Thu, Jan 12, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Nigeria warns of strike ‘anarchy’

ETHNIC UNREST:Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on Tuesday night at a beer parlor in the northeast of the nation, killing eight people, including four police officers

AP, LAGOS and MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA

A demonstrator smokes during a protest in Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday against the elimination of a popular fuel subsidy that has doubled the price of gasoline.
Warning: Smoking can damage your health

Photo: Reuters

Nigeria’s government has warned an ongoing, paralyzing national strike risks “anarchy” in the oil-rich nation, as demonstrations over spiraling fuel prices and government corruption entered their third day yesterday.

Nigerian Attorney General Mohammed Bello Adoke’s comments come as at least nine people have been killed in violence during strikes over the government removing subsidies keeping gasoline prices low in Africa’s most populous nation.

In a statement, Adoke described the strike by major labor unions as illegal. An industrial court earlier issued an order barring the groups from striking.

Adoke warned public workers that the government would implement a “no work, no pay” policy for those who join the strike. However, public workers sometimes go weeks without pay in Nigeria, where corruption and mismanagement has plagued the government for decades.

“Continuing disregard of that order is [vital] to the public interest as it constitutes an open invitation to anarchy,” Adoke said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

The nationwide strike, which began on Monday, came after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan removed subsidies on Jan. 1 that had kept gasoline prices low. Overnight, prices at the pump more than doubled, from US$0.45 per liter to at least US$0.94 per liter. The costs of food and transportation also doubled in a nation where most live on less than US$2 a day.

Jonathan insists the move was necessary to save the country an estimated US$8 billion a year, which he promises will go toward badly needed road and public projects. However, protesters — who joined the strike under the slogan “Occupy Nigeria” — say the time has come to end government corruption in a nation where military rulers and politicians have stolen billions.

The strike has closed Lagos’ busy Apapa Port, cutting off cargo shipments. Businesses remain shuttered, while air carriers canceled more international flights. Organizers say the strike will continue until the government restores the subsidies.

Meanwhile, gunmen from the radical Islamist group known as Boko Haram opened fire on Tuesday night at a beer parlor in northeast Nigeria, killing eight people, including four police officers as part of their ongoing sectarian battle against the government, authorities said.

The shootings come as the sect has promised to target Christians in Nigeria’s Muslim north, expanding its campaign of assassinations and bombings. The sect is blamed by the government for killing at least 63 people in less than week, according to an Associated Press count, as it continues its campaign to impose strict Shariah law across the multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.

Tuesday night’s attack occurred in the town of Potiskum in Yobe State. Local police commissioner Tanko Lawan said the six gunmen began shooting as patrons drank beer, which the local Shariah law technically opposes, though bars remain open for those living there.

“We didn’t confront the gunmen at the beer parlor,” Lawan said. “Any police that goes there went on his own.”

Nigeria’s central government has been slow to respond to the sect. On Dec. 31, President Goodluck Jonathan declared regions of Borno, Niger, Plateau and Yobe states to be under a state of emergency, meaning authorities can make arrests without proof and conduct searches without warrants.

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