Price rises spark anger
A GENERAL strike in Nigeria, Africa's most heavily populated country, has rocked the government and its international backers. The strike began on Thursday of last week in protest at a 50 percent rise in petroleum product prices. The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo made some concessions in an effort to stop the strike starting. But the Nigeria Labour Congress said it wanted all the price rises withdrawn.
After five days of the strike the unions and the government agreed a 10 percent rise. Obasanjo had to make a public apology. The higher fuel price was part of Obasanjo's policy of deregulation and ending subsidies as demanded by the International Monetary Fund as a condition for a new $1 billion loan.
IMF endorsement of Obasanjo's policies could also help Nigeria's campaign for relief from 20 billion of foreign debts. The strike was instantly successful. It closed Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, and also the industrial city of Ibadan. Most of Nigeria's 108 million people welcomed Obasanjo's election a year ago after a long period of military rule. But now they find he is governing for the rich.