ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's government and labor unions failed Saturday night to end a paralyzing nationwide strike over high gasoline costs, potentially sparking an oil production shutdown in a nation vital to U.S. oil supplies.
Nigeria Labor Congress president Abdulwaheed Omar told journalists outside the presidential palace: "We have not reached a compromise." He avoided answering direct questions about whether oil production would shut down in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria had threatened to stop all oil production in Nigeria at midnight. President Babatunde Ogun was not immediately available for comment.
Nigeria, which produces about 2.4 million barrels of crude a day, is the fifth-largest oil exporter to the U.S. While the country has a several-week stock of oil ready for export, the threatened shutdown Sunday could shake oil futures as traders remained concerns about worldwide supply.
The strike began Monday, paralyzing the nation of more than 160 million people. The root cause remains gasoline prices: President Goodluck Jonathan's government abandoned subsidies that kept gasoline prices low Jan. 1, causing prices to spike from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter). The costs of food and transportation also largely doubled in a nation where most people live on less than $2 a day.
Anger over losing one of the few benefits average Nigerians see from being an oil-rich country, as well as disgust over government corruption, have led to demonstrations across this nation and violence that has killed at least 10 people. Red Cross volunteers have treated more than 600 people injured in protests since the strike began, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday.
Even if strikers are only partially successful, fears of tightened global supplies could raise oil prices by $5-$10 per barrel on futures markets next week. Gasoline prices would follow, rising by as much as 10 cents per gallon and forcing U.S. drivers to spend an additional $36 million a day at the pump.
Experts predict the national average in the U.S. could rise as high as $4.25 per gallon ($1.12 a liter) in 2012.
Jon Gambrell reported from Lagos, Nigeria and can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.