Subscribers to Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and those who use its facilities say they have been unable to make or receive local or international calls since the strike began on Monday.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian president, has ordered the finance ministry to immediately release 1.7 billion naira ($13 million) to offset the salaries of the workers who are owed about four months' pay, an official said.

"The minister of communications, Cornelius Adebayo, has appealed to the workers to go back to work as efforts are being made to pay the salary arrears," a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Nigerian government is preparing NITEL for privatisation and last month the nation's privatisation agency said it was trying to conclude a negotiated sale of the firm to a preferred investor before the end of June.

In the past three years, the government has made three botched attempts to sell NITEL.

The company and its subsidiaries have 1.2 million subscribers while the three private mobile phone operators, who came into operation less than five years ago, have more than 22 million subscribers.

NITEL has been a victim of corruption and mismanagement, especially under the country's military.

Source: AFP