CNN’s Vladimir Duthiers examines the fuel protests and general strike that has brought Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, to a standstill this week. The anger was sparked by President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to end the government’s fuel subsidy that reduced the cost of gasoline for Nigeria’s 155 million residents. The President has defended his decision, arguing that the money saved will be channeled into infrastructure projects and economic initiatives.
Check out the transcript of the upcoming video feature on CNN below.
VLAD CNN: So this is what it is all about. We are standing here in a fuel station in Lagos, Nigeria. Normally on a day like today this place would be packed full of cars, full of motorcycles people in line trying to get fuel. On today it is a strike day so it is closed but if you look up here this is really what we are talking about. The price of a liter of petrol right now is 141 Naira a liter about two weeks ago it was 65 Naira. Most people that we talk to say that the only benefit to them being part of a country that has so much oil is the fact that they can buy petrol at a fairly cheap price. The government has kept those prices cheap for the last few years. They say they cannot do it anymore. They say right now they need to take that money that they would normally be spending on the fuel subsidy and use it to build up the infrastructure of Nigeria. But most Nigerians we speak to are not buying it. They are angry and that is why they are taking to the streets.
I am standing in the shadow of Banana Island, one of the wealthiest enclaves here in Lagos Nigeria. While everyone is affected by the removal of the fuel subsidies, those that have been hardest hit are those who are struggling to get by on just a few Naira a day. Many of them are small business owners on the side of the road.
We spoke to someone the other day who told us that because of the increase in fuel prices that some of their family members can barely afford to eat every day. Now you have increased the price of bread, have you seen that too that people cannot afford to buy that much bread from you?
Zeinab Adams, Street Vendor: ‘Yes. Like when I tell somebody that it is 70 or 100 Naira , he will just feel sad. When he feels sad he will sometimes say give me garri, then some say give me biscuits. They will buy water…without the bread. Because they cannot afford it. The money is not enough. The way they expected it, it was not like that. It has been increased so they can not afford it.”
Tunji Lardner, Businessman: “Nigeria over the last 50 years has been like a giant Ponzi scheme. The chickens have come home to roost now. It is unfair to blame Jonathan and the present administration because he is sitting on top of this Ponzi scheme. But now he is left holding the can. So the key now is can his administration rise to the challenge of providing alternative vision?”
Vlad CNN: So what is the informal sector? Talk to me about that.
Tunji Lardner, Businessman: The informal sector is the okada guy you see, the little men at the kiosk, those young men you see plying their trade in the street. Aggregately they add up to a sizeable chunk of economic activity in Nigeria. And the reason why this subsidy issue is particulary painful to them is that that petrol is the fuel that drives their businesses. It is not just a function of cars, it is the little generator that they own that power their small saloon, that power their small barber shops, that power their small mom and pop shops, that power the refrigerator they use to sell their beer. So at the very heart of it. At night the very generators are powering their homes. Why? Because of the systemic collapse of the infrastructure the last 50 years. Exasperated under the last 12 years. Under the last one regime of president Obasanjo they spent 16 billion dollars in providing of power and nothing came out of it. We still generate way below 5000 megawatts of electricity a year. So the rest of that is subsidized indeed by Nigerians. So if you aggregate all the numbers of generators we have you are probably generating close to 30,000 megawatts. But that 30,000 megawatts is privately owned. So you have the state that has failed to produce the social goods and services but everybody is their own independent state. They provide their own water, their own electricity, their own food. There is nothing they get from the government. So this this the one thing in the public opinion they derive from being an oil producing country. And that is why it is a deeply emotional issue. It is beyond the reason of pure economics.
In this instance, as they always argue. Change happens when the cost of change is cheaper than maintaining the status quo. I think the status quo is untenable and this is a magical moment for the administration for the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to first transform himself and then be the transformational leader he claims to be and come forth and stand with the people and put in place a legal rational basis for rewriting the social contract between the government and Nigerians.
Watch out for the upcoming interview at the scheduled times below:
(All times GMT)
0345, 0615, 1615