LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria unions suspended their nationwide strike on Monday, hours after President Goodluck Jonathan partially reinstated subsidies to keep gasoline prices low and after authorities deployed soldiers, who fired over the heads of protesters.
Peter Esele, president of the Trade Union Congress, cast the sudden developments as a victory for labor unions as the strike was entering its sixth day. However, many Nigerians remain angry that gas prices rose at all in a nation where few see benefits from the country's oil riches, and protesters' rage also turned on government corruption and inefficiency.
Just before the strike was suspended, soldiers in Lagos fired apparent live rounds over the heads of several hundred protesters who were walking to a park where demonstrations were held last week — and where armored personnel carriers and troops awaited on Monday.
The deployment of troops is a sensitive issue in a nation with a young democracy and a history of military coups. President Goodluck Jonathan said in a speech televised early Monday that agitators have hijacked the demonstrations, which were initially focused on his removal of a fuel subsidy on Jan. 1. That caused gas prices to spike from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter). The costs of food and transportation also largely doubled.
Jonathan announced in his speech aired early Monday the government would subsidize gasoline prices to immediately reduce the price to about $2.27 a gallon (60 cents a liter).
The strike began Jan. 9, paralyzing the nation of more than 160 million people. Tens of thousands of people protested in cities across Nigeria. At least 10 people were killed. Red Cross volunteers have treated more than 600 people injured in protests since the strike began, officials said.
Authorities also targeted some foreign media outlets in Lagos Monday. Officers of the State Security Service, Nigeria's secret police, raided an office compound used by the BBC and CNN, witnesses said. Marilyn Ogar, a secret police spokeswoman, said she had no information about the raid.
Associated Press writer Bashir Adigun and Lekan Oyekanmi in Abuja, Nigeria; Ibrahim Garba in Kano, Nigeria and Yinka Ibukun contributed to this report.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.