Anger at crackdown after Nigerian fuel strike ends
By Joel Olatunde Agoi, AFP
January 18, 2012, 12:32 am TWN
LAGOS--A military crackdown on protests in Nigeria drew harsh criticism on Tuesday after the country's unions ended a weeklong strike over fuel costs following the president's decision to reduce petrol prices.
The governor of Lagos state, which includes Nigeria's economic capital and largest city by the same name, strongly criticized the deployment of troops who shot into the air and chased away protesters with armored vehicles on Monday.
Local media also reported a statement said to be from Nobel literature prize winner Wole Soyinka that demanded "the immediate and unconditional removal of these soldiers."
He could not be immediately reached to confirm the statement.
On Tuesday, some 50 troops still occupied the main protest site in Lagos, but military checkpoints set up the previous day on major roads appeared to have been removed. Nigerians rushed to petrol stations to refuel and traffic returned to roads.
Newspapers also slammed the deployments which came as President Goodluck Jonathan appeared on television early Monday to announce a 30-percent decrease in the price of petrol.
The strike over fuel prices that had begun on Jan. 9 had shut down Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer while also bringing tens of thousands out into the streets in protest.
But early Monday, armed soldiers occupied main protest sites in both Lagos and the capital Abuja.
In Lagos, troops drove armored vehicles toward groups of protesters to disperse them, while later firing in the air. Police shot tear gas at hundreds of protesters gathered on a major road.
The main union leader, Nigeria Labor Congress chief Abdulwahed Omar, appeared at a press conference in the afternoon and announced the strike was being called off "in order to save lives and in the interest of national survival."
Union officials said they remained in disagreement with the petrol price even after the decrease, but were ready to engage in further negotiations with government representatives.