By Naila Missous
Hundreds of thousands have demonstrated throughout Nigeria over the past three days in an escalating general strike against the government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The strike is in opposition to the lifting of fuel subsidies declared on January 1, leading to the doubling of petrol prices overnight.
Protests began immediately, with a general strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trades Union Congress.
The strikes spread further on Wednesday with the closure of the Apapa port in Lagos, which is the most populous city with 15 million inhabitants.
Rich in oil, poor in reality
Oil is massive business for Nigeria with about 80% of state revenue coming from oil.
With Nigeria being Africa’s biggest oil exporter, the recent unrest has raised world prices of oil.
Many extremely poor Nigerian citizens see subsidised fuel as the only benefit they get from their country’s oil wealth.
In a country with a population of 160 million people, just over 70 percent live in grinding poverty, surviving on the equivalent of less than £1.30 a day.
In Lagos, tens of thousands protested with many young people taking to the streets to vent their anger.
Several hundred protesters took over a major road leading to islands known to be inhabited by the country’s most wealthy.
The Police involvement has been questioned as they have attacked peaceful protesters and have also been shooting into crowds and injuring civilians.
Many people have demonstrated their anger at the police killing of a protester on the first day of the strike, with some carrying a mock coffin labelled “Badluck”, referring to the president.
The doubling of fuel costs is only the latest attack on working people carried out by Goodluck Jonathan’s government, whose policies are dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
For many people, the fuel subsidy was the only form of welfare available. Now, the doubling of the price of fuel has been accompanied by rises in food and transport costs.
The protests have, for the most part, been characterised by a high degree of unity between Christians and Muslims in the country. Yet a number of killings have been attributed to Boko Haram (an Islamist group based in Nigeria) during the past few days, with reprisal attacks by Christian gunmen on Muslims.
Though the reaction to the rise was swift, it is still an unsettling sight within Nigeria with no apparent light at the end of the tunnel as of yet.