From protests over fuel subsidies to attacks by Boko Haram, the most populous African nation is facing a crisis.
From national protests over the removal of fuel subsidies to attacks by Boko Haram, Goodluck Jonathan, the embattled Nigerian leader, is facing the most serious challenges of his presidency.
“What they want is consultation, they say they have never been consulted and they say the subsidy was removed very suddenly in one go. In other countries we have had removal of subsidies, like in Ghana, [but] it’s been gradual.“
– Katie Mark, a journalist and documentary filmmaker
Nigerian trade unions have held a second day of strikes over the withdrawal of a fuel subsidy. And tensions in the northern Nigerian city of Kano were running high on Monday as at least three people were killed.
The country produces more than two million barrels of crude oil a day but imports roughly 70 per cent of its gasoline from abroad because its oil refineries are not working. Many in the country saw the subsidy as the only benefit of living in an oil-producing country. Since subsidies were removed, some say they are struggling – the price of bread has doubled and, in some places, the price of fuel has tripled.
Labour unions hope a prolonged strike will disrupt services and force officials to give in.
“If it’s not enough, we’ll keep going because we have several strategies that we are also going to deploy,” says Peter Esele from the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria. “At least for now there is still power on. It is possible power may go after two or three days if nothing happens. Water may also dry up. So there are other means that we can also deploy.”
“There is a huge trust deficit between the general public and the government and this is not a coincidence. It has been going on for quite a while. The fact that the government is … seen to be kind of a corrupt government … is what is driving this.“
– Garba Sani, a Nigerian political analyst
But the Jonathan administration is not showing any signs of backing down. It says the treasury could save up to $6bn in 2012, telling Nigerians the money saved will be spent on infrastructure development and services for the poor.
The strikes could not have come at a worse time for the government. The country is still reeling from a wave of attacks on Christians by the Boko Haram group and now the general strike is threatening to cripple the economy and bring Nigeria to a standstill.
On this episode of Inside Story, we ask: Can Africa’s most populous country navigate multiple minefields or is Nigeria sliding into chaos?
To answer this question we are joined by: Garba Sani, a Nigerian political analyst and member of the Nigerian Muslim Forum; Michael Amoah, an associate of London School of Economics Ideas and author of Nationalism, Globalization and Africa; and Katie Mark, a journalist and documentary filmmaker.
“The situation we have on our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought. During the civil war, we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from …. But the challenge we have today is more complicated.”
Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president