Bloomberg News

Nigeria Cabinet to Hold Emergency Meeting Over Fuel Protests

January 04, 2012

(Updates with comments from analyst starting in fourth paragraph.)

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called an emergency meeting of his Cabinet today to discuss the goverment’s scrapping of subsidies on fuel, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told Channels Television.

The Nigeria Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria are scheduled to meet today to set a date for a strike involving “tens of millions” of people, NLC Secretary-General Owei Lakemfa said by phone in Abuja. One protester was shot and killed by police yesterday in Ilorin, the capital of the central state of Kwara, he said. Protesters marched in the market area of Yaba in the commercial capital, Lagos, as long lines of vehicles formed around fuel stations.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, abolished 1.2 trillion naira ($7.5 billion) of subsidies on Jan. 1. That’s likely to more than double the price of unleaded gasoline to 140 naira a liter (0.26 gallon), according to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency. Nigeria imports most of its fuel because of a lack of refining capacity.

“By removing the subsidy abruptly, instead of phasing it in with a price band, for example, and by failing to prepare popular opinion, Jonathan has introduced the right reform at the wrong time and in the wrong way,” Ashley Elliot, an Africa analyst at London-based Control Risks, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Gasoline Prices Rise

Jonathan appointed Christopher Kolade, former high commissioner to the U.K., to head a new board created to oversee the spending of funds previously used for gasoline subsidies, the government said Jan. 2.

About 64 percent of Nigeria’s population, which the government puts at more than 160 million, lives on less than $1.25 a day, according to data from the United Nations. Fuel stations in Lagos run by the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., sold gasoline yesterday at 138 naira per liter. In Abuja, Forte Oil Plc stations in the center of town were selling gasoline at 139.8 naira per liter.

“Cheap petrol is viewed by many Nigerians as the only tangible benefit they receive from the state, hence the widespread anger,” Elliot said.

The West African nation imports 70 percent of its fuel products due to a lack of adequate refining capacity, Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke said on Nov. 22. Nigeria has paid 3.65 trillion naira in domestic fuel subsidies since 2006, with more than a third spent in 2011, according to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.

The government spent 1.35 trillion naira in the first nine months of last year, PPPRA chief Reginald Stanley told a parliamentary hearing on Dec. 2.

Nigeria’s inflation rate stayed above the central bank’s 10 percent in November, remaining unchanged at 10.5 percent. Nigeria expects inflation of 9.5 percent and economic growth of 7.2 percent this year, Jonathan said in his Dec. 13 budget speech.

--With assistance from Emele Onu in Lagos and Maram Mazen in Abuja. Editors: Karl Maier, Nasreen Seria

To contact the reporters on this story: Elisha Bala-Gbogbo in Abuja at ebalagbogbo@bloomberg.net; Chris Kay in Abuja at ckay5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net


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