Arab Today, arab today nigeria cuts petrol prices soldiers seize protest site
Last Updated : GMT 21:56:09
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Nigeria cuts petrol prices, soldiers seize protest site

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Nigeria cuts petrol prices, soldiers seize protest site

Abuja - AFP

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan announced Monday a cut in petrol prices in a bid to end a nationwide strike now in its second week, as soldiers seized the main protest site in Lagos. Jonathan made the announcement in a televised national address after a week that saw him remain largely silent in public as the strike and mass protests shut down Africa\'s most populous nation and largest oil producer. The president\'s announcement that prices would be slashed by around 30 percent came after last-minute talks had failed to resolve the dispute. He charged that the protests had been \"hijacked\" by those seeking to promote \"discord, anarchy and insecurity\". Unions have vowed to press ahead with the strike, although they said they were calling off street protests due to security concerns voiced by Jonathan. \"Government will continue to pursue full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector,\" Jonathan said in his address. \"However, given the hardships being suffered by Nigerians, and after due consideration and consultations with state governors and the leadership of the National Assembly, [the] government has approved the reduction of the pump price of petrol to 97 naira (about 60 US cents) per litre.\" The government ended fuel subsidies on January 1, causing petrol prices to more than double from 65 naira per litre to 140 naira or more, sparking the strike and protests that began on January 9. Most people live on less than two dollars a day. Soldiers set up roadblocks at key points in Lagos for the first time since the protests began, while demonstrators could not enter the park where they have been gathering for the past week as troops took it over. One protest organiser said musical instruments were destroyed at the site, where Seun Kuti, son of late legendary musician and harsh government critic Fela Kuti, had been playing regularly. \"Soldiers have destroyed our instruments in Ojota and brought down our stage,\" said rights activist Jo Okei-Odumakin. \"I received several death threats. I have been receiving strange calls threatening me with death. They send these texts to me with unknown numbers.\" Jonathan had late Sunday sought a deal with labour leaders aimed at ending the strike. Unions did not call off the strike after the talks, but said they were cancelling street protests after Jonathan expressed security concerns. Nigeria Labour Congress chief Abdulwahed Omar said Jonathan spoke of \"serious security reports\" indicating that those from outside organised labour may try to hijack protests. \"We came to a conclusion that we will stay at home, that is stay off the streets, in order to make sure that we don\'t in the first instance endanger innocent lives because of the security situation in the country,\" Omar said. Asked if the strike would continue, he said: \"Yes, but we have suspended the street protests.\" Nigeria has faced spiralling violence, most of it in the country\'s north and blamed on Islamist group Boko Haram, prompting warnings of a wider religious conflict, including from some who have evoked the possibility of civil war. But the main fuel protests in major cities, including Lagos, have been largely peaceful, although at least 15 people are believed to have been killed in various incidents. Last week, a riot broke out in the central city of Minna, leaving one officer dead and political offices burned, while part of a mosque complex was set ablaze in the southern city of Benin and five killed as Muslims were targeted. At least two people were shot dead as police and protesters clashed in the northern city of Kano on the first day of the strike. Labour leaders have been demanding a return to pre-January 1 petrol prices before further negotiations can occur. While the strike was suspended for the weekend, labour leaders had warned it would resume Monday if a deal had not been reached. An earlier threat to shut down oil production however has been put on hold. Government officials and economists had said removing subsidies was essential and would allow much of the $8 billion a year in savings to be ploughed into projects to improve the country\'s woefully inadequate infrastructure. But Nigerians were united in anger against the scrapping of subsidies, which they viewed as their only benefit from the nation\'s oil wealth. There is also deep mistrust of government after years of blatant corruption.

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