01/07/2012 11:45 EST | Updated 03/08/2012 05:12 EST

Planned national protest in Nigeria could grind oil-rich nation to halt over end of cheap gas

LAGOS, Nigeria - Tensions are mounting in oil-rich Nigeria as angry labour unions prepare for a nationwide strike after the cancellation of a cherished fuel subsidy sent gas prices soaring.

Nigerians have for decades expected low gasoline prices, one of the few perks seen by residents of the West African nation where corruption siphons billions.

The strike scheduled for Monday already bears echoes to a similar nationwide strike in 2003 that saw the country almost entirely shut down by angry labourers and residents.

While analysts still say the end of the $8 billion in spending a year to support the cheap gas is needed to help the country, they warn the way it was carried out only alienates those living in a nation of more than 160 million people where only the wealthy elite benefit from oil.