Forskningstema: Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa
Forskere på Fafo: Camilla Houeland
This article brings new perspectives on state–citizen relations in African petro-states by analysing the role of Nigerian trade unions in the recurring fuel subsidy protests. Nigerian trade unions have played an instrumental role in protests against fuel subsidy removals since the mid-1980s, most recently in the massive 2012 protest known as ‘Occupy Nigeria’. Based on the idea that the fuel subsidy forms part of a social contract in Nigeria, and through revisiting T. H. Marshall’s seminal work on citizenship and industrial citizenship, I propose that the protests are sites for popular assertions of broader citizenship, as people rally behind the fuel subsidy as a social right and affirm political rights to participate and civil rights to bargain. This article further argues that the trade unions act as a mediator between state and citizens – that is, embedded in their industrial citizenship with collective forms of representation, organizing and bargaining. In this way, Nigerian trade unions have kept their relevance for workers and beyond, despite eroded labour rights. However, this social contract is fragile, contextual and contradictory, and the mediating role of the unions carries challenges and ambiguities, which became particularly clear in the 2012 protest.