Shell opens court action to try to block strike in Nigeria

Nov 01, 2004 01:00 AM

Oil giant Shell opened a court action to try to block a strike targeting oil exports in the world's No. 7 crude exporter, but failed in a first-round bid to block wildcat strikes or other union action in the meantime.
The case comes one day after Nigeria's unions called the Nov. 16 strike over rising fuel prices here, and promised to target Shell -- the top multinational in Nigeria -- as an "enemy" of the people for taking legal action. The price of crude vaulted above the $ 52 mark on the news. At midmorning in Europe, December crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange was trading electronically at $ 52.24 a barrel -- up 48 cents from its closing.

Federal Justice Abdullahi Mustapha in the commercial capital, Lagos, held only a brief hearing on Shell's attempt to block the strike. Mustapha rejected a request from Shell to forbid wildcat strikes or other union action in the interim. Mustapha said such an order was unwarranted, and made only a verbal appeal to leaders of the country's two powerful oil unions to "maintain the peace."
"We will maintain the peace provided Shell doesn't do anything to provoke us," Brown Ogbeifun, president of the white-collar Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, told the court.

Judges also postponed a similar case against the blue-collar National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria. Nigeria pumps 2.5 mm bpd. It is the fifth-largest supplier of US oil imports.
Nigerian unions are protesting September's 23 % increases in fuel prices domestically. An October strike over the fuel prices paralysed business but did not target oil production. Crude prices internationally hit an all-time intraday high of $ 55.67 on Oct. 26, driven up partly by fears of Nigerian supply disruptions among the labour unrest and threats from an oil-delta militia to block production.

Source: Canadian Press
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