The chaos of Nigeria's largest city of Lagos gets boiled down to prose as a narrator notes "how unpretty" its sprawl looks, with "its unplanned houses sprouting like weeds." Another author describes the madness of the commute, how six roads meet and "there is no traffic light."
These vivid descriptions come from Nigeria's new generation of authors, whose novels and short stories are gaining the international acclaim once reserved for postcolonial literary heavyweights such as Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe who earned the West African nation a reputation as a hub of classic African writing.
While Nigeria serves as a muse, many of these new authors must live abroad or tap into Western networks to earn a living from their writing. The international attention helps them secure a reputation in Nigeria and allows their books to be published here too.
"Unfortunately, no matter how well the book is written, writers who come into prominence, come into prominence because they are recognized by the West," says Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.
After independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria became one of the continent's top suppliers of literary talent. Soyinka was honored with a Nobel Prize for Literature for his plays, essays and books. Achebe received acclaim for his novel "Things Fall Apart" and other writings examining the failures of post-independence politics.
The new generation of Nigerian writers, while examining politics, appear more focused on the feeling of daily life in Nigeria, a multiethnic and religious nation of more than 160 million people where electricity remains scarce and there is a widening gap between rich and poor.
Achebe, Wole, Adichie, Funso & Sarah
Those new voices include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose book "Half of a Yellow Sun" focused on the breakaway Republic of Biafra and the nation's 1960s civil war that saw 1 million people killed. Another book, a collection of short stories titled "The Thing Around Your Neck," recounts the experiences of Nigerian characters living at home and abroad.
Like Adichie, who lives part-time in the U.S., most of these Nigerian fiction writers live in Western countries for much of the year, returning home to Nigeria frequently where they also research and observe. Their publishers and most of their readers are also in the West, where industry experts say African writing has in the last decade gained new interest from major publishers. Meanwhile, fiction publishing at home struggles to find its feet.
Kaduna Chapter of Nigerian Authors Association
For many years, self-publishing was the only hope for Nigerian writers to realize their dreams within a country where a long military era had imposed a publishing lull. More than a decade since Nigeria returned to civilian rule, only a handful of local publishers will brave the difficult environment to champion fiction writing.
Poor distribution networks and high printing and shipping costs are some of the setbacks bogging down the local publishing industry, forcing most book lovers to search for novels in the thinly stocked second hand bookstands on the edge of busy markets. When booksellers do sell new books, they tend to prefer religious, educational and self-help books to fiction titles considered slow-selling.
Even writers living in Nigeria need the Western seal of approval to make good sales, said writer Nwaubani.
The Nigeria-based author had to get a foreign literary agent before she could publish her satirical novel on Nigerian email scammers titled "I Do Not Come to You By Chance." She said her novel gained the most attention after it was reviewed by the Washington Post and then won the London-based Commonwealth Prize. The book has also been translated and sells more in German, a language she doesn't speak, than it sells in English in Nigeria, she said.
"My book is only available in five Nigerian cities and only a handful of bookshops in those cities," Nwaubani said. "In Umuahia, the town where I come from and where my book is set, there isn't any place where my book is sold."
Some critics, however, have questioned the reliance on Western recognition and audiences, and the indirect influence it may have on Nigerian literature, saying the authors are often edited to suit Western tastes.
"There is nothing wrong with having a publisher that's not here (Nigeria)... because we are aware of the fact that there are limitations to what's happening in Nigeria," said Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole. "But then what's incumbent on us is to try to support the work that's happening here."
Cole recently traveled to Lagos for research on a new book about the African megacity. His first published book was set in Nigeria and his second one, set in New York, was listed among The New York Times' 100 most influential books for 2011.
Western publishing also overlooks a vast body of non-English writing in a country where more than 150 languages are spoken. Hausa-language literature that is self-published, for instance, has thrived in Nigeria's north, but is unheard of by non-Hausa speakers, said scholar Carmen McCain teaching at Bayero University in Kano.
But the oversights of Western publishing perhaps offer a window of opportunity for local publishers.
Chinelo Onwualu, the editor at Cassave Republic, a small Abuja-based fiction publishing house, is hopeful for Nigeria's future in publishing.
"It's really tough publishing in Nigeria right now, but once somebody discovers that golden formula to make it work in our environment, some very exciting things are going to take place," she said.
The Office of the presidency at Aso Rock has announced that President Goodluck Jonathan has sacked the Inspector of Police Mr Hafiz Ringim and his six deputies. The sack of the top police came a week after the suspect that was allegedly involved in December 25th Christmas Day bombing escaped from the police custody
Accoding to the statement from the presidency (ASO ROCK), "President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has approved the appointment of Mr Mohammed Abubakar as Acting Inspector General of Police as a first step towards the comprehensive reorganisation and repositioning of the Nigeria Police Force. Mr Abubakar who is currently an Assistant Inspector General of Police replaces Mr Hafiz Ringim who proceeds on terminal leave with effect from today."
A committee has been set-up by the presidency to revamp the Police Force and "To determine the general and specific causes of the collapse of public confidence in the police and recommend ways of restoring public trust in the institution ... examine records of performance of officers of the Nigeria Police Force with a view to identifying those that can no longer fit into the system."
The Telegraph reported that, "Police arrested Kabiru Sokoto in connection with a Dec 25 bombing last week and while they were taking him from police headquarters to his house in Abaji, outside Abuja, to conduct a search there, their vehicle came under fire and he escaped. Security sources said it was a "dangerous and suspicious" way to handle a suspect. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, which killed 37 people and wounded 57, the deadliest of a series of a attacks on Christmas."
Wall street Journal stated, " The militia, Boko Haram, has killed more than 500 people over the past 12 months in campaign of shootings and bombings that has targeted Nigeria's police and soldiers and destroyed government buildings. In the northern city of Kano, terrorist attacks killed at least 185 people on Friday.Public confidence in the police remains low in Nigeria, a country of 167 million people, where the police are widely seen as corrupt, incompetent and often brutal. Many of Nigeria's officers themselves say they are terrified of Boko Haram. In Kano, hundreds of police officers have gone into hiding, abandoning checkpoints and changing into civilian clothes."
The new acting police chief "Abubaker, 53, has been in the police since 1979. Like Ringim, he is a Muslim from the north of Africa's most populous nation, where Boko Haram's violence has mostly been carried out. Jonathan is a Christian from the southern oil-producing Niger Delta," The Telegraph reported.
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
January 24, 2012
The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in the city of Kano and Bauchi state in Nigeria over the past several days. We extend our condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of this senseless violence. We call for a full investigation of the attacks and for those responsible to be held accountable.
This is a time for all Nigerians to stand united against the enemies of civility and peace. Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversity is a source of strength for the country and those who seek to undermine that strength with divisive tactics cannot succeed.
The United States remains strongly committed to working with Nigerian officials to find a way to bring peace to the north through both security and political responses and to work with the Nigerian government and others in the international community to promote greater economic development and long-term growth throughout northern Nigeria. We reiterate the importance of protecting innocent civilians in any law enforcement response to such attacks. These issues are at the center of the regional security cooperation working group meeting taking place in Abuja January 23-24, as a part of the U.S. – Nigeria Binational Commission.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria denotes a big country that has all the hallmarks of a great nation but has sadly failed to make the transition from bigness to greatness.
It is big in several ways.
It has the biggest population in Africa, affording it the ability to declare to anyone who cares to listen that out of every four black men and women, one is Nigerian. It is the biggest oil producer on the continent. It has arguably the biggest army, one that has been active in providing solutions in troubled areas.
Yet it has remained just that — big; greatness has eluded it.
There are many reasons for this state of affairs and each one of us can hazard an explanation or two.
Basically, Nigeria is not very different from other African countries whose diverse populations were cobbled together by the colonial powers in their own interest. No colonial power ever embarked on the creation of a national state that would function as one after decolonisation.
All our countries had this experience, and those founding fathers — and mothers — who embarked on efforts to build a nation-state out of the colonial units bequeathed to them did so on the understanding that even in bondage, friendships are struck up and synergies are built and common futures plotted.
Nigeria was not alone in failing to take concrete steps toward the unification of all the disparate ethnic and religious communities into one nation, but its failure has been demonstrated more dramatically than in most other African countries.
Since the first coup, dubbed the Ibo coup, in 1966, that killed premier Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and many prominent northerners, and through all the subsequent coups and futile attempts to entrench a civilian democracy, mutual trust among the various groups has been in short supply, and this has led to a mechanical modus vivendi in which the differences, rather than being done away with, are written into the Constitution.
For instance, by his own admission, Olusegun Obasanjo, former head of state, by the mere fact of being stationed in several different states as a young officer, has had children born in those states.
But if these children want to apply for a job in the civil service or the army, they have to go back to Yoruba land where their father hails from. This has meant that there will not be a truly common citizenship.
My dear departed friend, Tajudeen Abdulraheem, had somehow been unique in this in that he was, incredibly, both Yoruba and Hausa, his father having migrated to the north and taking him along with him.
Maybe if he had not died at such a young age, he would have been the one true Nigerian to unify the others.
When, in 1975, a group of young officers (including Obasanjo and Joseph Garba) led by Murtalla Muhammad took over the country and sounded like they were determined to make Nigeria make sense and take its rightful place in Africa, some of us were elated.
I remember vividly the way Murtalla and Garba marched into Africa Hall, Addis Ababa, in early 1976 to change the course of the debate over the recognition of the People’s Republic of Angola, which had divided the continent down the middle. Even Idi Amin, who was chairing the session, realised that the big boys had arrived.
But Murtalla was assassinated before the year was out. Another opportunity seemed to offer itself with the election of Moshood Abiola in 1992, but he was not allowed to govern and died in prison in the custody of perhaps the most sinister of all the plotters in that plot-drunk country, Sani Abacha.
Is this big country once again on the verge of civil war and possible collapse?
The scars of the Biafra war have never healed completely; Nigeria desperately needs a transformational leadership that will pull it in the direction of nationhood.
JENERALI ULIMWENGU writes from The East African
At least 100 were killed in the Kano co-ordinated bombing attack reported by William Wallis and Tom Burgis, Financial Times of London:
"The scale of the bloodshed caused by a wave of bombings in the northern Nigerian city of Kano began to emerge on Saturday, after Islamist insurgents laid down their most serious challenge yet to the government of Africa’s most populous nation. At least 120 people were killed in Friday’s blasts and subsequent gun battles between insurgents and security forces, according to the Associated Press, which cited records from the overflowing mortuary at Kano’s main hospital. Many others were injured. The police have only confirmed seven. Boko Haram, an armed group whose reach has been is steadily growing beyond its base in the remote northeast, claimed responsibility for the attacks. A series of blasts struck police stations and other administrative offices on Friday, pitching Nigeria’s second-biggest city into chaos. Ancient and sprawling, Kano is a hub for trade, politics and religion in Muslim northern Nigerian and beyond. The latest violence puts fresh pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan’s beleaguered government, which was forced this week to reinstate partially a fuel subsidy following nationwide protests and a general strike that threatened oil production. Local media reported that a 24-hour curfew had been imposed. Such curfews are common in parts of the north, which periodically suffers communal violence, often stoked by politicians."
Victim of bombing (AP Photo/Salisu Rabiu)
late Enenche Akogwu cameraman of Channels TV killed
1. This is the second time in two weeks I will address you on the deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector. In the last seven days, the nation has witnessed a disruption of economic activities. Although, the economic imperatives for the policy have been well articulated by government, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) went ahead to declare a nationwide strike.
2. There was also near-breakdown of law and order in certain parts of the country as a result of the activities of some persons or groups of persons who took advantage of the situation to further their narrow interests by engaging in acts of intimidation, harassment and outright subversion of the Nigerian state. I express my sympathy to those who were adversely affected by the protests.
3. At the inception of the deregulation policy, Government had set up the Justice Alfa Belgore Committee to liaise with Labour and other stakeholders to address likely grey areas in the policy, but despite all our efforts, Labour refused the option of dialogue and also disobeyed a restraining order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
4. However, following the intervention of the Leadership of the National Assembly, and other well-meaning Nigerians, Labour accepted to meet with government, but this yielded no tangible result.
5. It has become clear to government and all well-meaning Nigerians that other interests beyond the implementation of the deregulation policy have hijacked the protest. This has prevented an objective assessment and consideration of all the contending issues for which dialogue was initiated by government. These same interests seek to promote discord, anarchy, and insecurity to the detriment of public peace.
6. Government appreciates that the implementation of the deregulation policy would cause initial hardships and commends Nigerians who have put forth suggestions and credible alternatives in this regard. Government also salutes Nigerians who by and large, conducted themselves peacefully while expressing their grievances. Let me assure you that government will continue to respect the people’s right to express themselves within the confines of the law and in accordance with the dictates of our democratic space.
7. Government will continue to pursue full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector. However, given the hardships being suffered by Nigerians, and after due consideration and consultations with state governors and the leadership of the National Assembly, government has approved the reduction of the pump price of petrol to N97 per litre. The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has been directed to ensure compliance with this new pump price.
8. Government is working hard to reduce recurrent expenditure in line with current realities and to cut down on the cost of governance. In the meantime, government has commenced the implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment projects: including the Federal Government- assisted mass transit programme which is already in place, and job creation for the youth.
9. Furthermore, the legal and regulatory regime for the petroleum industry will be reviewed to address accountability issues and current lapses in the Industry. In this regard, the Petroleum Industry Bill will be given accelerated attention. The report of the forensic audit carried out on the NNPC is being studied with a view to implementing the recommendations and sanctioning proven acts of corruption in the industry.
10. Let me assure Nigerians that this administration is irrevocably committed to tackling corruption in the petroleum industry as well as other sectors of the economy. Consequently, all those found to have contributed one way or the other to the economic adversity of the country will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
11. My dear compatriots, I urge you to show understanding for the imperatives of the adjustment in the pump price of petrol and give government your full support to ensure its successful implementation. I further appeal to Nigerians to go back to work and go about their normal duties as government has made adequate arrangements for the protection of life and property throughout the federation.
12. Government will not condone brazen acts of criminality and subversion. As President, I have sworn to uphold the unity, peace and order of the Nigerian State and by the grace of God, I intend to fully and effectively discharge that responsibility. Let me add that we are desirous of further engagements with Labour. I urge our Labour leaders to call off their strike, and go back to work.
13. Nigeria belongs to all of us and we must collectively safeguard its unity.
14. Thank you. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
A nationwide strike and demonstrations have unleashed years of pent-up frustrations in Nigeria over its kleptocratic leaders, and the rage has grown even stronger across social media this week.
Twitter users shared pictures of dead protesters while others broke down the oil-rich nation’s 2012 budget figures, comparing funds allocated to the president and vice president’s offices with the cost of living of the average Nigerian. Hackers have targeted government websites, while others criticized local news coverage of demonstrations in nation where journalists often accept bribes from those they cover.
“I think the government has opened a can of worms and we are now picking each one at a time,” said Kola Oyeneyin, 31, an entrepreneur who uses Twitter to give protest updates.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Africa’s most populous nation to protest the government’s removal on Jan. 1 of a subsidy that had kept gasoline prices low for more than two decades. Overnight, prices at the pump more than doubled, from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter). The costs of food and transportation also doubled in a nation where most live on less than $2 a day.
President Goodluck Jonathan insists the move was necessary to save the country an estimated $8 billion a year, which he promises will go toward badly needed roads and public projects. But the president, who used Facebook to announce he would run in the nation’s presidential elections last year, has faced increasingly angry comments on his own profile where most offered praise in the past.
Protesters — who joined the current nationwide labor strike under the hash-tagged slogan of “Occupy Nigeria” — say the government is in no position to ask people to sacrifice in a nation with extravagant government spending and a history of widespread theft of billions by military rulers and politicians.
Nigeria, an OPEC member nation producing about 2.4 million barrels of crude oil a day, is a top supplier to the U.S., but virtually all of its petroleum products are imported after years of graft, mismanagement and violence at its refineries.
“They (the government) are saying that they need to save. OK, but do you need to save by making us pay for your waste?” Oyeneyin asked.
The country only recently passed a Freedom of Information bill granting, in theory, public access to documents. But the nation’s budgeting remains opaque at best in a nation that operated for years under an official secrets act that made unauthorized release of government information an imprisonable offense.
“People are now more informed about what’s going on and it won’t be long before we have an open and transparent government,” said Ngozi Sulaiman, a businesswoman who was sending photos to her Blackberry contacts from a protest in a posh Lagos neighborhood.
However, social media also has spread false information about government resignations in recent days as well. Text messages circulating the country also fed a rumor that a radical Islamist sect planned to infiltrate and bomb demonstrations.
A group of hackers also have attacked a series of government websites over several days, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Friday.
Eager to calm public anger, government-aligned groups have published front-page newspaper advertisements for days trying to sell Nigeria’s more than 160 million people on the idea that money saved by removing fuel subsidies will go toward needed projects. While Nigeria has an unruly free press, underpaid journalists often accept so-called “brown envelope” bribes slipped into briefing documents at news conferences. And at least one private news channel in the country has gotten calls from government officials asking it not to broadcast live images of a daily demonstration in Lagos that drew more than 20,000 people on Friday alone.
Criticism of news on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority also sparked a protest outside its Lagos headquarters by more than a thousand people Thursday. The channel aired a short story on the protest 43 minutes into its nightly broadcast, after a host of pro-subsidy removal stories and commercials.
The protests will continue to be swayed by social media, despite low incomes, as Nigeria has the continent’s top mobile phone market and is estimated to have the largest online audience in Africa.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
A possible end to the ongoing nationwide strike action was in the offing last night after the Federal Government agreed to temporarily revert to the pre-New Year price of N65 per litre of petrol.
At a marathon meeting attended by President Goodluck Jonathan, organised labour, the leadership of the Senate and the representatives of state governors, labour was given two options for the reinstatement of the N65 per litre price of petrol. The first option is to revert to the pre-New Year price on the condition that the subsidy regime would be completely removed in April.
The second option is to allow the N65 selling price of petrol and withdraw 80% of the subsidy in March, meaning that petrol would sell for N120 if the current price regime remains in force.
No agreement yet — Labour
At the end of the meeting last night, labour said although compromise was being made, It has not reached an agreement and that strike continues today. All the parties would however meet again on Saturday when labour is expected to make up its mind on the options put before it.
Yesterday’s meeting was at the instance of the leadership of the Senate which had earlier held two meetings with organised labour and another with the Federal Government. Among those present at the meeting which commenced at 6.30 pm last night were Senate President David Mark; his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba.
The Senate President shuttled periodically yesterday between Aso Rock and his residence where he hosted labour officials as he sought to mediate the differences between both parties.
The Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF was represented by seven governors at last night meeting. Those in attendance were the Chairman of the NGF, Mr Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Mr Gabriel Suswan (Benue); Mr Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Mr Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Mr Adams Oshiomhole (Edo); Mr. Babatunde Fashola (Lagos) and Mr Peter Obi (Anambra).
The Labour delegation included the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Mr Abdulwaheed Omar and the President of Trade Union Congress, TUC, Mr Peter Esele, while Mr Tunde Aremu of ActionAid, represented Civil Society Organisations, CSOs.
They arrived the venue at exactly 6:30 pm, about two hours after the trio of President Jonathan, representing the Executive arm, the Senate leadership, and the governors forum had been meeting.
Labour sustains protests
Meanwhile, as the series of meetings were being held by representatives of government and labour, the labour movement and its civil society allies sustained their mass protests across the states of the federation and Abuja yesterday to mark the fourth day of the strike which has grounded commercial and social activities.
The protest which also recorded unprecedented turn-out at the Federal Capital Territory, kicked off from the Berger Roundabout at about 10:45am from where the procession marched through Wuse Market, Zone 3 and 7 before it terminated at Area One junction.
It was characterized by the usual fanfare that greeted the protest since it commenced, with protesters dancing to the tunes from some musicians.
Peter Esele, TUC President exploited the opportunity of the fourth day rally to dismiss Federal Government’s accusation that labour was threatening the peace of the country.
He said labour and the coalition of civil society groups involved in the protest had nothing against the authority of President Goodluck Jonathan, but that they fault the deregulation policy which in their evaluation does not go down well with the masses.
He also dismissed allegations that politicians were wrongly exploiting the rallies to their advantage, saying they would effectively use the peaceful rallies to achieve their demands.
His words: “They say we are creating problems for this country, let us make one thing clear here, we have nothing against the presidency. All we are fighting against is the deregulation policy”.
Economic activities in Abuja were low, with transporters conveying passengers to some locations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), most of the banks remained closed for business, while most of the ministries’ staff were yet to comply with the directive to resume work.
Yet the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is steering through these hazards, giving Nigeria a chance to cast off the instability, poverty and corruption that have long plagued this country. And Nigeria’s powerful governors, for the moment, are coalescing around the reform agenda.
Meeting with the president and his economic team in Abuja last week, in the midst of protests against the subsidy removal, confirmed my view that the Nigerian government has an unprecedented opportunity to clean up its act and win back the support of a long-suffering population. The president spoke of taking the tough medicine necessary to build the foundations for long-term growth. His lead economic architect is Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, newly returned from a top spot at the World Bank.
I don’t envy their task. At 155 million people and rising, Nigeria is the world’s eighth-most-populous country and one of the hardest to govern. The country is deeply splintered, with more than 250 ethnic groups, 500 languages, a stark and sometimes violent Muslim-Christian divide, and a population now evenly divided between urban and rural areas. If these fracture lines were not enough, corruption is rampant, income inequality is sky-high, poverty and disease are pervasive, and the youth population is bulging, with half of all Nigerians under the age of 20.
I’ve advised dozens of countries, including Nigeria, on economic development and public health, and very few come close to Nigeria’s scale and complexity of challenges. Yet just as other large and complicated developing countries such as Brazil and India are now making breakthroughs in poverty reduction and economic growth, Nigeria could become the surprise winner of the coming decade. It is filled with talented and energetic people, fertile agriculture, and vast energy resources.
Oil-dependent Nigeria exemplifies the infamous “resource curse.” When an economy depends excessively on one or two key resources like oil, gold, or diamonds, politics all too easily descends into megacorruption and a brutal struggle over the resource earnings. To add to the curse, foreign governments and companies often amplify the corruption. Nigerian courts recently convicted the U.S. oil-services company Halliburton of massive corruption committed while the chief executive was none other than Dick Cheney.
Oil exporters like Nigeria very often keep domestic oil prices low as an easy sop to powerful local interests. Nigeria’s oil prices were among the lowest in Africa until the subsidies were abruptly ended Jan. 1. According to the government’s estimates, the oil subsidy in 2011 amounted to a staggering $8 billion, roughly 4 percent of G.D.P. (the equivalent share of G.D.P. in the United States would be $600 billion per year). Nigeria’s well-to-do households, with their cars and large diesel generators, and also some adroit oil smugglers, captured much of the subsidy.
Protesters demonstrating against fuel prices in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday.
The government ended the subsidies to redeploy the 4 percent of G.D.P. toward long-term development needs, including health, roads and power. The reform logic is sound. Using the 4 percent of G.D.P. in a strategic manner can do far more for Nigeria’s poor and the country’s long-term growth than haphazard giveaways of cheap oil.
Yet the fury at the government’s removal of the oil subsidies has been huge, with strikes, violence and political uproar. The removal of subsidies creates short-term pain for many social groups, and considerable short-term fear. The government’s actions are easy targets of the political opposition. The public understandably frets that the government might simply steal the budget savings, since governments have stolen so much of the oil wealth in the past.
The fears of corruption are absolutely understandable, but glimmers of hope — that this time will be different — are also in the air. When Nigeria won relief on its external debt in the mid-2000s, the savings on debt service were actually redirected to meaningful social investments in the states and local governments. The government is now promising to turn the outlays on subsidies into outlays on specific and closely monitored investments in health care, infrastructure, job training and other areas.
To share the pain, the president has ordered cuts in top salaries in the government, and special programs for mass transit to help poor workers over the hurdle of higher transport costs. The government should also tax high-income individuals in order to raise revenues for urgent pro-poor investments and a fairer society.
Civil society is on the alert. Labor unions, Occupy Nigeria and other social groups are on the streets protesting the subsidy cuts. More importantly, they are demanding transparency and honesty from a national government that has offered far too little of these virtues over the past half century.
If the president and his team carry through on their plans for bold, honest, equitable and transparent reforms, they are well placed to usher in a new day for Nigeria. Skepticism is running high, but so too are cautious hopes that finally, this decade, Nigeria will join the ranks of the world’s most dynamic emerging economies.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of “The Price of Civilization.”
"On January 1 2012, Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, ended oil subsidies that had kept gasoline prices artificially low. The cost of a liter of gasoline shot up from 65 naira (40 cents) to at least 141 naira (86 cents) virtually overnight.Furious Nigerians have since taken to the streets, staging 'Occupy Nigeria' protests and mass demonstrations across the country. Police have responded forcefully with many arrests. At least one person has died amid the unrest: 23-year-old student Muyideen Mustafa was allegedly hit by a police bullet in Ilorin, Kwara State." - CNN
Benin City Protesters have taken to the streets across Nigeria in recent days after gas prices more than doubled following the government's decision to take away fuel subsidies.
Adjarho David Obaro, who is currently in Nigeria for the holidays, took photos of the protests near King's Square in Benin City on Thursday, January 5. He said there were thousands of protesters there from different backgrounds.
"I saw raw anger in the eyes of the protesters with regards to the increase in prices of good (and) services as a result of the subsidy removal," said Obaro.
iReporter Victor Iyamu took this photo at the protest in Benin City, the capital of Edo State, on Thursday, January 5. Iyamu says he is not participating in the protest but that he does support the protesters and their cause.
The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trades Union Congress urged the government to immediately restore the subsidies -- or see the country grind to a halt starting January
After learning about the fuel subsidy protests from Twitter on Tuesday, iReporter Kfire decided to join the crowds in Lagos. "The aim of the protest was to disrupt vehicular movement, shut down gas stations and ask people to go back home," he said.
"The mood was one of anger and frustration towards the government for doing this on New Year's Day," Kfire said.
Freelance journalist Mohammed Bashir observed the large protest in his town of Lokoja, Nigeria, on Tuesday, January 3. He snapped this photo with his BlackBerry as hundreds gathered in the street.
Obi Akwukwuma, 47, observed the demonstrations at King's Square in Benin City on Thursday, January 5. Akwukwuma, who works on an engineering project nearby, took this photo with his BlackBerry as demonstrators protested the removal of fuel subsidy.