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January 04, 2012

Police Break Up Fuel Protest in Northern Nigeria

Police in northern Nigeria have fired tear gas to break up a protest against the government's decision to end a popular consumer fuel subsidy.

Authorities disrupted the demonstration early Thursday in the city of Kano. Protesters say several people were injured.

Nigeria's main unions have called for nationwide strikes next week unless the government restores the subsidy. The groups say the actions will be peaceful and are urging Nigerians to stockpile supplies for basic needs, including food and water.

Fuel prices doubled to about 88 cents a liter this week after the government eliminated the subsidy, which it says will allow the $7.5 billion from the program to be spent on infrastructure and social programs.

The fuel subsidy was one of the few benefits that ordinary Nigerians received from the nation's oil wealth. Most live on less than $2 a day.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest exporter of oil. The country must import refined fuel, though, because the country's refineries lack the infrastructure to process the oil.

Human Rights Watch has accused the country's governing elite of squandering and siphoning much of the nation's oil wealth, leaving little for health services and education.

Militants in the oil-rich south have attacked the oil industry and government for years, demanding that more oil wealth be shared with poor communities.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.