After a week of furore and violent protests crippled several Nigerian cities, the government on Monday partially reinstated the fuel subsidy it had withdrawn on January 1, bringing down the oil price and prompting labour unions to suspend their strikes for further talks.
After a series of meetings with two trade unions that had led the anti price hike protests, President Goodluck Jonathan announced in a public broadcast that the oil prices will now come down to USD 0.60 per litre with the reinstatement of a part of the subsidy.
The prices that were as low as $0.4 per litre before the January 1 decision to lift subsidies, but had spiked up to $0.96 per litre after the move.
Street protests that followed the strike announcement by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) saw Nigerians trooping out en masse in major cities chanting anti-government slogans.
The unions had said they did not accept the rise in prices, and urged the citizens to desist from protests but to stay away from work.
However, civil societies who joined the demonstrations continued with the protest in the country’s commercial city of Lagos even as armed soldiers confronted them.
About 1,000 protesters who converged at Gani Fawehinmi park in Lagos were confronted by armoured tanks that prevented them from reaching the main venue of the demonstration.
Soldiers also took over the venue of protests at the country’s capital, Abuja.
Labour unions, meanwhile, suspended their strikes that had paralysed economic and social activities in Africa’s top oil producer.
NLC president, Abdulwaheed Omar, announced this in conjunction with members of the associate TUC.
Mr. Jonathan said his government had spent more than USD 8 billion on subsidies in one year alone and warned that the country may get bankrupt if the subsidy continued.
He also argued that the removal of the subsidy would enable his government to have enough money to build or develop necessary infrastructure like roads and electricity.
Citizens see the fuel subsidy as a key benefit in the major oil-producing African country.
Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer with an average production of 2.4 million barrels per day.
Over 70 per cent of refined products are imported due to lack of refineries but major marketers boast they would build refineries after deregulation.