from Africa in Transition

Nigeria: Beyond the Fuel Subsidy

January 18, 2012

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Political Movements

In the shameless promotion category, I did an article, “The End of Nigeria’s Strike May Not Calm Oil Markets,” that appeared Monday in the electronic version of Foreign Affairs. It looks at the demonstrations and strikes last week that shut down Nigeria’s economy. Read it here.

It’s also worth reading this New York Times oped on the protests by well-known Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

The government’s decision to end the fuel oil subsidy – the only benefit from oil that most Nigerians see – precipitated a general strike and demonstrations that morphed into protests over Nigeria’s notorious corruption and misgovernment, echoing in some ways the Arab Spring. Eventually, under pressure, the government restored about half of the fuel subsidy and the unions “suspended” their strike. The government has sent troops into Lagos and other cities ostensibly to restore order and President Goodluck Jonathan has called for the arrest of prominent human rights activists, though apparently that has not yet happened. Security personnel also briefly occupied the premises of the BBC and CNN. As late as early this week, demonstrations were continuing in Kano and Lagos, though not of the same magnitude as last week.

Though the radical Islamic movement Boko Haram continued its depredations, during the strike there were remarkable demonstrations of Christian-Muslim solidarity against ending the fuel subsidy. While there has been no demonstration venue equivalent of Tahir Square to serve as a media focus, the current calm is false and the crisis is not over.