Cross Posted from Sahara Reporters
A new oil disaster is harming Nigerians. On New Year’s Day, 2012, the Nigerian government announced and immediately implemented price hikes on fuel for domestic consumption, a policy that has long been advocated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. As a result, Nigerians are now paying 2 to 5 times what they paid last year for fuel. Meanwhile, the big oil companies that have ravaged the Niger Delta continue to reap huge profits and Nigerians living in the Delta’s oil-producing communities are confronting the impacts of a series of large December 2011 oil spills, including one by Shell that is reportedly the largest in over 10 years. These spills are occurring after decades of oil spills by foreign oil companies that have yet to be cleaned up. Much of this oil extracted from Nigeria is destined for U.S. markets.
The 1% of Nigeria’s elite have spent decades siphoning off Nigeria’s oil wealth from the impoverished Niger Delta region, leaving nothing but pollution, death and destruction in their wake. Now, despite record oil prices, the Nigerian government claims there is not enough money to pay for basic infrastructure in the country. At the urging of the World Bank and IMF, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has jacked up the price of oil by over 150% in order to pay for this infrastructure. Yet the 99% of Nigerians who live on less than $2300 per year can’t afford to pay this price for oil, and have taken to the streets in protest. One protester has been killed so far by police.
Three days ago, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), and its chair, Nnimmo Bassey, in solidarity with civil society groups under the aegis of Coalition to Save Nigeria, staged a public protest through Benin city in a show of opposition to the removal of the petrol subsidy by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. The coalition of civil society groups in Edo State includes the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA),Bike Riders Association of Nigeria, market women and students among others. “For ERA/FoEN, the decision to remove the so-called subsidy is totally objectionable and smacks of insensitivity to the genuine wishes of the Nigerian people which is that government must make the refineries work and probe the cabal that they say exists in the petroleum sector,” the group stated in a press release.
Bassey challenged the notion of subsidy, pointing out,”it is the community people living side-by-side the oil fields and the Nigerian environment that actually subsidizes the cost of crude and refined products.” He disputed the government’s claim that the central purse subsidizes the cost of petroleum products. ERA/FoEN believes the policy will bring untold hardship on Nigerians, and demands an immediate reversal.