By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published Jan 21, 2012 4:15 PM
In the aftermath of the general strike, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan has deployed troops to the country’s commercial capital of Lagos. The leadership of the Nigerian Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress declared the strike over on the evening of Jan. 15 after the administration reduced the amount of fuel cost increases that prompted the nationwide strike and other actions — but still kept the increase at 50 percent.
Members of the Civil Society Organizations and other forces within the labor movement expressed dissatisfaction over the decision to end the strike. Demonstrations have continued for several days in Ogun State and Kaduna.
In Lagos on Jan. 18, when several people attempted to march in protest against the troop deployments, police attacked using tear gas and broke up the demonstration. The protest action was led by Tunji Braithwaite, a 1999 presidential candidate who, like many others, have strongly condemned the use of soldiers against the civilian population.
In response to the ongoing discontent, Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim said that anyone demonstrating in the country could be charged with treason. (allAfrica.com, Jan. 18)
Leaders of the NLC and TUC pointed out that they did not agree with the unilateral decision by the Jonathan government to reduce the price of fuel by only 50 percent, after the cancellation of subsidies had raised the cost to consumers by over 100 percent. Nonetheless, the labor leaders said they decided to end the strike in order to prevent greater unrest in the oil-producing state, Africa’s most populous.
Corruption investigation begins
There are reports of massive corruption within the fuel distribution system that have resulted from the subsidies program. However, many Nigerians are asking: Why are these issues coming up now? Are the National Assembly and the federal government attempting to justify the cancellation of subsidies, or the half measures enacted, in an attempt to quell unrest in the country?
Of course, the not-so-hidden hand of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are present in the economic policy shifts that are going on now in West and Central Africa’s oil- exporting states. Nigeria is the largest oil exporter on the continent, and the U.S. is becoming more reliant on crude from that country.