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Nigeria: Protests planned as bankers visit Africa

Issue No. 1735

When the leaders of the IMF and World Bank arrive in Nigeria, West Africa, next Wednesday they might find up to two million protesters on the streets across the country. One of the biggest demonstrations will be against job losses and workers being forced to pay for the country's crisis. Nigeria is in turmoil.

Sections of workers, the unemployed and the poor are in revolt against President Obasanjo's pro-market policies and his willingness to impose IMF/World Bank austerity measures.

Nigeria owes Western governments and banks over £24 billion. It spends 17 times more on debt service than it does on health. The IMF wants the money to keep rolling out of the country despite desperate suffering for ordinary people. Around 80 million Nigerians out of a population of 120 million live below the poverty line.

Life expectancy is falling sharply, hastened by the increase in HIV and AIDS. The crisis in Nigeria has produced an increase in protests which unite workers. But it has also seen a big increase in regional, ethnic and religious tensions. People at the top of society have encouraged anything that divides the opposition to their rule. Some of the frustrated and angry people at the bottom of society have been ready to grasp at scapegoating ideas as a false solution to their own problems.

That is why it is very important that the bitterness finds a class focus to unite all of Nigeria's workers and the poor. In the last few weeks a series of strikes have broken out over unemployment, pay and pensions.

The struggle in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is crucial for the whole continent. If the IMF and World Bank face renewed resistance there next week it will give hope to everyone that a fightback is possible.

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Sat 17 Feb 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1735
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