Nigeria slashes petrol prices
16 January 2012, 13:48
Lagos - Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan
announced Monday a petrol price cut in a bid to end a nationwide strike
now in its second week, as soldiers seized a main protest site and
deployed to key spots.
Jonathan broke the news in a televised
national address after a week that saw him remain largely silent in
public as the strike and mass protests shut down Africa's most populous
nation and largest oil producer.
The president's announcement
that fuel prices would be slashed by about 30% came after talks with
unions had failed to resolve the dispute.
He charged that the protests had been "hijacked" by those seeking to promote "discord, anarchy and insecurity".
have vowed to press ahead with the strike, although they said they were
calling off street protests due to the security concerns voiced by
Jonathan. However, a range of civil society and political groups have
been organising demonstrations.
"Government will continue to pursue full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector," Jonathan said in his address.
given the hardships being suffered by Nigerians, and after due
consideration and consultations with state governors and the leadership
of the National Assembly, government has approved the reduction of the
pump price of petrol to 97 naira (about 60c) per litre."
He added: "I urge our labour leaders to call off their strike and go back to work."
government had ended fuel subsidies on January 01, causing petrol
prices to more than double from 65 naira per litre to 140 naira or more,
sparking the strike and protests that began on January 09.
Strange and threatening calls
in the country of some 160 million people live on less than $2 a day,
and most Nigerians have viewed the subsidies as their only benefit from
the nation's oil wealth.
Soldiers on Monday set up roadblocks at
key points in the economic capital Lagos for the first time since the
protests began, stopping cars and searching them.
could not enter the park in Lagos where they have been gathering for the
past week as troops and police took it over. Three armoured vehicles
with machine guns were stationed in the area.
One senior police officer at the site made no pretence of the aim of the deployment.
is total surrender to the might of the federal government," he said.
"They cannot come here again today in view of this situation."
Protesters who began arriving on Monday morning were being told to leave the area.
protest organiser said musical instruments were destroyed at the site,
where Seun Kuti, son of late legendary musician and harsh government
critic Fela Kuti, had been playing regularly.
"Soldiers have destroyed our instruments in Ojota and brought down our stage," said rights activist Jo Okei-Odumakin.
He added: "I have been receiving strange calls threatening me with death. They send these texts to me with unknown numbers."
had late on Sunday sought a deal with labour leaders aimed at ending
the strike. Unions did not call off the strike after the talks, but said
they were cancelling street protests after Jonathan expressed security
Nigeria Labour Congress chief Abdulwahed Omar said: "We
came to a conclusion that we will stay at home, that is stay off the
streets, in order to make sure that we don't in the first instance
endanger innocent lives because of the security situation in the
Nigeria has faced spiralling violence, most of it in
the country's north and blamed on Islamist group Boko Haram, prompting
warnings of a wider religious conflict and even the possibility of civil
But the main fuel protests have been largely peaceful,
although at least 15 people are believed to have been killed in various
Labour leaders have been demanding a return to pre-January 1 petrol prices before further negotiations can take place.
the strike was suspended for the weekend, labour leaders had warned it
would resume Monday if a deal had not been reached. An earlier threat to
shut down oil production however has been put on hold.
officials and economists have said removing subsidies would allow much
of the $8bn a year in savings to be ploughed into projects to improve
the country's woefully inadequate infrastructure.