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Associated Press
An attendant sells fuel at a petrol station in Lagos , Nigeria, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012. Nigeria is ending fuel subsidies, an official said Sunday, a move that is sure to be unpopular in the oil-rich nation where citizens have come to expect cheap fuel as one of their few government benefits. The government has said the move will save the country some $8 billion, some of which will be dedicated to much-needed infrastructure projects. Previous attempts to lift the subsidies have been met with nationwide strike actions. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

LAGOS, Nigeria — Irate drivers in Africa's most populous nation paid more than twice the usual price Monday after the government quietly removed a long-cherished consumer subsidy that had kept gas affordable, prompting fears of strikes and unrest.

Gas powers Nigeria's generators because the national electricity supply is sporadic at best, and fuel also keeps engines running in traffic that can snarl for hours. The government's announcement — made over a long holiday weekend — drew outrage.

"This New Year 'gift' by the presidency is callous, insensitive and is intended to cause anarchy in the country," said a joint statement by two unions who said they were planning general strikes and protests in the coming days. "We shall neither surrender nor retreat."

Unrest would only add to Nigeria's security woes: President Goodluck Jonathan already declared a state of emergency over the weekend in parts of the country hit by a growing Islamic insurgency that is fueled in part by widespread poverty. Previous attempts to tamper with the subsidy have been met with nationwide protests.