If you think about it, the megacity of Lagos, Nigeria, almost devoid of public services for the poor, is the perfect place for the Occupy movement to spread.
Nigerians furious over gasoline prices and government corruption clashed with police as a nationwide strike began Monday, the latest iteration of an ongoing protest dubbed “Occupy Nigeria.”
The Associated Press reports that more than 10,000 people converged in the commercial capitol of Lagos, where some protesters used gasoline to set tires on fire. The protesters reported that at least one person was shot dead in a clash with police. In the northern city of Kano, security officers used tear gas and fired at a crowd outside a local governor’s office, injuring 18. Elsewhere, protesters held posters featuring an effigy of President Goodluck Jonathan in devil horns and fanged teeth. The president was shown pumping fuel at a gas station.
“Our leaders are not concerned about Nigerians. They are concerned about themselves,” protester Joseph Adekolu, a 42-year-old accountant, told the AP.
This protests began after the government removed fuel subsidies on the first of the year. But I don’t think it’s solely about cheap energy, which was about the only service the government provided. It probably has more to do with the desperation of the poor in Nigeria, where most of the country lives on less than $2 a day. The subsidy, according to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, took up 25% of the total budget, and as a result gas prices will double (so will practically all consumer products, because of the added burden of transportation and shipping costs). But Jonathan has a bigger problem with mass poverty. Nigeria has massive amounts of natural resources, and that source of prosperity is simply not shared.
Nigeria currently lives under a general strike, entering its second day. And protesters took their anger to the heart of the elite conclaves in Lagos, burning tires on the roadways leading into the gated communities. Oil worker unions have promised to strike in a country that produces 2.4 million barrels of oil a day. Once again, we have one of those “unexpected” potential hits to the global economy.
Yet this was entirely expected. You cannot have a society as unequal as Nigeria and not expect consequences. As one protester said yesterday, “This is oligarchy, this is not a democracy.”
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