[ 2012-01-09 ]
Nigeria paralysed by fuel strike
A general strike in Nigeria over the elimination
of a fuel subsidy has brought the country to a
Shops, offices, schools and petrol stations around
the country closed on the first day of an
Thousands gathered in Lagos and other cities to
protest at the loss of the subsidy which has
doubled fuel costs.
A demonstrator has been shot dead in Lagos, while
20 people were injured as police used tear gas and
fired in the air in the northern city of Kano.
President Goodluck Jonathan has said the subsidy
was economically unsustainable.
The normally bustling streets of Lagos are quiet,
with the exception of police patrols and
protesters on their way to rallies, says the BBC's
Mark Lobel in Nigeria's commercial capital.
Police clashed with demonstrators as thousands
gathered at the city's Gani Fewehinmi park.
Witnesses and hospital sources later said one
protester was killed.
In other developments around the country:
In Kano, 20 people were wounded as police
dispersed protesters converging on the governor's
In the capital, Abuja, protester closed the
airport and youths camping in the city's Eagle
Square have been removed by police
All the shops in the northern city of Kaduna are
closed and there is a heavy police presence
Ilorin, in south-west Nigeria, is also at a
standstill, a man who runs market stalls told the
There have been angry protests since the subsidy
ended on 1 January as fuel and transport costs
have doubled and other costs have risen as well.
The loss of the fuel subsidy has angered many
Nigerians, who saw it as the only benefit they
received from the country's vast oil wealth.
Most of Nigeria's 160 million people live on less
than $2 (£1.30) a day, so the sharp price
increases have hit them hard.
"With these increases, the cost of transport has
gone up and this has also affected the cost of
food, and the basic necessities of life, such as
rents, school fees and medical bills," said Chris
Uyot, a spokesman for the Nigeria Labour Congress,
one of the strike's organisers.
A similar strike in 2003 saw Nigeria almost
entirely shut down. It ended with a partial
climbdown, when the government agreed to reduce
the subside, rather than scrapping it altogether.
While the strike is expected to affect oil workers
too, industry sources do not expect the industrial
action to significantly affect crude exports,
Reuters news agency reports.
Despite being a major Opec oil producer, Nigeria
has not invested in the infrastructure to produce
refined fuel, so has to import much of its
With the subsidy, fuel was much cheaper in Nigeria
than neighbouring countries, so some of it was
Members of parliament have called on President
Goodluck Jonathan to reconsider, but he has said
the subsidy was economically unsustainable.
He made a televised address on Saturday to defend
the the subsidy cut and other government austerity
"We must act in the public interest, no matter how
tough, for the pains of today cannot be compared
to the benefits of tomorrow."
The deregulation of the petroleum sector was, he
insisted, the best way to curb corruption and
ensure the survival and growth of the economy.
"The truth is that we are all faced with two basic
choices... either we deregulate and survive
economically, or we continue with a subsidy regime
that will continue to undermine our economy and
potential for growth, and face serious
He said that top government officials would, from
this year, take a 25% pay cut, and foreign trips
would also be reduced.
The government says it will spend the $8bn (£5bn)
it saves each year by scrapping the subsidy on
improving health, education and the country's
erratic electricity supply.
However, many Nigerians fear it is more likely to
end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.
Last month, International Monetary Fund (IMF) head
Christine Lagarde praised President Jonathan's
efforts to reform the Nigerian economy but
cautioned that the country should become less
reliant on oil exports for revenue.
Source - BBC
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