, LAGOS, Jan 10 – A nationwide strike in Nigeria over soaring fuel costs entered its second day Tuesday, a day after six people were killed as tens of thousands protested in Africa’s largest oil producer.
Businesses were shut in major cities and movement on roads was limited, though a protest planned for the economic capital Lagos was off to a slow start with about 100 people gathered by 8:30 am (local time and GMT).
The strike came after the government’s deeply controversial move to end fuel subsidies on January 1, which caused petrol prices to more than double in a country where most of the 160 million population lives on less than $2 a day.
A gang of youths sought to take advantage of the situation early Tuesday, setting up a roadblock of burning tyres in an area of Lagos and demanding money to allow vehicles to pass.
Traders in one part of Lagos, the largest city in Africa’s most populous nation, were also said to have stayed away from a market out of fear that criminals would seek to rob them.
The few taxis on the road often had leafy branches stuck to their bonnets as a sign that they sympathised with protesters.
“We will not call off the strike until the government listens to the voice of reason and rescinds its decision,” said Daniel Ejiofor, a 41-year-old labour activist at the protest site in Lagos.
“We appeal to Nigerians to persevere because victory is around the corner.”
On Monday, police and protesters clashed and six people were killed as tens of thousands demonstrated nationwide and a general strike shut down the country.
The launch of what unions called an indefinite strike came at a crucial moment for Nigeria, already hit by spiralling violence blamed on Islamist sect Boko Haram.
Tensions particularly ran high Monday in Kano, the largest city in Nigeria’s north, when thousands converged on the state governor’s office, prompting police to push them back as they fired tear gas and shot into the air.
The government says it spent more than $8 billion (6.3 billion euros) on subsidies in 2011 and needs the savings to improve the country’s woefully inadequate infrastructure.
Nigerians view the subsidies as their only benefit from the nation’s oil wealth and lack any real trust in government after years of deeply rooted corruption.