Utility workers stayed off their jobs Thursday, cutting off electricity and lowering water supplies to much of the nation.

Employees of the national power authority went on strike Wednesday night demanding higher pay. Labor Minister Abubakar Umar said he had referred the demands to the country's Industrial Court for arbitration.In Lagos, the water authority said it could not run its engines indefinitely on its emergency power system.

The workers were demanding that the military government review both their salaries and fringe benefits as part of its plan to run the electricity authority on a commercial basis. In the past the authority has charged rates well below cost and failed to collect a large share of accounts.