Jan. 3 - Hundreds of demonstrators in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos shut petrol stations, formed human barriers along motorways and hijacked buses in protest of the shock doubling of fuel prices after a government subsidy was removed. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION STORY: Hundreds of demonstrators in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos shut petrol stations, formed human barriers along motorways and hijacked buses on Tuesday (January 3) in protest against the shock doubling of fuel prices after a government subsidy was removed. The fuel regulator announced the end of subsidies on Sunday (January 1), part of sweeping economic reforms designed to improve fiscal discipline in Africa's biggest oil producer, a hugely unpopular act that could cause social unrest, at least in the short term. Protesters set up road blocks of burning tyres along the major highways causing a standstill in traffic. Dipo Fashina, chairperson of the Joint Action Front said that the Nigerian government is not acting in the interest of the people. "We want to say to the Nigerian people that this government does not mean well for the Nigerian people. The evidence is that one, it wants to force on the people punitive measures, punitive prices they are not willing to accept. Two, this government is bent on selling out Nigeria," he told Reuters. The subsidy removal is part of efforts to cut Nigeria's exorbitant cost of government, a flagship policy of President Goodluck Jonathan and his economic management team, alongside fixing the broken power sector and speeding up ports. The popular Nigerian broadcaster Funmi Iyanda said the subsidy removal was not done in the right way. "It cannot be done this way, it especially cannot be done but a government that has not shown transparency in its own plans and cut back in its own expenses. It does not make sense. The people have to say no." Protesters forced commuters to alight from vehicles to join the protest while police in riot gear struggled to ensure a peaceful protest. Economists have long argued the fuel subsidies were hugely corrupt, wasteful and simply bled money from the Treasury into the pockets of a group of wealthy fuel importers. Nigeria produces more than 2 million barrels per day of crude oil, but a lack of investment in refineries and infrastructure means almost all of it is exported, while refined products such as gasoline have to be imported at great cost. The Central Bank of Nigeria said that country used $16 billion of its foreign reserves on imported fuel in the first 11 months of last year - half of it sold by the bank to petroleum importers, the other half spent by the Treasury on the subsidy.