Nigerians decide change isn't for them

Things must have been getting boring in Nigeria since John Howard and the other CHOGM visitors left as the local oil unions have indicated another strike is on the cards from January 1.
Nigerians decide change isn't for them Nigerians decide change isn't for them Nigerians decide change isn't for them Nigerians decide change isn't for them Nigerians decide change isn't for them

This time the problems appears to be the government's plan to privatise the country's four oil refineries. The irony is that the plants are running at less than 30% (when they run at all), forcing the government to subsidise fuel imports, which has subsequently forced up fuel prices, which is what the last strike was about.

It is starting to feel like the beginnings of a Monty Python flick. Maybe Ernie Dingo can play President Obasanjo.

The two unions, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, or Nupeng, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, also criticised government's claims that it had spent over $US700 million repairing the refineries in preparation for privatisation.

Nupeng contends that the government has provided no proof of the expenditure, such as publicising the name of contractor, who got which contract and why.

So far thirty-four firms have expressed an interest in buying a 51% stake in each of the refineries, due to be sold under the country's snail-paced privatisation drive. This move will supposedly see increased production, a reduction in subsidies and therefore hopefully a drop in fuel prices.

It would also be reasonable to conclude that there would be an increase in tax revenue from the increased production, more jobs at the refineries and an overall enhanced nature of one of the world's largest oil industries.

However, the unions insist that the four refineries - with a combined capacity to refine 445,000 barrels of crude oil a day - should be repaired first, as they are now virtually inactive.

A report published in November by the Department of Petroleum Resources, the oil and gas industry regulator, said only the second refinery in Port Harcourt was operational during the period, producing half of its normal 150,000 b/d capacity.

So exactly where the $US700 million has gone remains a mystery, although this correspondent is waiting for an email promising him 10% if he forwards his bank details immediately.

The leaders of the two unions have agreed to begin a nationwide strike, if the government failed to withdraw plans to privatise the refineries by Dec. 31.

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