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Nigeria Fuel Strike Turns Bloody

Published: 11/01/2012 01:34:09 PM GMT
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ABUJA - A nationwide strike over the axing of fuel subsidies in Nigeria turned bloody on Monday, January 9, when police opened fire at thousands of angry protestors. There were about seven policemen shooting in the air to (more)

ABUJA - A nationwide strike over the axing of fuel subsidies in Nigeria turned bloody on Monday, January 9, when police opened fire at thousands of angry protestors.

"There were about seven policemen shooting in the air to try to disperse protesters,” witness Dickson Oracle told Reuters in Ogba in the commercial city of Lagos.

He said police fired at a crowd of protestors demanding the cancelation of a government decision to axe fuel subsidies.

“The DPO (police chief) opened fire targeting these four people and shot them," said Oracle.

"One died on the spot because he sustained serious bullet wounds and the remaining have been brought to the hospital."

At the hospital, where the man's body had been transferred to the mortuary, three protesters lay waiting to be treated for gunshot wounds to the leg, according to Reuters.

Thousands of protestors took to the streets in Lagos and other Nigerian cities on Monday to protest the elimination of fuel subsidies, which brought the price of a litre of petrol to about 150 naira ($0.93) from about 65 naira before.

Chanting “solidarity forever”, protestors waved placards challenging the record of President Goodluck Jonathan, whose presidency is already under pressure from an increasingly violent Islamist sect in the north of the country.

“Stop killing us with executive lies" and "President Jonathan needs an economic idea. Can anyone help?" were some of the placards waved by the protestors.

The Nigerian government last week eliminated fuel subsidies as part of efforts to cut government spending and encourage investment in local refining.

But the decision has sparked popular anger in the oil-producing country, with trade unions threatening strikes to force the government to reconsider the decision.

Jonathan has said he will not back down and the strikes will test his resolve.

Strikes have forced previous governments into u-turns on fuel subsidy cuts.

"We are going to fight them to the last drop of blood," said Fatai Adepoju, 35, a Lagos civil servant.


Thousands of protestors also took to the streets across the country, including the capital Abuja.

"What is happening is an injustice,” Michael Uche, 32, a bodyguard told Reuters in Abuja.

“I voted for (President Goodluck) Jonathan but he has disappointed me," he added as he checked the Twitter feed on his Blackberry for the latest on the protest.

"There are graduates with no jobs ... living on less than a dollar a day," he said, complaining that when he tried to fill up his car on Sunday it was 200 naira a litre, so

In Yenagoa, in the southeastern Niger Delta, a heavy police presence prevented demonstrators from protesting.

In nearby Port Harcourt, hundreds gathered, hemmed in by police patrol vans.

In parts of the north and centre, covered by a state of emergency to fight the Boko Haram insurgency, streets in towns and cities, such as the volatile city of Jos, were deserted.

Many Nigerians see cheap fuel as the only tangible benefit they derive from an oil-rich state where corruption bleeds billions of dollars from state coffers.

Critics say wealthy politicians could have found savings within government first and tackled oil industry corruption.

Despite its huge oil wealth, Nigeria is forced to import costly refined fuel because it lacks its own capacity.

Hopes are that the new pricing regime will prompt investment in oil refineries and reverse disrepair caused by decades of corrupt mismanagement.

The subsidy also encouraged smuggling into neighboring nations such as Benin and Cameroon where fuel is more expensive.The government estimates it will save 1 trillion naira ($6 billion) this year by eliminating the subsidy.

Reproduced with permission from