Violent protests, oil spills and bombings grip Nigeria

New Year of Chaos and Resistance Across Nigeria

  • Mass protests erupt as oil subsidy removed
  • Worst oil spill in a decade in Niger Delta
  • State of emergency declared over Boko Haram terror attacks

Hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets and burnt tires in cities across Nigeria in a bid to shut down roads and blockade petrol stations. These angry demonstrations come as the price of fuel more than doubled overnight, from 65 Nira to 141 Nira. President Goodluck Jonathan’s suddenly removed the $8 billion oil subsidy for petrol on  New Year’s Day. Several protestors are believed to have been killed in clashes with police, who used tear gas and other weapons against the crowds.

Nigeria is oil rich but most of its citizen remain extremely poor. Nigeria exports so much of its oil without refining enough for domestic use, that it has to import fuel for its citizens to use. The oil subsidy was essential to keep fuel affordable for ordinary Nigerians, and widely regarded as their only benefit from the oil beneath their feet.

Finance minister and ex-World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is alleged to have pushed hard for the subsidy removal. Citizens aren’t inclined to trust government officials who claim the money saved from the oil subsidy will be well spent. Years of deeply rooted corruption and mismanagement have resulted in profound distrust of government officials in Nigeria, which is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt nations. [Source: Al Jazeera]

Nigerian human rights activist, Femi Falana, was seen at the front of protest marches as major city highways were closed. Falana recently condemned the Nigerian government’s collaboration with Britain over a ‘prisoner transfer scheme’, which will mean Nigerians serving sentences in British Jail will be deported on mass to do their time in Nigeria.

To add insult to injury, only last week saw the largest spill of Nigerian oil in a decade, by the multi-national Shell. Bonga oil field, an offshore site operated by Shell, leaked an estimated 1.68 million gallons through a damaged transfer hose to a tanker. [Source: Sunday Vangaurd]

The President had also declared a state of emergency in 15 local government areas covering Borno, Yobe, Plateau and Niger State. This was in response to the wave of bombings by Islamist group Boko Haram. An explosion on Christmas day killed an estimated 47 worshippers at a Catholic Church and no less than 52 people were shot on New Year’s Eve outside a Police station.

Meanwhile, I anticipate the British Government will continue its regime of mass deportations to Nigeria every 42 days without batting an eyelid.