on improving security in the oil-producing region.
Earlier this month, Nigeria oil workers gave the Federal Government a 21 days ultimatum to address security situation in the oil rich Niger Delta or face the strike.
"Yes, we will be willing to give the government a little time. But a time that will have to be definite and specific. And as soon as we fine-tune that, we will let it out to the press," Olowoshile said.
The official said the inspector general of police will head one of the committees that will work to gain the release of all kidnapped workers in the Niger Delta, and boost security and intelligence in the region.
The unions had early this year threatened to pull members out of the Niger Delta following an upsurge in kidnappings of oil workers, but later delayed taking action in view of the importance of the industry to the country's economy. Nigerian earns 90 percent of its export earnings from crude.
Early February the Nigerian oil unions delayed the strike in protest of the spate of kidnappings against workers in the Niger delta. The unions accused the government of turning a blind eye to the worrying security situation in the region.
Armed attacks and kidnappings and hijackings of vessels in the Niger Delta, which is home to Nigeria's oil industry, have cut the African nation's exports more than 20 percent since 2006.
According to officials a number of militant groups in the region claiming to be fighting for a fairer share of the region's oil wealth for local people, have resorted to abductions and are out to make money through ransom demands.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main armed group in the region, says it's fighting for the region's poor and has distanced itself from armed groups engaged in kidnappings for ransom.
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