Ever since we first arrived in Jos back in 2009, the price of petrol (gas) was subsidized by the government and fixed at a rate of 65 naira per liter. On January 1 of this year, the president announced that the fuel subisdy was to be removed and that petrol would now be sold at the market rate. This gave petrol stations the right–or so they thought–to charge as high as 160 naira per liter! Most stations were hovering right around the 140 mark.
Obviously, people weren’t too happy about this. And since the price of petrol impacts the price of transport which impacts the price of nearly everything else, it meant that the cost of living in Nigeria jumped significantly overnight. Labor unions got organized, and last Monday (January 9) they launched a major nationwide strike affecting nearly every industry. Some cities completely shut down while others saw major demonstrations and protests, including a few that turned violent.
Thankfully, at least in part due to a large military presence and the State of Emergency that was placed over our city of Jos on New Years Eve, our area was calm and quiet for the duration of the strike. The week started slowly as people were cautious to venture out, not wanting to get caught in some sort of violence should it break out–but hours stretched into days and things remained calm. By the end of the week, life in Jos was largely operating as normal. Even banks–who technically were closed–were still operating “back door” services. (That is a post for another day…but it basically means that if you knew an employee at the bank, you could use a back entrance to get in and take care of your banking business.) The biggest disruption to our work was the massive number of international flights into and out of Abuja that were cancelled, leading to some of our staff and other visitors being stranded at airports in places like Ghana, Ethiopia and England. Some folks who were trying to leave the country were stranded in Abuja.
By Monday of this week, the government relented and partially reinstated the fuel subsidy, standardizing the price at 97 naira per liter. This seemed to satisfy the labor unions and the strike was suspended. Petrol stations re-opened (with LONG lines, as everyone who didn’t want to fill up at N140/litre was now low on fuel), government offices were back functioning, and the front doors to banks were now the main mode of entry.
We remain safe and grateful for the peace that was granted to Jos during this time. However, the future remains uncertain, as it seems as though some people were not satisfied with the reinstatement of the fuel subsidy but are pushing for more reforms and changes in the government–known as the #OccupyNigeria movement. More demonstrations have been scheduled for tomorrow, and we don’t yet know what these will look like, or if they might turn violent. This is in addition to continued terrorist acts (including tonight’s bombings in Kano, a city several hours north of us) being claimed by a extremist sect called Boko Harm. Your prayers continue to be coveted: for our safety and that of our friends and colleagues here, for God’s Word to radically impact the lives of all Nigerians, and for His true peace to reign throughout the entire country. Thank you for your prayers!