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Nigeria ends oil subsidy national strike but will there be a civil war?

SAEED SHABAZZ Special to the AmNews | 1/18/2012, 6:24 p.m.

Labor unions in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with 160 million people, ended the crippling nine-day national strike on Jan. 17 after President Goodluck Jonathan announced on Jan. 1 that the government's much-needed oil subsidy would end, according to Bloomberg Business News and the Associated Press.

There are also reports that soldiers had begun using live ammunition and tear gas to deal with the massive protests. Jonathan stated during his national broadcast on Jan. 17 that the government would subsidize oil to approximately $2.70 a gallon, which means that the price per gallon has risen 50 cents since the government's decision to end the subsidy.

Before ending the subsidy, gas was $1.70 a gallon, and without the government's help, gas would have been $3.50 a gallon in a nation where most workers live on $2 a day. Ironically, Nigeria is one of the top suppliers of crude to the United States. London's the Telegraph noted that as far back as 2005, Nigeria was pulling in $450 billion annually from its crude oil exports.

Nigerian nationals in the United States held demonstrations in front of the Nigerian Mission to the United Nations on Jan. 9 and 10 and at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C., under the banner of "Occupy Nigeria."

Noimotylola Olayokun, 19, who was born in the Ogun State in southwestern Nigeria and is a member of the Nigerian Youth Commission, said the demonstrations among the American Diaspora were "all about developing an awareness of what was going on in Nigeria."

Bolade Ogungbuyi, 24, said the protests here and in Nigeria were a sign that Nigerians were "coming together" as Africans, and were beginning to understand that it was more about "actions, not words."

Tino Bendel, 39, said he was a rapper and that the Nigerian "leadership has done nothing for the people."

"I do not believe in the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They are all crooks; they gave our leaders all of that money-now we have debts," Bendel said. "The Nigerian people are tired and angry and want change!"

The CIA's World Factbook states that Nigeria's external debt as of 2010 was $9.16 billion, leaving 70 percent of the Nigerian population living below the poverty level.

I remember a former Nigerian News Service reporter, who was assigned to the United Nations, telling this reporter a few years back that when he went home for a visit, he couldn't get enough oil to keep the electricity going after dark. I looked at him in amazement, just shaking my head.

There was an article in the Washington Times back in 1999 quoting a farmer in the Benue State in Nigeria: "We have a new government. It makes no difference to me. Here we have no light; we have no water; there is no road. We have no schools. The government does nothing for us."

Another amazing fact that has escaped the scrutiny of the American public is that a high-level U.N. official, Jeffrey Sachs, who serves as a UN special adviser for economic issues, told Jonathan the United Nations "supports" the removal of the fuel subsidy.