After a week of “Occupation” protests paralyzed the country’s cities, Nigeria’s government slashed fuel prices on Jan. 15. Fuel prices had jumped to $3.50 a gallon after President Goodluck Jonathan lifted subsidies, sparking the protest wave. But Jonathan said he will reduce the price only to about $2.75 a gallon—not the $1.70 Nigerians had been paying before the government eliminated subsidies on Jan. 1. Popular leaders say they will maintain their protests, and talks between the government and labor unions have failed to reach an accord. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has not withdrawn its threat to shut down oil production in the country. Tens of thousands took to the streets in cities across the country for five consecutive days last week, and three were killed in clashes with police in Kano City.
The strikes come amid ongoing ethnic and religious conflict. In southwest Benin City, five people were killed last week as a mob attacked the city’s central mosque and a Koranic school. The religious conflict also touches on the oil dispute—as the mostly Muslim north is more sparsely inhabited and uses far less gasoline than the mostly Christian and more urbanized south. The chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Gov. Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu of Niger state, is demanding that if fuel subsidy is restored after negotiations with labor, states should pay according to consumption levels. (NYT, Reuters, CNN, Jan. 16; This Day, Lagos, Jan. 13 via AllAfrica.com)