The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 76/No. 5      February 6, 2012

Protests force Nigerian
gov’t to reduce fuel hike
A one-week nationwide strike and protest forced the Nigerian government to pull back from doubling fuel prices. After oil workers threatened to join the strike, President Goodluck Jonathan announced Jan. 16 that the government would restore some of the estimated $8 billion annual fuel subsidy, reducing the price jump to 50 percent. Union officials then agreed to end the strike.

Jonathan claimed that he had planned to redirect the subsidy to funding public transportation and creating jobs for youth and that his administration “is committed to tackling corruption.”

“I think the government has not given an argument that is convincing,” Nted Anthony Emmanuel, president of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, said in a phone interview just prior to the settlement. “Workers are in a difficult situation. The unemployment rate is 60 percent, more than 70 percent among youth. If fuel goes up, food prices and every other thing will rise.”

“Nobody believes the government anymore,” he added. “People have lost confidence; 90 percent of the government is corrupt.”

Nigeria, with 160 million people, is the most populous country in Africa.

It is a major natural gas and oil producer, pumping 2.4 million barrels of crude oil a day, and the fifth largest oil exporter to the U.S. Despite this, the country imports most of its refined gasoline, diesel and other fuel, to the advantage of foreign oil companies such as Exxon-Mobil, Shell and Chevron. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, 80 percent of Nigeria’s imports in the oil and gas sector come from U.S.-based companies.

“If the refineries were working at full capacity, that would be enough to meet Nigeria’s needs,” Sunday Alhassan, president of the National Union of Posts and Telecommunication Employees told the Militant. But the nations’ four refineries, which are government-run, are either not running or so poorly maintained they are nowhere near capacity, he said.

Nigeria has been hard hit by the worldwide economic crisis, Regina Agunlana, president of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers, told the Militant. “We used to have almost 100,000 union members, now we are down to 20,000, due to layoffs and plant closings.”

Working people across the country backed the strike, defying the government’s declaration that it was illegal. Tens of thousands, including both Christians and Muslims, marched against the price hike in Lagos, a city of 10 million, and in Minna in the center of the country. Protestors and police clashed in Kano in the north.  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home