Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Class First and Foremost

In Nigeria unions are angry at a series of measures pushed though in the last days of the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, who stepped down last month. The price of petrol was increased from 65 naira (51 US cents) a litre to 75 naira (The government has now reportedly offered to reduce this to 70 naira ). Transport fares have doubled in some areas following the fuel price hike.

Impoverished Nigerians see cheap fuel as one of the few benefits they derive from a corrupt state. Despite nearly 40 years of oil production that has brought the government hundreds of billions of dollars, most Nigerians live in poverty. A fifth of all of Nigeria's children die before the age of five .While Nigeria is one of the world's biggest oil producers, virtually all of its refined fuel is re-imported from overseas at great cost. GNP per capita is actually lower than it was on the achievement of Independence in 1960.

Nigeria's powerful labor unions launched a general strike Wednesday to protest government price hikes, leaving many schools and banks shuttered and normally bustling streets quieter in Africa's oil giant. The unions, including Nigerian workers in the oil industry, rejected concessions by new President Umaru Yar'Adua's government aimed at averting the action and said Wednesday the work stoppage was under way.

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