Youths protest and shout slogan in Lagos, Nigeria, Monday, Jan. 16, 2012.
Youths protest and shout slogan in Lagos, Nigeria, Monday, Jan. 16, 2012.

Nigerian labor unions ended a nationwide strike Monday, after the president announced a partial rollback of an increase in fuel prices.

In a statement, the Nigeria Labor Congress and Trade Union Congress said they were suspending the strike and daily protests against the increase. The unions said they made the decision "in order to save lives and in the interest of national survival."

Tens of thousands of Nigerians had joined the protests, which sometimes resulted in clashes between demonstrators and authorities. In Lagos Monday, police fired shots in the air and tear gas to disperse several hundred protesters who had gathered on a highway.

Unions launched their strike a week ago to protest removal of the government's consumer fuel subsidy. Fuel prices doubled when the subsidy ended January 1.

In a televised address Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan said fuel prices will drop to about 60 cents per liter. That amounts to a price reduction of one-third, but remains higher than the 45 cents per liter Nigerians paid before the subsidy was removed.

The recent protests, combined with escalating violence in the north, have raised fears that Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is sliding toward chaos.

Jonathan said Monday the fuel price protests had been "hijacked" by those who are trying to "promote discord, anarchy and insecurity." The president has said Nigeria can no longer afford the $8 billion fuel subsidy, and he promised to use the money saved on infrastructure and social programs.

The fuel subsidy was one of the few benefits most citizens enjoyed from the country's oil wealth.

Some economists have said the subsidy was wasteful. But protesters allege that government corruption and mismanagement are responsible for the oil-rich nation's poverty.