Nigerian army out in force as unions end fuel strike | Africa | DW | 16.01.2012
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Nigerian army out in force as unions end fuel strike

Unions in Nigeria have suspended a nationwide fuel strike after the government reinstated subsidies to keep prices low. But soldiers have been deployed to maintain calm in major cities as demonstrations have continued.

Demonstrators protest against the elimination of a popular fuel subsidy in Nigeria

At least 10 people died during the fuel protests

Nigeria's military used tear gas on Monday to disperse protesters who are continuing to campaign for lower fuel prices despite unions claiming victory over the government and suspending a nationwide strike.

The decision to end the strike came hours after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan partially reinstated subsidies, keeping prices as low as $0.60 cents a liter (50 euro cents).

Unions say they have shown they can guide the country's policy on fuel.

But with some demonstrators maintaining their demands for a return to even lower prices of about $0.45 cents a liter the government has deployed soldiers on the streets of major cities.

A police officer tries to extinguish a burning roadblock during fuel protests in Nigeria

Police have been in force throughout the nationwide strike

In Lagos, demonstrators were dispersed when soldiers fired shots over their heads and used tear gas.

"This is a clear case of intolerance and must be condemned by all democracy-loving people around the world," read a statement from the Save Nigeria Group.

Victory for now

Speaking in the capital Abuja, the Nigeria Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress described the six-day strike a success.

They also welcomed a government pledge to investigate corruption in the country's oil sector.

"Let me assure Nigerians that this administration is irrevocably committed to tackling corruption," President Goodluck Jonathan said.

He also warned that his government would "continue to pursue full deregulation of the downstream sector."

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

President Jonathan has pledged to tackle corruption in all economic sectors

Some protesters want the president to tackle corruption before returning to the question of fuel subsidies, which he has promised.

However, concerns continue over Jonathan's rare use of military power to quell the remaining demonstrators.

The military presence in cities is being backed up with soldiers taking control of major highways and installing road junctions in Lagos and Kano, Nigeria's second largest city.

Weekend talks

Monday's breakthrough and strike suspension came after discussions at the weekend.

The nationwide strike began on January 9, bringing the nation of 160 million people to a virtual standstill.

Thousands protested in the streets and at least 10 people were killed during the unrest. Aid volunteers say more than 600 people were treated for injuries.

Author: Zulfikar Abbany (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Rob Mudge

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