Nigeria Fuel Subsidy Protests Reach Third Day

Posted January 11th, 2012 at 5:35 am (UTC-5)
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Protesters have gathered in Nigeria for a third day calling on the government to restore a fuel subsidy, while the nation’s main labor unions urged President Goodluck Jonathan to listen to the “voice of the people.”

The demonstrators were gathering in Nigeria’s main commercial city of Lagos and other areas.

Protesters held a big rally in the city Tuesday, as tens of thousands of people demonstrated at sites across the country. Another large protest took place in the capital, Abuja.

The nationwide strike has shut down businesses as protesters express anger at the government for eliminating the subsidy on January 1. Dropping the program caused fuel prices to double overnight.

Nigerian officials have ordered striking government workers to return to their jobs, or else not get paid.

The Nigeria Labor Congress and Trade Union Congress said in a statement Tuesday that the strike will continue until the government reinstates the subsidy.

The protests have been largely peaceful, but the country is also dealing with an increase in sectarian violence.

Mr. Jonathan has refused to reinstate the subsidy, saying the government can no longer afford it. He says getting rid of the subsidy will save at least $8 billion this year, which he promises to use on infrastructure and social programs.

Most Nigerians live on less than $2 a day and the fuel subsidy was one of the few benefits they received from the country’s oil wealth. Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer.

Protesters said Tuesday graft is the real cause of the nation’s problems.

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