NIAMEY, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Niger’s fuel trucking union declared a five-day strike on Monday over weeks of loading delays at the West African state’s new oil refinery.
The strike threatens to trigger shortages at the pumps across the impoverished state and worsen public frustration that the refinery has not significantly lowered fuel prices since its startup late last year.
“A tanker truck can wait as long as 40 days before being filled,” said Saidou Abdou, a truck driver. “When Niger was a fuel importer, we did two round-trips per month to the port in Cotonou, Benin.”
Witnesses in Zinder, where the refinery is located, said there were hundreds of trucks parked around the town in observance of the strike call.
Niger inaugurated the 20,000 barrel-per-day Soraz refinery in November 2011 hoping it would make Niger fuel self-sufficient and bring down prices.
But the refinery, 60 percent owned by Chinese state oil company CNPC and 40 percent by Niger, has been plagued by problems, including violent demonstrations by protesters complaining that fuel remains unaffordable.
Soraz was not immediately available to comment.
Niger said last month it would reduce the cost of fuel at the pumps by about 7 percent next year after China cut the interest rate on the loan that funded the plant.
Taxi drivers, however, said the plan was not enough and last week announced a 50 percent increase in fares. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)