Lukman Olabiyi, Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure and Okwe Obi, Abuja
Protests have continued to trail the recent hike in pump price of petrol, electricity tariff and others as youths, most of them students, stormed major streets in Lagos, Osun, Oyo and Ondo states, yesterday, demanding the reversal of the policy.
The protests organised by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D caused tension as the students gathered in their hundreds at different state capitals.
NANS had last Friday disclosed that it had commenced mobilisation for mass actions to reject “anti-people policies of government of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
In a statement, Coordinator of NANS (Zone D), Kowe Odunayo Amos, described the increase in stamp duty cost and energy as further punishment for Nigerians given the hardship already imposed by COVID-19.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari has said there was no going back on the deregulation of the energy sector, criticisms have continued to trail the action.
On Monday, Federal Government gave reasons for the sudden increase, admitting that previous governments lacked the courage to implement the controversial subsidy removal. It said the removal would ensure stable electricity and enhance the economy.
Notwithstanding the explanation, youths in Ondo State, yesterday, took to the streets of Akure, armed with placards and banners to urge government to reverse the price of petrol to the old regime in the interest of the masses.
Odunayo said the hike was an act of wickedness.
“We’re tired and we can’t also continue like this; we have suffered enough under this government and we can’t be smiling at the same time. We’re telling the Federal Government that they can’t continue to take us for fools with their anti-people’s policies. If they feel they can shut the voices of some people in Nigeria, they can’t shut the voices of the youths and Nigerian students.
“It is unfortunate that at this period of COVID-19 where governments in other countries are providing succour to their citizens, in Nigeria our own leaders and government are increasing the pains and suffering of its own citizens,” he said.
In Osogbo, hundreds of protesting students brandishing placards also converged at Freedom Park, in the Osun State capital.
In Abeokuta, Ogun State, students also blocked major roads.
Their spokesperson, Kazeem Israel, described the increment as anti-people.
“No doubt, this government has worsened all the crises it inherited from the last administration. In fact, the Buhari government is a clear example that we the students must go back to our revolutionary days as we cannot continue to lament,” he said. He vowed that no dialogue with the government would be accommodated.
Police foil demonstration in Lagos
However, the protest scheduled for the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota, Lagos could not hold as police barred the protesters from assembling at the venue.
As early as 7am, police officers, personnel of the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security operatives were at the venue. The security personnel with no fewer than 30 operational vehicles barricaded the place.
A senior police officer, who spoke with Daily Sun on the condition of anonymity, said they were under strict instructions to stop the rally from holding.
No protest’ll be allowed in Borno
The Police Command in Borno warned that it would not tolerate any form of protest capable of disrupting the “hard-earned peace in the state.’’
DSP Edet Okon, the command spokesman, said available information indicated that some groups were planning protests against the hike in fuel price, electricity tariff, working conditions of state civil servants, and the N-power programme.
“In view of the above, the commissioner of Police Borno State, Mohammed Ndatsu Aliyu, wishes to state that such protest will not be condoned by the command as this may sabotage efforts of the federal and state sovernments and that of the security agencies to ensure that the emerging peace and security in the state is sustained.All prospective protesters are by this release warned to steer clear of Borno State and respect the laws of the land,’’ Okon said.
Atiku, Chike-Obi, Onitiri react
Also reacting, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, said the price of petrol should fall with deregulation.
Atiku, who had campaigned for the removal of fuel subsidy in the 2019 presidential election, said he was demonised for suggesting it.
In a tweet yesterday, Atiku said crude oil prices have reduced compared to what was obtainable in 2019. He said fuel prices were lower in the US and Europe, asking why it is higher in Nigeria.
Atiku said in his verified twitter handle @atiku: “I am a businessman. I look at things from an economic perspective. Questions beg answers. The price of crude is down from where it was in 2019. In the US and Europe, fuel prices are far lower than they were in 2019. If we truly deregulated, shouldn’t fuel price have dropped?”
Also reacting, Chairman of Fidelity Bank, Mr. Mustapha Chike-Obi, advised political office holders to join poor Nigerians in making sacrifices during tough economic times.
The former chairman of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) said poor people should not be left to make all the sacrifices.
“There is no need for the president or any governor to have 100-car convoy when they are going anywhere. We need to cut governance and make everybody see that the leaders are making sacrifices for this double-digit growth,” Chike-Obi said, answering a question about the possibility of Nigeria recording double-digit economic growth.
“If we make these sacrifices, we are going to have some breathing room. We need time, between five to 10 years. People are not making sacrifices. They want the poor people to make sacrifices, but if you look at the governors and you see them with 30-car convoys and they live wonderful lives and they fly around in private jets.”
Also, Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, a political activist, in a statement in Lagos, described the hikes as “most wicked, unfair and totally unacceptable to the Nigerian people.”
“They are anti-people policies directed at further impoverishing the poor masses and the surest way to lead them to their early graves. These anti-people policies are ill-timed, coming at a time the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a dastardly blow on the people.
“Will these be the palliatives the APC government wants to unleash on the people despite their “change” campaign hype? Is it a crime to be a Nigerian? Certainly No.”
Chief Onitiri called on Buhari to reverse the increases without further delay and save the poor masses from economic strangulation.
He called on the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and all human rigts groups to speak up and be counted on the side of the people.
OPC: Subsidy removal ill-timed
The Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) also described the increase as an attempt to push Nigerians to the wall.
OPC in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Yinka Oguntimehin, said no good citizen would be happy with the increase.
“It is the worst decision ever made by a government that prides itself as the government of the people. With this increase, the FG is sitting on a time bomb with no respect to the feelings and suffering of the people.”
“At the tail end of former president Goodluck Jonathan’s government, fuel was sold for N87 per litre, but since the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in 2015, the pump price has increased on three occasions with over 100 per cent. No government has ever done that. Therefore, labour union and other civil society groups should rise to the occasion by raising their voices against such insensitive decision as they did during the Jonathan administration,” Oguntimehin said.