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Nigerian Unions Postpone Strike After Talks

Nigerian oil unions have suspended plans for a strike this week after last-minute talks with government and security officials in the capital city, Abuja.

Oil unions in Nigeria, Africa's largest crude exporter, are expected to sign an accord with government officials outlining the government's commitment to resolve the growing security problems in the restive Niger Delta.

The secretary general of the white-collar Petroleum and Gas Senior Staff Association, Bayo Olowoshile, told VOA the unions have resolved to give the government a little more time to fulfill its pledge on improving security in the oil-producing region.

"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.

Leaders of the association and its sister group the National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers met for several hours Monday with government and security officials. A key outcome was the agreement to set up top-level committees to address violence in the Niger Delta and other unions' demands.

According to Olowoshile, 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 third committee, which is on all the issues of criminality that have so far been spotted, how to deal with them; it also going to look at these kidnap cases," said Olowoshile. "And now we can get cracking on how to secure the release of those in captivity and all other labor issues that touch on kidnap attacks and the rest of them. That committee is being headed by the Inspector General of Police."

The Niger Delta, home to the Nigerian oil and gas industry, has been plagued by violence. Militants have kidnapped more than 300 local and foreign oil workers and destroyed several oil and gas pipelines and other facilities.

Nigeria is the world's eighth biggest oil exporter, but militant raids have cut shipments by a fifth.