(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria's two main oil unions
halted plans to start an indefinite national strike on Jan. 1
until they meet with government officials to discuss proposals
to privatize the nation's four state-owned oil refineries.
15,000-member, manager-level Petroleum and Natural
Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, has
scheduled talks with petroleum and labor ministry officials for
Jan. 7. The blue-collar National Union of Petroleum and Natural
Gas Workers, or Nupeng, has not set a date for discussions,
although it will "engage" with government before deciding on
government does not back down," Pengassan may call strike
action, which will start by halting the loading of crude
cargoes and a gradual shutdown of oil and gas
production, said Pengassan President Babatunde Ogun.
ranking as Africa's largest oil producer, relies on fuel
imports to meet more than 70% of its needs, as its 445,000
barrels a day of refining capacity operates at
minimal rates because of poor maintenance and aging equipment.
Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke said in a November interview
that the Nigerian government will pursue the sale of the Port
Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries before the end of the
first quarter of 2014.
The plan to
sell the refineries is "against the overall national interest
and in the interest of a few," Pengassan and Nupeng said in a
December 18 joint statement. The government's plan will
"transfer government monopoly to cartels that will dictate the
market," the unions said.
government's privatization plans come as Africa's richest man,
Aliko Dangote, seeks to construct a $9 billion oil refinery, petrochemical and fertilizer complex
in southwestern Nigeria by 2016. Mr. Dangote says the new plant
will reduce Nigerian fuel imports.