Nigeria – Double crisis

Nigeria is in crisis with escalating racial and religious conflicts. Demonstrations against a government decision to raise fuel prices have become widespread. The media reports growing social instability there and risk of a civil war.


Nigeria – Double crisis - ảnh 1
Racial and religious demonstrations in Nigeria

Demonstrations broke out when the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency said it would stop paying subsidies to petroleum importers. The announcement doubled the gasoline price from 0.45 USD to 0.96 USD per litter. Despite being the biggest oil producer in Africa and a member of OPEC, Nigeria still has to import refined petroleum products at great cost. Government officials say Nigeria paid 8 billion USD in fuel subsidies last year. It will halt fuel subsidies to divert capital to upgrading infrastructure and reducing pressure on foreign currency reserves. But for the many Nigerians who live on less than 2 USD per day, the fuel subsidies were their only government benefit. Demonstrations over the past 10 days have shown no sign of ending soon. Protestors say the government’s policy favours the middle and upper classes, while sky-rocket transportation costs have made the life of most people more difficult.

Clashes occurred on Monday between the demonstrators and police in some cities killing scores of people. The country was almost paralyzed by a 2-day strike on Monday and Tuesday when all in-bound flights, petrol stations, and banks were closed.

Meanwhile, racial and religious conflict has turned bloody is Africa’s most populous nation. The north of Nigeria is primarily Muslim, while Christians dominate the south. The Boko Haram sect of Islamic extremists issued an ultimatum which has forced Christians in the north to relocate to the south. The sect masterminded bloody attacks against Christians, including Christmas suicide bombings across the country which killed 37 people and injured 57. Last Wednesday, northern Nigeria was shaken by three bomb blasts despite the imposition of a state of emergency. The government of President Goodluck Jonathan is struggling ineffectually against this series of attacks, demonstrations, and strikes.

In December, 2010, in Tunisia, a merchant named Mohamed el-Bouzazi burned himself to death to protest the local authority’s maltreatment. The incident ignited demonstrations against the government which spread to other Middle East and North African countries as the Arab Spring Movement demanding democracy and government reforms. The fuel subsidy removal could ignite a big fire in Nigeria, fanned by the wind of the racial and religious intolerance exemplified by the Boko Haram extremists, who have vowed to fight against the government to create an Islamic state and impose Sharia law across Nigeria. 

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