Our partners in Nigeria about the current situation

January 17, 2012
by 
Trevor Cook, Program Officer for Nigeria

The current unrest in Nigeria, started because of the Government’s decision to cut subsidies to the fuel industry - has caught international attention. Some of Development and Peace’s partners offer further insight on this situation, as it is being felt directly on the ground, and how civil society and ordinary citizens have come together to demand change and justice.

“After carefully reviewing the state of the nation, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has deemed it necessary to issue this statement as a contribution in search for a way forward. Although the immediate cause of the impasse is closely related to the issue of the removal of fuel subsidy, it does seem to us that things seem to be deteriorating by the day. We feel that through sincere dialogue, all sides might very quickly come to an agreement and resolve to move our nation forward. But as the days have rolled by, both sides have remained rather truculent and continue to dig their heels in. So far, on the surface, all parties claim that they have the welfare of the poor in mind, but as we can see, it is actually the poor who are caught in the crossfire.”

Read the full statement on the Catholic Bishops conference of Nigeria's website.

Another of our partners, Youth, Adolescent, Reflection & Action Centre (YARAC) (D&P partner since 2001), has exchanged communications with me regarding what they perceive as the government’s difficulty in curbing corruption in the country, and especially within the petroleum industry.

YARAC was established to develop opportunities for young people to interact, to discover reality and to deal with the challenges involved in their growing up, to come to understand their civic responsibilities and to develop their self-confidence so they will be able to make clear and responsible decisions.

The following are excerpts of messages from Tor Iorapu, Director of YARAC.

13 January 2012

Hi Trevor,

Happy New Year.  I am sure you have been waiting to hear from us. We had closed for Christmas with the idea to resume to work on January 10, 2012, but I personally had to resume following the civil society strike following the withdrawal of Petrol subsidy by the federal government. It was a shocking pronouncement by the federal government and many Nigerians are disappointed that the President would allow himself to be so poorly advised regarding the major problem of insecurity in the country at the moment.  Nigerians feel terribly betrayed particularly since many were still on Christmas break with specific personal budget for the period, only for the government to remove the subsidy on January 1st. [...]

Nigerians are insisting that the government must begin to create wealth, demonstrate good governance and provide basic facilities and infrastructure for the people. [...]

Nigerians across the country are in agreement that deregulation is necessary in order to stem the corruption in the oil industry. But Nigerians are also saying that government must demonstrate seriousness by first initiating a process of prosecuting those that have been found corrupt or aiding the corruption in the oil industry. [...]

We called all members of the public to remain at home. Offices and banks closed. The actions so far have been effective.. It is another opportunity to insist on good governance and true representation by public officials.

We will update you with the progress of happenings. But I must say that for once, Nigerians have proven that a revolution in this country is possible.

Warm regards,

Tor”

15 January 2012

“Hi Trevor,

The meeting of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and Civil Society failed to yield the desired results. But government seems to have a plan to use civil society members to break the struggle. [...]

I have already communicated to colleagues across the country on this attempt to break the struggle and we must resist it. We insist that the government must be humble and listen to Nigerians.  And we want the international community to put pressure on the government of Nigeria to listen. The situation now has gone beyond the question of the petrol subsidy; Nigerians are as a matter of fact acting on the helplessness that the President has openly expressed about the system. [...]

We think the President as a matter of fact should thank Nigerians. What we are doing now is to empower him to become more proactive to govern Nigeria. At the moment, the meeting is deadlock and so the strike continues tomorrow.

Regards

Tor”

16 January 2012

“Hi Trevor,

The strike was called off today. [...] The strike was called off not necessarily because labor and civil society are satisfied with the government's offer. But rather, there have incidences of blackmail from the government side and attempts to break the strike using some labor and civil society groups and individuals. Government was trying to accuse Labor of trying to cause confusion in the country and that was anarchy; an indirect way to invite the military to intervene.  I guess this possibility to worried labor and therefore decided to suspend the strike. [...]

Will keep you informed.

Tor”