Tens of thousands
of Nigerians took to the streets for a second day Tuesday and many more
stayed off work nationwide to try to force President Goodluck Jonathan
to rescind a removal of subsidies that has doubled the price of petrol.
Africa's biggest oil producer
on January 1 scrapped subsidies on imports of motor fuel, which may
citizens see as their only welfare benefit, pushing the price of petrol
to about 150 naira ($0.93) a litter.
protests across the country were roughly the same size as Monday. The
roads of the normally heaving commercial hub Lagos, notorious for its
traffic jams, were largely empty.
Jonathan's resolve in the face of the kind of protests that have
derailed past attempts to scrap the fuel subsidy showed no sign of
"The strike is the first
true test in policy terms of the Jonathan presidency. They chose the
issue and the timing," said Antony Goldman, Nigeria specialist and head
of London-based PM Consulting.
they prevail, the prospects for reform in other delicate areas - the
constitution, oil and gas, revenue - all improve. If the strikers
prevail, the administration's credibility is massively damaged. If oil
exports are not hit, the government will hope the thing just peters
Thousands gathered outside the labour union headquarters in Lagos and marched to the marina that runs along its wide lagoon.
workers were also on strike and the offices of international companies
such as Shell and Exxon Mobil were shut. But Shell and the state oil
company said output was unaffected.
group of youths set up a road block of burning tyres on the main bridge
over the lagoon connecting Lagos's two islands to the mainland,
shouting at cars to turn back. "The betrayers in government must free us
from slavery," one placard read.
fired live rounds into the air to disperse a crowd in the middle-class
Lagos suburb of Lekki, but most protests, many guarded by riot police,
The violence has so far been limited by Nigerian standards.
the police shot dead two people in the northern city of Kano who were
helping to pull down the walls around Government House, the seat of the
state governor, according to witnesses and hospital staff.
The police said one person had been killed in that incident.
Police spokesman Yemi Ajayi said a policeman who shot dead a protester in Lagos Monday had been arrested:
"If he is culpable, he will be charged. It could be (murder), but that depends on what the investigation discovers."
independent market stalls and shops were open in many cities but banks,
government offices and large company buildings remained closed. Some
flights into Nigeria were cancelled.
But a spokesman for Shell Nigeria said there was "no impact on (oil) production at this time."
Much of Nigeria's oil comes from offshore fields that rely on small numbers of staff and heavily automated equipment.
of Nigeria's 160 million inhabitants are furious with the decision to
scrap the subsidy, and many protesters said they would stay on strike
until it was reversed.
"If we have
to starve to make the president reverse his decision, I will do it,"
said Musa Abdullahi, a 43-year-old iron worker in Kano.
strike is about every Nigerian and the future of our nation. Every
government has told us that more money on petrol will better our lives
in the long term, but nothing changes."
idol Chinua Achebe and several other writers lent their support. Achebe
said removing subsidies placed "an unbearable economic weight on their
say the subsidy is wasteful and corrupt, sending billions of dollars
intended for the poor to a cartel of petrol importers, and encouraging
smuggling into neighbouring Benin and Cameroon, where fuel is more
The government estimates
it will save 1 trillion naira ($6 billion) this year by eliminating the
subsidy, and the government is keen to use this money to win public
Finance Minister Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala said 90 billion naira a year of the saved money would go
on roads and infrastructure, 57 billion on rail and 60 billion on
poverty safety nets.
adverts reading "Nigerians, let us remember that this is the first
administration that has delivered on most of its promises" were on the
front page of several newspapers.
Jonathan has also pledged to cut the salaries of his administration by 25 percent.
to most Nigerians, such gestures and promises feel tired and empty.
Although many politicians have grown rich from a sector that exports
$200 million of oil a day, decades of corruption have left power and
transport networks and education and healthcare badly neglected and
Jonathan is already
under fire from critics for not reining in almost daily attacks by a
radical Islamist sect in the mostly Muslim north. Suspected members of
Boko Haram assassinated a member of the state security service Monday.