Violence erupts in Nigeria over petrol prices

 

Protesters furious over spiralling petrol prices started fires on a motorway and at least one person was killed in the unrest after Nigeria's government scrapped a subsidy that had kept fuel costs down for more than 20 years.

One union leader described the government's hugely unpopular move as "immoral and politically suicidal" and urged Nigerians to resist "with everything they have". But yesterday's protest showed that, once unleashed, the pent-up anger of the masses could be hard to curtail.

Angry crowds vandalised petrol stations, intimidated owners into keeping their pumps unused and attacked a soldier, showing how easily the fragile peace in Africa's most populous nation could lead to chaos.

One man threw cans of engine oil off the racks at a petrol station and tried to damage pumps. After union leader and chairman of the Joint Action Front, Dipo Fashina, asked the man to stop vandalising the station, he did, but later started one of the first bonfires of the protest in the middle of the motorway.

Other activists marched to the protest songs of the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti who fought against the injustices of military rule in Nigeria. His musician son Seun walked shirtless among the demonstrators, as his father used to, and also made attempts to keep things civil.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene in Lagos said the protest had started with activists wielding signs and walking down a major route, but before long angry protesters lit bonfires and vandalised at least three petrol stations.

In the central city of Ilorin, another violent protest where policemen fired tear gas left a man dead. The National Labour Congress accused the police of shooting the "anti-fuel hike protester".

But Kwara state police spokesman Dabo Ezekiel said the man was stabbed by motorcycle-taxi drivers angry because they believed he was against their cause. Mr Ezekiel could not say what triggered the attack.

The Nigerian government's quiet announcement over the long New Year weekend that the popular subsidy was being ended triggered a wave of protests in Africa's most populous nation of 160 million.

The government says it will use £5.1 billion in savings to make much-needed infrastructure improvements, but previous attempts to even tamper with the subsidy have been met with nationwide protests.

Yesterday the rapidly growing group of Lagos protesters were going from petrol station to station, telling owners not to sell fuel at the increased prices of about £2.24 a gallon (60p a litre).

That is more than double what consumers paid only days ago for the fuel desperately needed to power the generators that keep many businesses running in Nigeria, where the national electricity supply can be described as sporadic at best.

President Goodluck Jonathan announced on Monday that he had set up a committee to ensure that the savings from the subsidy's end would be invested effectively to improve the quality of life of Nigerians.

Few, though, have seen any benefit from the country's vast oil wealth over decades of production, and a culture of distrust of government permeates Nigerian society.

And the unrest over rising petrol prices is only further adding to Nigeria's security woes. Mr Jonathan already declared a state of emergency over the weekend in parts of the country hit by a growing Islamic insurgency that is fuelled in part by widespread poverty.

And the petrol price hike is likely to result in even higher prices in the landlocked and violence-plagued north, as Nigeria's refined oil is mainly imported through ports in the country's south.

The new petrol price is just over double Sunday's price of about £1.08 a gallon (29p a litre). Most Nigerians subsist on just £1.28 a day and the rising petrol prices are expected to force food prices to spiral as well.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent