Nigerian Strike over Fuel Subsidy Enters Second Day

Posted January 10th, 2012 at 5:10 am (UTC-5)
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Labor unions in Nigeria vowed Tuesday to continue their indefinite nation-wide strike to protest fuel prices that soared last week after the government abruptly ended a consumer fuel subsidy.

As the strike entered its second day, angry youths chanted anti-government slogans and set up a roadblock of burning tires on a highway leading to a district of luxury homes in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.

No violence was reported early Tuesday, though many businesses in major cities were closed and traffic on major highways was limited.

Clashes between protesters and police killed at least three people Monday, as tens of thousands took to the streets across the country to pressure the government to restore the subsidy.

Witnesses say a police officer fatally shot one protester Monday in the main commercial city of Lagos. In the northern city of Kano, witnesses say two people were fatally shot. Kano state officials imposed a curfew running from 6 p.m. until 8 a.m. in an effort to restore order.

Since the government of President Goodluck Jonathan ended the subsidy on imports of motor fuel on January 1, gas prices in Nigeria have risen from 45 cents to 94 cents per liter. There has also been a dramatic spike in the cost of transportation and food in a country where most live on less than $2 per day.

Mr. Jonathan has so far refused to reinstate the subsidy, calling it unsustainable. He says its elimination will save the government at least $8 billion this year, which he promises to use on infrastructure and social programs.

Some economists have called the subsidy corrupt and wasteful, saying it encouraged smuggling into neighboring countries where fuel was more expensive.

But many in Nigeria – Africa's largest oil producer – say the fuel subsidy was one of the few tangible ways that ordinary citizens benefited from the country's massive oil wealth.