Niger. Two domestic political issues caused popular protests. According to countryaah, Niamey is the capital and one of the major cities within the country of Niger. A 19% value-added tax introduced in January to strengthen the state budget led to extensive demonstrations in the larger cities. Dozens of people were arrested and held responsible for the looting and vandalism that occurred during the protest actions. The tax was said to have made a number of basic goods inaccessible to a large proportion of Nigerians, who are among the poorest peoples on earth. After just over a month of protests, the government partially gave up and abandoned the tax on, among other things. flour and milk and promised to compensate for the price increases on water and electricity.
The government was also criticized for denying that slavery still exists and is a serious social problem. In January, the government banned a ceremony that would mark the release of 7,000 slaves. Anti-slavery activists were arrested and accused of trying to scam foreign aid through fraudulent claims that slavery exists in N. The activists were released after a month on order by an appellate court.
In April, the UN raised alarm that severe malnutrition among children in central N. could lead to a famine disaster following failed harvests and grasshopper attacks in 2004. However, it was delayed before the crisis gained international attention. Only at the end of July did relief broadcasts begin to reach the country. Though late, the efforts succeeded in averting a major famine disaster, and in September the crisis was declared over. Prior to that, not only had foreign governments been criticized for delinquency; the Nigerian government was also accused by aid organizations of nonchalance in the face of the hunger problem. But the crisis was also felt to have been exacerbated by both one-sided eating habits and social factors, e.g. that men’s dominant position gives them the right to eat saturated before women and children get the food that has been left over.
Government employees were granted their first salary increase in 25 years. The minimum wage was set at the equivalent of just over SEK 20. per day.
In an effort to broaden its economy, N. could begin exporting gold since a Nigerian-Canadian joint venture began operations in 2004. Several European companies have been granted concessions to extract gold, and preparations for oil production are also underway.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague granted N. the right to 16 disputed islands in the Niger River that neighboring Benin has claimed. The islands are used as pastures by Nigerian nomads.