News24

Nigeria faces 2nd day of fuel strikes

2012-01-10 07:52

Abuja - Nigerian unions begin a second day of nationwide strikes on Tuesday to protest against the removal of fuel subsidies, as President Goodluck Jonathan and workers remain in deadlock after three people were killed in the first day of demonstrations.

Nigeria's fuel regulator announced on January 01 that subsidies on imports of motor fuel would end immediately, more than doubling the price of petrol to about 150 naira ($0.93) a litre and sparking protests across the country.

Police shot dead at least two protesters and wounded more than two dozen on Monday after firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protesters in the commercial hub Lagos and the largest northern city of Kano.

Tens of thousands marched the streets in demonstrations up and down Africa's most populous nation and banks, petrol stations and domestic airports were closed. Streets in many cities, which are usually heaving with traffic, would have been silent but for sound of protesters.

Unions expressed anger at the deaths of demonstrators and urged members and the public to continue the indefinite strike until Jonathan reversed government's subsidy removal.

"This mindless killing of unarmed Nigerians on a peaceful protest is strongly condemned, and the Inspector General of Police and President Jonathan will be held responsible for these senseless deaths," said a statement from the Nigerian Labour Congress, one of the two largest unions.

"We call on workers and the Nigerian people to continue to participate actively everyday in the general strike and mass protests all over the country to ensure that the price of petrol is brought back to 65 naira per litre."

Decades of corruption


Jonathan has said he will not back down on the decision to remove the subsidy that economists said was corrupt and wasteful, sending billions of dollars of public funds into the hands of a cartel of fuel marketers and oil importers.

The government estimates it will save 1 trillion naira ($6bn) this year by eliminating it. The subsidy has also encouraged smuggling into neighbouring nations such as Benin and Cameroon where fuel is more expensive.

But most Nigerians live on less than $2 a day and have benefited little from state funds and the government's promise that money saved from the subsidy removal will be pumped into poverty safety nets sound like old, empty promises.

Decades of corruption have left power and transport networks rundown, while the state education and healthcare systems have worsened, despite over $200m a day worth of oil leaving Nigeria's shores and many politicians growing rich.

The lower house of parliament has urged unions and government to back down, but both have refused.

Workers inside Africa's largest energy industry were on strike but the 2 million barrel per day crude export business was largely unaffected so far, foreign and state oil firms said.

Much of Nigeria's oil is from offshore oilfields, which rely on small numbers of staff and heavily automated equipment.