Oil workers in the southern Nigerian oil city of Port Harcourt staged a protest over growing insecurity in the oil-producing Niger Delta.  But a white-collar workers' strike was suspended to allow for more talks with the government. 

About  500 workers of the French oil company Total picketed the company office in Port Harcourt, calling for an end to abductions and violence in the oil-rich southern region.

The country's white-collar oil workers union, Petroleum and Gas Senior Staff Association, last week threatened to pull its members out of the southern Rivers state, following an upsurge in kidnappings of its members.  But its strike was suspended to allow for further negotiations.

Union secretary general Bayo Olowoshile says the protesting oil workers were ignorant of the union's decision to suspend the strike.

"What is happening in Port Harcourt is that some of our members, particularly in Total, were not fully abreast of the directive of the national secretariat because of the weekend," said Olowoshile .  "And the branch is working on that now.  They are going to demobilize and comply with the directive of the national secretariat.  This is what is happening."

Olowoshile says PENGASSEN is consulting with its blue-collar counterpart, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria, NUPENG, and that a strike remains an option for the unions.

"We are going to go to meeting and align our position with NUPENG and then come up with a position that will look at all the options," said Olowoshile.  "And in fact, strike is also an option."

There has been an increase in violent attacks and kidnappings targeting oil companies the past three years in the Niger Delta region.

Militants claiming to be fighting for a greater share of the region's oil wealth have been blamed for some of the attacks and kidnappings.  Criminal gangs are also exploiting the chaos to kidnap local and foreign workers and relatives of prominent politicians for ransom.

Nigeria's oil production has suffered as a result of the incessant attacks.