(HN, UPDATED January 8, 2011) - As Africa's most populous nation headed towards a nationwide, indefinite strike Monday over sudden fuel price hikes, efforts to subdue the situation by Nigerian lawmakers over the weekend fell flat.
An emergency meeting of Nigeria's House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on Jonathan to restore a fuel subsidy that has triggered protests and economic hardship across the country.
“We are sitting near a keg of gunpowder and we are playing with fire,” said Rep. Pally Isumafe Obokhuaime Iriase of the Action Congress of Nigeria. “This will be the last straw that will break the camel’s back if we do not act.”
The 'Occupy Nigeria' protests began to appear shortly after New Year’s, when the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan scrapped a fuel subsidy - a move that more than doubled petrol prices and sparked price hikes for transport. (One report said fares in Rivers State are now 300 percent higher).
Police in the strategic northern city of Kano fired tear gas Thursday to disperse protesters who planned to stay overnight in a major square.
In Kano, protesters said they were not only tear-gassed but also detained by police by the dozens. According to one report, a lawsuit has been filed against authorities in Kano state over efforts to silence the protesters.
Said one spokesperson for the plaintiffs, Jibrin Suleiman Garin Ali: "They beat us to a pulp, they injured several of our protesters, and some are still missing and we don't know their whereabouts."
A harsh police response has been reported elsewhere in the country, including Lagos.
Even with the president and ministers huddled in meetings, there appears to be no resolution to the crisis. With the participation of organized labour, the movement is now positioned to virtually shut down the country starting Monday - even though a court ordered trade unions to call off the general strike.
At least one travel site has warned travellers to avoid visiting the country early next week.
The protests have lit up Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites used by Nigerians. Because texting is so incredibly popular in the country it has been a major tool for organizers to mobilize the masses.
Wrote one Twitter user in Nigeria regarding the planned Monday strike: "Monday is the D-day in Nigeria. #OccupyNigeria is shutting down the nation. Watch out."
Many members of Nigeria's large Diaspora community have been praising the efforts of the protesters, with some expressing surprise at the huge numbers of people standing up. Tweeted Nigerian-American Yetunde Taiwo: "#OccupyNigeria I am so 4 it. Finally Nigerians r mad enough 2 effect change."
- HUMNEWS staff