Economic measures announced by the Nigerian Government to impregnate sanity in public finances also provoked total instability in neighboring countries. On the 9th of January, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced subsidy suspension on petroleum products which resulted in price increase of petrol, a controversial decision taken and aired during a nationwide radio and television broadcast by President Goodluck Jonathan became a point of discord between Nigerian and her population. Few hours later strike action was pronounced by various Nigerians trade unions who unified their forces to force the iron hands of Goodluck Jonathan to revert to the old pump price of N65. The new pump price of N141 was judged too exorbitant by a populous nation of 150,000,000 inhabitants.

This situation rapidly generated panic in countries like Cameroun, Togo and Benin. Artificial scarcity was suddenly created by illegal road side vendors of gasoline. One could openly see these vendors everywhere in Benin, who procure their petroleum products fraudulently from Nigeria through middle men who smuggle them across the borders both by land and sea at a price three times lower than the official pump price thus paralyzing the officially registered petroleum companies in Benin. The strike action negatively affected motorists and nearly crippled some commercial activities throughout the country. Most of these commercial activities between these two sister countries almost came to a standstill as most customers from Nigeria were unable to make the trip across both borders for normal business.

The biggest market in West Africa “Dantokpa” in Cotonou keskusta got paralyzed for days. Motorists thronged one time abandoned Government filling stations to fill their tanks as unauthorized informal street vendors tripled their price per liter to make more profit. Long queues were noticed everywhere, cities most affected were Cotonou, Porto-Novo and Abomey though other cities like Lokossa, Bohicon, Dassa, Natittingou, Comé were also slightly affected. Transport fares tripled, prices of food stuff received sky rocketing shocks and market ladies who normally chant to attract customers became sour and slightly rude to express their disagreement with fares charged by zemidjans and taxis.

For days, Benin felt the importance of Nigeria, as a powerful cum important neighbor. Every home in Benin felt the pinch of the Nigerian strike action as if we are living in Nigeria.


Awful traffic

What is the most chaotic place on Earth? It has got to be Cotonou due to it’s 150 000 zemidjans in a city of one million people. And what is a zemidjan? It is a moto taxi usually driving recklessly and a profession for approximately every sixth or seventh person living in Cotonou. Zemis are also the source of massive amounts of exhaust gas in a city known to be one of the most poluted ones in West Africa. Not to mention the cause of death for numerous drivers and passengers every year (I‘ve never seen a zemi driver or a passenger wear a helmet in Benin, except for a few people that looked like American voluntary workers).

Busy streets and grey air of Cotonou by Jen

But guess what? The townhall of Cotonou has announced a new public transport system to be launched in the city in 2012. It will comprise 52 buses and over 200 bus stops. If this is really taking place, the buses will surely reduce the amount of zemidjans and their negative consequences in the city. The air in the city will hopefully be less grey and it’s habitants a little bit healthier.

But then again, how to find new jobs for the zemi drivers that will lose their clients to the buses?

More about this topic on Adjinakou (in French).

The get an idea about the traffic in Cotonou, take a look at the video on this blog.