Jonathan apologises to diplomats

2012-01-18 07:39

Abuja - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has apologised to foreign diplomats resident in the country over inconveniences they underwent following a nationwide strike and protests triggered by a fuel price hike.

"I regret the inconveniences some of you passed through because of the government attempt to look at the way we look at our oil industry by adjusting the pump price and the issue of deregulating the oil sector," he told them at a reception late Tuesday.

More than a dozen people died during the protests across the country, including two shot dead by the police.

"That led to demonstrations by labour and civil societies. I believe some of you suffered some inconvenience because you couldn't go out for a week, you couldn't visit people you would have loved to visit," Jonathan said.

The strike over fuel prices that had begun on January 09 had shut down Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer while also bringing tens of thousands out into the streets in protest.

The military launched a crackdown on protests and labour leaders suspended the week-long strike on Monday over government removal of fuel subsidy.

The government ended fuel subsidies on January 01, causing petrol prices to more than double from 65 naira per litre ($0.40) to 140 naira or more.

Most in the country of some 160 million people live on less than $2 a day, and Nigerians weary after years of blatant corruption view the subsidies as their only benefit from the nation's oil wealth.

Jonathan on Monday morning announced reduction of the fuel price to 97 naira a litre.

Government officials and economists have said removing subsidies would allow much of the $8bn a year in savings to be ploughed into projects to improve the country's woefully inadequate infrastructure.

"Government will ensure that while adjusting the pump price, we will not do it in a way that will bring suffering to the people," Jonathan assured the diplomats.