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article imageOccupy Nigeria Toronto protesters fight for more than 'Goodluck' Special

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By Andrew Moran     Jan 14, 2012 in World
Toronto - Dozens came out to the freezing cold temperatures in Toronto Saturday as part of the international Occupy Nigeria movement. Since the violent protests began in the West African nation, thousands of Nigerians have showed their support for the protesters.
Nigeria’s Oil Subsidy & Upheaval
Samuel Okocha of Digital Journal has reported throughout January of the upheaval that has transpired in the West African nation of Nigeria due to the oil subsidy removal by President Goodluck Jonathan and his government. The purpose of this subsidy is to permit the price of gas to be lower for Nigerians, but now the cost of living is ascend in dramatic fashion.
Nigeria, which is the 12th largest producer of petroleum in the world and the eighth largest exporter, is now faced with escalating violence across the country. Nigerian oil and gas workers union, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), which represents approximately 20,000 workers, has threatened to stop all production of oil as of Sunday if the oil subsidy is not reinstalled. Civil society organizations have also joined in the protests.
Occupy Nigeria protesters in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square.
Occupy Nigeria protesters in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square.
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President Jonathan explained that the reason behind the subsidy removal is to save approximately $7.4 billion (1.2 trillion Naira), which he says will be put towards the nation’s infrastructure that is sorely lacking. International Economists support the end of the subsidy because they argue that sooner or later the country would be become bankrupt.
“PENGASSAN shall be forced to go ahead and apply the bitter option of ordering the systematic shutting down of oil and gas production with effect from Sunday January 15, if the Federal Government of Nigeria fails to yield to the popular agitation of Nigerians on her unacceptable approach to fuel subsidy removal,” said the union in an official statement.
Due to the threat, the price of crude oil has spiked $2 to trade at $114.70. In the country itself, gas prices doubled, which led to increases in the cost of transportation and food. This is devastating because the average Nigerian lives on less than $1.25 per day.
An Occupy Nigeria protester holding a bullhorn at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto.
An Occupy Nigeria protester holding a bullhorn at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto.
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Occupy Nigeria in Toronto
On Saturday, more than a dozen people gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto as part of the worldwide Occupy Nigeria movement. The Toronto protesters called for the Nigerian president to reinstate the oil subsidy, end the corruption that has taken place for decades and to put the people of the country first.
Intact with a bullhorn, an alto saxophone and drums, the protesters sang the Nigerian national anthem, sang songs and shouted various slogans. The activists also carried signs that stated: “Nigerian Govt Must Put Nigerians First,” “Enough is Enough,” “Nigeria Needs More Than Goodluck! Restore Oil Subsidy Now” and “Prosecute Shell for Bonga Spilling.”
Anthony Kola-Olusanya, a research executive and organizer of the event, told Digital Journal that government in Nigeria has completely broken down and extreme corruption that has engulfed the country is a “state affair.”
Occupy Nigeria protesters in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square.
Occupy Nigeria protesters in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square.
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“If you’re not corrupt, you’re not a Nigerian in the government,” explained Kola-Olusanya in Toronto where the group braved the freezing temperatures. “The government has moved in such a way that it has let people behind and the level of poverty, where people live on less than $2 a day, is no lie and it’s real. But for a country that makes millions of dollars from oil sales every day, only one percent of the country is enjoying this.”
He stated that the only thing the people of Nigeria enjoy is the gas subsidy, but since its eradication it has impacted the everyday life of individuals because bus fare has skyrocketed and the price of bread has increased from $1 to $4. Noting that the average annual salary is $300 and since bus fare has soared, people cannot even afford to pay rent or put food on the table.
When asked if people believe it’s the president that is corrupt or the entire government, Kola-Olusanya said it’s the entire government as a whole. Furthermore, when asked if the situation has worsened since Jonathan came into power, Kola-Olusanya immediately responded that it has become worse.
An Occupy Nigeria protester holding a bullhorn at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto.
An Occupy Nigeria protester holding a bullhorn at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto.
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“It’s become a situation where the government looks the other way when perpetrators are carrying out their deal,” added Kola-Olusanya. “The government claims that about 1.3 trillion Naira is being used to finance the subsidy, but in the budget it was 200 billion Naira for last year. When and how did it become 1.3 trillion?”
The situation that is currently going on in Nigeria isn’t just about the oil, but a variety of factors that have “climaxed together.” “Today people can no longer just look away from corruption that has become the daily issue.”
Occupy Nigeria protests are happening across the globe, including cities in the United States, Canada and Australia. On Monday, the Occupy Nigeria protesters will gather in front of the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa.
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