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Nigerian Oil  Strike Continues for Second Day - 2004-06-10

A general strike protesting high fuel prices in Nigeria is in its second day and there are reports of violence in the capital, Abuja.

Labor union officials said police roughed up several striking workers in the capital, Abuja, and surrounded the union headquarters building.

For the second day, millions of workers represented by the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) heeded the union's call to stay home in protest against the rising prices of fuel. The protest has closed offices, schools, stores, and businesses across the country, and police are patrolling the streets. But oil companies are reporting the strike is not affecting exports.

A strike over high fuel prices a year ago led to the death of at least 12 protesters.

Tuesday, a court ordered the government to ensure the reduction of gasoline prices and the unions to call off the strike.

The president of NLC, Adams Oshiomole, said that the strike is continuing because the union still has not seen evidence of government compliance with the court order.

"We are still monitoring the situation but the strike is on," he said. "I have got a report from Lagos, the compliance is very encouraging and the people are still very angry. In Abuja the offices are closed and of course there is little movement on the street but we are also trying to monitor today the extent of federal government compliance."

Government officials say they have ordered the gasoline prices to be reduced by more than 20 percent.

Mr. Oshiomole says it is difficult to verify whether the prices have been reduced because many gas stations remain closed.

Duncan Clarke, chairman of London-based Global Pacific and Partners, an independent advisory group on oil and gas, says the situation in Nigeria could affect world oil, but only if it continues for some time.

"Basically Nigeria is a significant producer and has more capacity," he said. "So if there is a general strike and there was a shutdown for a period of time it would withdraw that export supply from the market. And, it would mean very negative concerns for the government, for the companies, for the production, for exports and for revenue. There have been quite a few past experiences of Nigerian strikes so I think you can be sure that would be the immediate effect."

Union leaders say the strike could end if the government produces evidence the prices of fuel have come down.