The protest bells are ringing in Nigeria and the masses are coming out to say no to a president they voted massively for in an election that was termed one of the most transparent elections in the country's entire history.
In 2011, the people of Nigeria went to the polls to select a new leader, the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who had automatically succeeded his boss Umaru Yaradua. Umaru Yaradua became the first democratically elected Nigerian leader to die in ofice. Since President Yaradua could not complete, the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan succeeded him as President.
Unlike in years past where no president has risen from the oil producing Niger Delta, President Jonathan shattered that jinx. The good will that accompanied the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan was enormous as many whisper “good luck” to Nigeria with a leader who co-incidentally was name Goodluck. To many it was the arrangement of fate, it was the turning point and finally President Goodluck was the man to make the difference.
But nearly one year after the election, that goodwill seems not enough to support the president’s tough decision to remove the fuel subsidy. Nigeria is is the tenth largest producer of oil in the world according the the CIA World Fact Book and 2nd largest oil exporter according to OPEC. It is reported that the country produces over 2.4 million barrels of oil a day. Still, with all this production, the country does not have a functional refinery.
The oil is taken outside the country to be refined and the government subsidizes it to be sold to Nigerians. But on new year's day, the government announced the removal of the fuel subsidy.
It was not long before the impact was felt, as prices of fuel automatically rise to over double the amount before the announcement. It dose not stop there as transportation fares and food prices doubled and in some cases more than double.
In recent years, political leaders have been accused of deceit and corruption. In a country where over 70% of the population are said to be poor, the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade union congress have rejected the government action. A group called 'occupy Nigeria' have organized a series of protests at home and abroad against the action of the government.
When the 2012 budget was announced, close to a billion naira was budgeted for presidential feeding with the exchange rate staggering around 1 US dollar to 150 naira. There are jumbo pay and jumbo allowances for political office holders and Nigerian are demanding it be reduced.
The government team lead by the former managing director of the World Bank, Okonjo Iweala, has said the removal of the fuel subsidy is in the best interest of Nigeria. It is reported that three of Nigeria's leading billionaires and key politicians are exploiting the existence of the fuel subsidy to enrich themselves. The Senate had investigate and came up with names but no action has been taken.
The government had secured an injunction from industrial court to stop the Labour congress and trade union from going on with the strike but the Labour and trade union leaders have assured the strikes would go on.
In a last minute effort to stop the strike the president announced a 25% slash on salary of all political office holder but the Labour congress and trade union have said that it will not stop them. The strike is to start on the 9th of January. The Labour congress have announced that airports, seaport, borders and offices will be shut down from mid-night.
Mfon Abel Ekene is an agent for positive change and for global healing from