Fuel Subsidy Protests in Nigeria: The Promise and Mirage of Empowerment

Attempts to abolish fuel subsidy by successive governments in Nigeria have provoked serious backlash in the form of protests and violence. What maybe said to be the use of such public protests? The literature draw attention to the link between fuel subsidies and protests, but it is still unclear whether or how protests empower protesters to shape the forces that dominate their lives. This paper applies Gaventa's ‘power cube’ as an analytical device to explore the interactions between government and protesters as power relations, and to understand power as both domination and its resistance. This approach introduces a fresh angle to the subject, opening up the terms of the debate, which seems to have stalemated in claims and counter-claims over the nexus between protests and empowerment, often addressed in essentialist terms. Data, specifically related to the January 2012 fuel price increase and protest, from key informant interviews and secondary sources are employed to explore the question.