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Crude Tragedy: Price hikes for gasoline add fuel to a volatile situation in Nigeria

January 6, 2012

What: Protest in Solidarity with Occupy Nigeria outside World Bank USA headquarters
When: January 9, 2012, 12 PM to 1 PM

Where: Murrow Park, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC

On New Year’s Day, the Nigerian government announced and immediately implemented  price hikes on fuel for consumption, a policy that has long been advocated by the World Bank and the IMF. Everyday Nigerians are now paying 2 to 5 times what they paid last year for fuel. Meanwhile, the big oil companies that have ravaged the Niger Delta continue to reap huge profits at the same time as Nigerians living in the Delta’s oil producing communities confront the impacts of a series of large December oil spills, including one by Shell that is reportedly the largest in over 10 years.

“This fuel price hike comes at a most unwelcome time,” said Omoyela Sowore of Sahara Reporters. “The country is in a state of crisis due to the state of emergency declared by the President in the country’s conflict with Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group based in the Northern part of Nigeria. In addition, we are still uncertain as to the severity of the recent oil spills – there appear to have been several – and what Shell oil is doing to clean up its mess.”

“The current government claims that raising the price of gasoline is necessary to raise funds, but the fact is that the oil companies are the ones who should be paying first,” said Aniedi Okure, Executive Director of the African Faith and Justice Network. “Gas flaring is technically illegal but very commonly done by oil companies in Nigeria. If the law were properly applied, the government could raise significant money from fees associated with this illegal flaring for much needed investment in health care, education and infrastructure. Instead the government has chosen to go after poor consumers – the 99% - instead of the top 1% who continue to game the system.”

“The IMF and World Bank continue to preach their market fundamentalism despite the obvious failure of the religion,” said Emira Woods, Co-Director or Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. “As Europe reaps bitter rewards for its commitment to austerity, countries like Nigeria continue to face pressure to move towards a deregulated market-based development strategy. The decision of what economic path to take in Nigeria is best left to Nigerians. And Nigerians, including the current government, would do well to consider the failure of the market fundamentalist preachers and consider an alternative course.”

Activists plan to hold a demonstration in solidarity with Occupy Nigeria, the Nigerian “We The People” coalition and Nigeria’s organized labor sector, who have called for a general strike to protest the soaring price hikes for oil on Monday, January 9. The protest will take place outside the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, DC, at 12 noon.

The following individuals are available for press interviews:

Omoyela Sowore, Sahara Reporters (646) 704 5433

Aniedi Okure, Executive Director, Africa Faith and Justice Network, (240) 461 4325

Emira Woods, Co-Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, (202) 787-5232

Nnimmo Bassey (in Nigeria), Board Chair, Friends of the Earth International and 2010 Right Livelihood Award winner, +234 803 727 4395