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fuel subsidy removal; Day 2 strike in Nigeria

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LAGOS, Nigeria -

Angry youths erected a burning roadblock outside luxury enclaves in Nigeria's commercial capital Tuesday as a paralyzing national strike over fuel prices and government corruption entered its second day.

The flaming tires and debris sent thick, dark smoke over part of Ikoyi Island, home to diplomats and many of the oil-rich nation's wealthy elite. It also signaled the danger of spiraling violence as protests continue in the country of more than 160 million people. Police shot at least three protesters to death on Monday.

"This is oligarchy, this is not a democracy!" shouted Danjuma Mohammed, as he stood before the fire holding rocks in his hands. "We are no longer afraid of you! We are ready for war!"

The strike started Monday by labor unions upset over high fuel prices in Africa's most populous nation. Gas prices have risen from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter) since the subsidy on fuel ended Jan. 1 at the orders of President Goodluck Jonathan's administration. That spurred a spike in food and transportation prices across a country where most live on less than $2 a day

More than 10,000 people attended one rally in Lagos as the strike started Monday, while tens of thousands more marched in streets across the country. Activists also wore shirts bearing symbols for a loose-knit group called "Occupy Nigeria," inspired by those near Wall Street in New York.

Anger also extended to government corruption in Nigeria, a nation beset by politicians and military rulers who have stolen billions of dollars in oil revenues over the years. Protesters also said they want a stronger government response to ongoing violence in Nigeria by a radical Muslim sect that, according to an Associated Press count, killed at least 510 people last year alone.

While most businesses remained closed Monday and Tuesday, some flights continued to leave Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Oil production also apparently continued in Nigeria, which produces about 2.4 million barrels of oil a day and remains a top crude supplier to the U.S. However, the unions representing oil workers have promised to also strike.

It is unclear how long the strike will last. The unions have said described it as indefinite, saying they'll stop only if the government restores the fuel subsidies. Jonathan insists that the subsidies be removed to save the country about $8 billion a year, money he says will go toward badly needed road and public projects.

Those protesting Tuesday morning on Ikoyi Island said they no longer believe in the government, shouting: "They will kill us and we will kill them!" A convoy of police escorting a member of the country's elite arrived, with officers loudly loading their Kalashnikov rifles in an attempt to drive the protesters away. Officers put out part of the flaming blockade with an extinguisher, but drove off, leaving the protesters behind.

Another convoy of unarmed officers arrived. They pleaded with protesters for calm but instead they threw stones as the officers put out the flames.

In Lagos and other cities, thousands marched against the removal of the subsidy, which has doubled fuel costs.

Police fired on protesters in Kano in the north, reportedly killing two and wounding many. Another demonstrator died in a clash with police in Lagos.

President Goodluck Jonathan has said the subsidy was economically unsustainable.

In the commercial capital, Lagos, police and demonstrators clashed as about 10,000 people took part in a rally against the rising fuel prices.

Some protesters waved placards bearing an effigy of President Jonathan with devil horns and fanged teeth, and showing him pumping fuel at a gas station.

"Our leaders are not concerned about Nigerians. They are concerned about themselves," protester Joseph Adekolu told the Associated Press news agency.

One demonstrator was killed and three wounded, witnesses and hospital sources said.

In Kano, Nigeria's second-largest city, at least 30 people were injured as police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse protesters converging on the governor's office.

Two demonstrators later died, hospital sources said. A night-time curfew is in force in the city.

In the capital, Abuja, trade unions and civil society groups organised a march and protesters closed the airpo

Thousands across Nigeria observed the beginning of an indefinite strike called by Nigerian unions to pressure the government to reinstate the subsidy, which many Nigerians saw as the only benefit they received from the country's oil wealth.


Delta State University lecturer Julia Obgede participated in the protest in Warri, where President Goodluck Jonathan has enjoyed popularity in the past.

“So we are seeing the government as very, very mean. Not just insensitive, but mean and wicked to people, after we have supported him so much. I am ready anywhere, any time, so to hell with Jonathan,” said Obgede.

Like most protest, the Warri event was peaceful, although 18 people were reported injured in Kano when police opened fire on a protest there.  
In addition to an increased security risk, the strikes threaten to hurt the economy as well. In an effort to avoid any impact, the House of Representatives held a special session and produced a motion asking the federal government to reinstate the popular fuel subsidy. The majority of legislators cast votes in line with popular opinion, and heckled those who defended the removal during the rowdy session.

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Updated 7 Years ago

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