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Nigeria Fuel Price Protest Turns Violent in Lagos

Nigeria Fuel Price Protest Turns Violent in Lagos

-Masterweb Reports

On Tuesday in Lagos, an angry mob protesting high fuel prices manhandled a soldier, while police shot a young male protester. The fuel price protest is a show of growing anger of the people over government's unpopular removal of fuel subsidy that had kept the price of fuel affordable. The protest started Tuesday with protesters wielding signs, lighting bonfires along major roads and vandalizing petrol stations. The protester shot and wounded by police was reported running shouting: "The police shot me. Take me to hospital." Over 1,000 protesters in the main market area of central Lagos sang, chanted and waved placards reading "no to fuel price hikes" and "we demand living wages". Protesters formed body barriers on major roads, blocking the passage of vehicles and in some cases hijacked buses.

Fuel subsidy removal was announced by the government over the long Christmas and New Year holiday weekend. Transport fare immediately doubled and in other cases tripled, leading to many holiday travelers (especially Igbos that returned to their home states from other parts of the country) stranded. Protests organized by labour, trades unions, activists and civil society are reported in many cities across the country. Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency announced Sunday that effective immediately, it would stop paying the subsidy on fuel to petroleum importers. President Goodluck Jonathan announced Monday he had set up a committee to ensure the savings from the subsidy removal would be judiciously invested to improve the quality of life of Nigerians. He said his administration would use the projected $8 billion savings from the removal to make much-needed infrastructural development and maintenance. Union leader Oladipo Fashina disagrees with government describing the move as "immoral and politically suicidal" and urged Nigerians to resist it "with everything they have."

The subsidy removal more than doubled what people paid for fuel that is desperately needed to power generators that keep life and businesses running in Nigeria where electric power supply is almost non-existent. Protesters in Lagos went to fuel stations telling owners not to sell at the hiked price and shut down those that refused their order. Police successfully dispersed protesters with tear gas in Abuja. Most rallies for protest in Kano were aborted by police through the setup of roadblocks. The few protests that were organized in Kano were dispersed by police and in one encounter resulted in the death of a protester. Many fuel stations in the Abuja, and Lagos were shut on Monday while they adjusted their prices. Those open were jammed with queues and selling at prices of up to N150 ($1) a litre, up from the subsidized price of 60 naira before.

Previous attempts by past governments to remove fuel subsidy were met with nationwide protests that resulted in the reversal of such moves. Most Nigerians subsist on less than $2 a day. High fuel price is expected to sky rocket food prices, making life unbearable for the poor masses. Money collected by police at checkpoints will go a long way in the maintenance of Nigerian roads. Money collected by police at checkpoints from commercial drivers is passed on to passengers or the suffering masses through increased fare. Corrupt Nigeria police personnel illegally collected over N53.48b ($336.5 million) at checkpoints between 2009 and last year. This was disclosed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Intersociety on his report on "Police Corruption As Human Rights Abuse". Click here to read Umeagbalasi's report.

Nigerian police are not toll gate collectors. Money the police extort from the poor masses at checkpoints should be seen by government as money that would have been collected by her at toll gates for the maintenance of the nations' roads. Government should consider removal of police checkpoint extortion and weigh the impact on her purse, before considering fuel subsidy removal. She should also 'remove' government corruption, including theft in the oil industry both by oil companies, NNPC, government officials and bunkerers. We bet you that with all the proposed legitimate 'removals', fuel subsidy removal would be a back burner on the list of government fiscal policy. Why not Nigerian treasury looters be made to return money stolen from the people? Why must the suffering masses be pushed to the brink, while nobody is questioning the police and government looters? Why must government remove fuel subsidy?



There are conflicting reports on the value of income accruing to the nation that was stashed away in foreign banks by Nigerian leaders. President Obasanjo was quoted in 2002 as putting the total amount of money stolen by African leaders at $104 billion - ( Click here to read article ). In 2006, Dapo Olorunyomi, ex-Chief of Staff to the chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) put the amount looted by Nigerian leaders between 1960 and 2005 at $20 trillion - ( Click here to read article ). Ex-chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, in 2006 accused past Nigerian leaders of stealing $500 billion donors’ assistance from Western countries to Nigeria since independence - ( Click here to read article ). The same year, Ribadu was quoted by BBC as putting the loot by Nigerian leaders since independence at over $380 billion - ( Click here to read article ). It is not certain the value of Nigerian leaders' loot, but one thing that is obvious is that it is enormous.

Widespread poverty accounts for the bourgeoning rate of crime in the country, which is being exported overseas through Internet or mail scams, popularly known as 419. Desperate Nigerians are finding their way abroad where they are engaged in criminal or illegal activities such as prostitution, fraud, drug and human trafficking. The Mercury( a South African daily ) November 30, 2006 online issue, carried tears-causing article titled "Italian streets offer no joy, hope for Nigerian women". The article dealt on the sympathetic plight of Nigerian prostitutes in Italy, who face crushing debt, insults, rape, robbery, and battery. They are reportedly shivery and cold, soliciting customers under extremely cold temperatures and constitute over half the Italian prostitute population. The situation is worse today of the activities of desperate Nigerians abroad.

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