Nigeria police block fuel hike protesters

Trade unions have threatened to begin an indefinite general strike from Monday, as protests continue.

    At least one protester has died in Nigeria in protests following the removal of the subsidy [Reuters]

    Nigerian police blocked protesters from marching to the capital's main parade ground as part of demonstrations over soaring fuel prices which have sparked nationwide outrage.

    Protesters tried to march to Eagle Square in Abuja on Friday when police blocked the road and prevented them.

    The police move was the latest attempt to stop increasingly volatile protests over the removal of fuel subsidies on January 1, which caused petrol prices to more than double.

    Hundreds marched the streets carrying banners saying "no to fuel increase" and "we subsidise government, they
    want to deregulate us". They were supported by some former government ministers and flanked by soldiers.

    "We will continue to fight this government until it does what is right," Nasir el-Rufai, minister of the federal capital territory between 2003-2007, told Abuja protesters.

    "What is right is that they should cut down on their expenses and ensure that our refineries work, so that we can buy
    petrol not at 65 naira but 40 naira [per litre]."

    Ahmed Idris, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Abuja, said: "Today, protesters from different parts of the city, in two particular points, tried to access the main Eagle Square in the city centre to protest or do a sit-in to protest what they describe as the inhuman withdrawal of fuel subsidies and its impact on the population.

    "Police barricaded the whole area, cordoned off the city centre and stopped protesters from accessing that area, which is considered really a government location."

    Nationwide protests

    The protests mirror similar demonstrations this week in cities around Nigeria, where most people live on less than $2 a day and view cheap fuel as the only benefit they get from living in an oil rich state.

    Trade unions have threatened to begin an indefinite general strike from Monday, including by workers in Africa's largest energy sector.

    "An official with the Nigerian Labour Congress, one of the main unions in the country ... said they are still going ahead with the strike unless the government reverses its stand," Idris said.

    "But the government is trying to convince labour to come to a round table to discuss the problem and labour is actually not interested in that."

    Nigeria produces more than 2 million barrels of crude oil per day but has to import nearly all its fuel because its refineries are in disrepair due to decades of mismanagement and corruption.

    The government has said it will not budge on a decision to deregulate petrol importation, which has more than doubled the pump price.

    Nigeria's fuel regulator announced the end of the subsidy on Sunday as part of efforts to cut government spending and to weed out corruption in the downstream oil industry, which it hopes will encourage more foreign investment in local refining.

    At least one protester has died in the country since the subsidy was removed.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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