Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images.
A Nigerian oil and gas workers union has threatened to stop all production beginning Sunday, escalating the nationwide strike that began Monday over the government's decision to end a subsidy that kept gas prices low for Nigerians.
The union, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, represents 20,000 workers according to the Associated Press. In a statement released Thursday, they said they'd be “forced to go ahead and apply the bitter option of ordering the systematic shutting down of oil and gas production” if the subsidies aren't put back in place.
While it's unlikely that workers will be able to completely halt production in the country, even a dent in the output would put immense pressure on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan: Nigeria's crude accounts for 80 percent of state revenue and more than 95 percent of export income, Bloomberg notes. Nigeria is a top supplier of crude for the U.S., and a strike would leave Americans refineries needing to replace 630,000 barrels of crude per day.
The AP reports that the removal of the subsidy, which had been in place for 2 decades, caused gas prices in the country to double overnight, affecting transportation and food costs. According to Bloomberg, two-thirds of Nigerians live on $1.25 or less a day. Although the removal of the subsidy is devastating for Nigerians' daily budgets, Reuters notes that many economists believe the subsidy would have soon sent the entire country into bankruptcy.
President Jonathan has said that the country needs the savings (which he estimates at $7.4 billion) from the subsidy's removal for much-needed updates to the country's infrastructure.
As Bloomberg reports, at least one other union, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria, have removed their workers from oil fields in support of the strike.