Nigerian Unions Say Fuel Subsidy Protests Will Continue

Posted January 11th, 2012 at 1:05 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Nigeria's main labor unions have called for workers to remain on strike until the government restores a fuel subsidy, saying President Goodluck Jonathan should listen to the “voice of the people.”

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Tuesday in cities across the country, with big rallies in the commercial center, Lagos, and in the capital, Abuja.

The nationwide strike, which began Monday, 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 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 graft is the real cause of the nation's problems.

“We are talking about the fuel subsidy, but the real problem is corruption, they are wasting our money.”

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

(( # # # aptn, Reuters video ) )