Unhappy New Year, Nigerian drivers.
This week Nigeria’s government ended a longstanding petroleum subsidy, and gas prices doubled and even tripled overnight. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil-producer.
The Nigerian government argues that eliminating the subsidy is part of a deregulation effort that will boost economic growth in Nigeria. One reason why: the money the government saves can be used to help open refineries, which could eventually lower fuel costs. There aren’t any functioning refineries currently in Nigeria.
The government had promised a slower transition to higher prices, as gas stations worked through existing supplies that they had bought at the subsidized rate. Instead, Nigeria’s The Guardian newspaper reported that gas stations immediately sold gas at much higher prices, as did bus companies and other transportation providers. Prices on consumer goods like food also jumped.
Reaction amongst Nigerians was strong — “Government’s decision is very hasty and callous. Government does not have the feelings of the masses at heart. Government is just wicked,” Martin Gijo, a taxi driver, told the Guardian. The paper reported that fistfights between transit drivers and their riders broke out in some places.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Labour Party called for a general strike in protest, drawing hundreds of Nigerians into the streets.