Nigeria gas price protest turns violent in Lagos

An unidentified man protests on a major road in commercial capital during a fuel subsidy protest in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday, Jan. 3. Angry mobs of protesters stopped gas station owners from selling fuel Tuesday while others lit a bonfire on a major highway in an attempt to thwart the government's removal of a cherished consumer subsidy that had kept gas affordable for more than two decades. (AP)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

By Sunday Alamba and Yinka Ibukun, AP

LAGOS, Nigeria — Protesters furious over spiraling gas prices set fires on an expressway Tuesday and at least one person was killed in the violent unrest after Nigeria’s government did away with a subsidy program that had kept fuel costs down for more than two decades.

One union leader described the federal government’s hugely unpopular move as “immoral and politically suicidal,” and urged Nigerians to resist “with everything they have.” But Tuesday’s protest showed that, once unleashed, the pent-up anger of the masses could be hard to curtail.

Angry crowds vandalized gas stations, intimidated owners into keeping their pumps unused and assaulted a soldier, showing how easily the fragile peace in Africa’s most populous nation could spiral into chaos.

One young man threw jerry-cans of engine oil off the racks at a gas station and tried to damage the station’s gas pumps. After union leader and chairman of the Joint Action Front, Dipo Fashina, asked the young man to stop vandalizing the station, he did, but later started one of the first bonfires of the protest in the middle of the highway.

Other activists marched to the protest songs of the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti who fought against the injustices of military rule in Nigeria. His musician son, Seun, walked shirtless among the demonstrators, as his father used to, and also made attempts to keep things civil.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene in the megacity of Lagos said the protest had started with activists wielding signs and walking down a major expressway, but before long angry protesters lit bonfires and vandalized at least three gas stations. A wounded man later ran along the road shouting: “The police shot me, take me to hospital!” Continue reading