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Nigerian Protests Over Fuel Prices Continue Despite Concessions - 2003-07-07

Clashes have broken out in Nigeria as a strike over a fuel price increase enters its second week.

Police fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse protesters who were blocking several main roads in Lagos. The demonstrators burned tires and destroyed some cars in industrial areas.

The head of the National Labor Congress, Adams Oshiomole, says the government's decision to lower the price for a liter of fuel to about 27 cents, is not enough, so the strike must enter a second week. "The resolution of the National Executive Council of the NLC is pursuant to [agrees with] the rejection of the 35 naira [27 cents] per liter being offered by the federal government," he said. "It is also in pursuant of an affordable pricing regime for petroleum products. We do not have to win this battle but we must not fear to fight this battle."

Several white-collar unions who had joined the strike, including a union of oil administrative workers, are now pulling out because of the government's willingness to reduce the price hike from a 50 percent increase to about 35 percent.

The government says the price of fuel needs to go up because it is cutting down on fuel subsidies to save for projects in education, health, and infrastructure.

But there is growing pressure for the government to end the strike before President Bush visits Nigeria at the end of the week.

The government also fears the strike could begin disrupting the oil sector. Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, but its oil industry is marred by mismanagement and corruption.