NIGERIA—Protests have broken out in Nigeria and the citizens in the streets there are demanding that their voices be heard. The protests started after a fuel subsidy was removed by the government that caused gas prices to double within only a matter of days.
Nigerian protesters claim the government is teeming with wasteful spending and corruption. The irony of Nigeria’s situation is that the country actually produces more oil than any other in Africa, but due to a lack of investment by the government in infrastructure, they have no way of refining it and are forced to import fuel.
Demonstrations are now taking place in multiple state capitals including Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, and the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Several labor unions have helped organize the protests and are now calling for a nationwide labor strike on January 9th. In a statement released by the National Labour Congress and the Trades Union Congress, “All offices, oil production centers, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets, banks, among others will be shit down.”
A Nigerian protester named Borha Oseghale Daniel from Lagos, in a communication with Occupy Dallas, stated the fuel subsidy was not the only cause of the protests. Additional demands include a 50% cut in the salaries of government officials, stable electricity, better education and health care systems, and an increase in minimum wage relative to other countries.
According to Borha, there has been little coordination at this time between the seperate protest groups. “Mainly no communication. The protests spread cause of the anger caused by the removal of the subsidy on New Years day. Nobody expected it.” He added, “Right now we are communicating through mobile phones and the internet… There was a scare that the government wanted to cut blackberry services, but nothing has happened yet.”
Borha estimated the rise in the cost of gas to be 116% and said they now have to pay 138 Naira per liter of petrol. To put it in perspective, Bohra added that the average Nigerian survives on $1 a day. One dollar currently roughly converts to 159 Naira. It’s not hard to see why the protests broke out so quickly when you imagine giving up an entire day’s worth of pay for 0.26 gallons of gas.
The Nigerian protesters have taken on the name Occupy Nigeria, at least online. A photo currently being circulated on #OccupyNigeria shows a protester there holding a sign that says “We are the 99.9%”, an obvious reference to the Occupy Movement. According to Borha, the demonstrators do plan to occupy public space as a form of protest. Following the trend of “solidarity marches” that have taken place in the United States, it is likely only a matter of time before Occupy groups in the U.S. begin staging demonstrations to show support for the African nation.
When asked if the jihadist group Boko Haram has had any influence on the protests, Bohra responded, “Boko Haram isn’t a factor in the occupy Nigeria protest what so ever.”
UPDATE: Jan 4th
Borha Oseghale Daniel: Blackberry services were shut down today in states with protests.