Clashes reported as thousands take to the streets to demonstrate against government’s decision to end fuel subsidies.
|Protesters have increased pressure on President Jonathan to reinstate the fuel subsidy [AFP]|
Gunmen have shot eight people dead in northern Nigeria and a mob torched an Islamic school in the south, as a nationwide fuel strike and growing religious tension rattled Africa’s top oil producer.
The two-day general strike has not yet affected oil output but it has paralysed the country, already battling a brutal campaign by Boko Haram, an Islamist group who are suspected to be behind the gunning down of eight people in a pub on Tuesday.
A doctor in Potiskum, a town in the northern state of Yobe, said eight bodies were brought to the mortuary after gunmen stormed a pub and opened fire before speeding away on a motorcycle.
“The bodies included five policemen, a bartender, a customer and a 10-year-old girl,” the doctor said. The police confirmed the shooting but did not provide a casualty toll.
Earlier, attackers burnt part of the central mosque complex in the southern city of Benin, where clashes earlier killed five, bringing to 11 the number of people killed in incidents related to the strike over two days.
“We have recorded so far five deaths — on both sides, those that have been attacked and the attackers,” said Dan Enowoghomwenwa, secretary-general of the Nigerian Red Cross in Edo state, told AFP news agency.
He said 10,000 people were also displaced by the violence.
Witnesses said an Islamic school adjacent to the mosque was burnt on Tuesday as was a bus parked next to it.
The attacks in Benin started on Monday amid street protests against soaring fuel prices, when a crowd separated from the main demonstration to attack another mosque and terrorised residents of mainly Hausa neighbourhoods.
Hausas are the largest ethnic group in Nigeria’s north and are overwhelmingly Muslim.
The Red Cross official could not specify who was behind the attacks, only saying there were “indigenes” targeting northerners.
The attacks blamed on the Boko Haram have raised tensions between Christians and Muslims. Africa’s most populous nation is roughly divided between a predominantly Christian south and mainly Muslim north.
Nigerians took to the streets in growing numbers against a sharp increase in petrol prices, increasing pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan to reverse his removal of fuel subsidies on January 1 that more than doubled petrol prices to at least $3.50 per gallon. Many citizens see the fuel subsidy as their only welfare benefit.
Tuesday’s protests were bigger than those on Monday in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, and in the capital, Abuja.
The Stream looks at the Nigerian protests
But Jonathan’s resolve in the face of the kind of protests that have derailed past attempts to scrap the fuel subsidy showed no sign of weakening.
Activists wore shirts bearing symbols for a loose-knit group called “Occupy Nigeria”, inspired by those near Wall Street in New York.
Anger extended to government corruption in Nigeria, a nation beset by politicians and military rulers who have stolen billions of dollars in oil revenues over the years.
Protesters also demanded a stronger government response to ongoing religious violence in Nigeria that, according to an Associated Press news agency count, killed at least 510 people last year alone.