Protesters in Lagos
As the nationwide strike declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) took off Monday, members of civil society organisations, politicians, political activists, actors and musicians have said the much canvassed revolution had finally commenced.
It was successful in Lagos State as the massive protest rally held at Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, featured 76-year-old politician and political activist, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, who said the current event in Nigeria showed that the appointed time to rescue the soul of Nigeria from those who held it captive had finally come.
“There’s something called an appointed time. We are here today on this podium to announce to our children and rulers that the appointed time has arrived. There’s no going back. With the power of the Almighty with us, we are taking over our nation and the entire black race and freeing ourselves,” Braithwaite said.
It was also successful in Ekiti State as the Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, Bishop Felix Ajakaye, led thousands of residents of Ekiti State and leaders of several organised labour and civil societies to protest the removal of the oil subsidy by the Federal Government.
The protest however came on a day the state government allayed the fears of non-indigenes, particularly members of the Hausa community of their safety in the state during and after the ongoing strike.
But the protest, which grounded commercial, social and economic activities of the state to a halt, also witnessed several bonfires made by some hoodlums, across the major streets of Adebayo, Odo-Ado, Ajilosun on Akure road and other areas.
Another successful outing was recorded by labour and its allies as social and economic activities were paralysed in Ondo State as residents both in public and private sectors complied with the strike called by the NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other civil society groups over the protest. Protesters as early as 7.30a.m. trooped to the major Adesida/Oyemekun Road in the Akure metropolis with placards bearing inscriptions condemning the action of the government, which they said would further impoverish Nigerians.
Markets, banks, government offices, filling stations and shops were under lock and key just as streets remain deserted as commercial vehicle operators, taxi and commercial motorcyclists popularly called okada abandoned their tools of trade.
In another successful outing, at least two persons were injured during the anti-fuel subsidy peaceful protest in Osogbo, the Osun State capital by an unknown politician’s vehicle in an attempt to flee from the protesters.
The injured persons whose identities could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report were allegedly hit by the politician driving along Gbongan -Ibadan express road while the protest lasted.
The victims who were among hundreds of protesters who gathered at the popular Ola-Iya junction, Osogbo were later rushed to a private hospital in the town. The strike was also a blissful outing in Oyo State, but policemen bravely repelled the vandalism of the state office of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A toddler named Baraka, who rode piggyback on her mother who was on the protesting procession, cheated death as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, allegedly fired two canisters of teargas to disperse the peaceful protesters as they advanced towards the state secretariat where Ajimobi wanted to address the protesters.
A mob which was trailing the peaceful procession of the JAF/NLC coordinated anti-fuel subsidy rally threw stones at the electronic signboard of the party at its secretariat along Queen Elizabeth Road, Ibadan.
Taking a cue from the South-west states, the protest recorded a high level of success in Edo State.
But three suspected hoodlums were reportedly killed in Benin-City by the Police while attempting to loot during the protest staged by the organised labour against the removal of fuel subsidy in the state.
The state Commissioner of Police, David Omojola, when contacted would neither deny nor confirm the incident as he was said to be attending a security meeting.
However, the protest was not successful in River State as shops, human and vehicular movement was recorded in the state unhindered.
The management of Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, near Port Harcourt said normal operations went on at the airport, in spite of the strike. Manager of the airport, Mr. Henry Anyanwu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that operations at the airport were not disrupted by anybody.
The action was less successful in Cross River State as workers defied the directive of their leaders on the strike as the NLC and TUC in the state threatened to sanction members who failed to join the ongoing strike to protest fuel subsidy removal.
The chairman of the State NLC, Mr. Nyambi Njom, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) shortly after monitoring compliance in Calabar that market union, taxi drivers and owners of petrol stations failed to join in the strike.
Similarly, all was quiet in all fronts in Bayelsa State as residents of the state went about their duties as if the strike was never called.
Civil society groups which called the protest quietly called it off as they were told by labour unions in the state that they didn’t want to antagonise President Goodluck Jonathan.
Workers in Delta State responded to the call by the NLC to come out en-mass to protest the removal of fuel subsidy , as commercial activities were grounded in the metropolis. It was a successful protest in the state. As early as 7:30am, members of the NLC, other trade unions and okoda riders trooped out en-masse in a procession blocking the popular Inter Bau junction, a road linking Government House, Delta State House of Assembly and the police headquarters and other streets in the
However, the protest against the subsidy removal recorded a low turn out in the South-east.
In Enugu, the directive of labour was not heeded as the State Government had banned public assemblies, meetings or processions in any part of the state until further notice.
A statement issued by Governor Sullivan Chime Monday, according to the News Agency of Nigera (NAN), said he banned the protests because such meetings could lead to a breakdown of law and order.
“The holding of any public assemblies, meetings or public procession in Enugu State of Nigeria is hereby prohibited until further notice, `` he said.
In Aba, the commercial nerve-centre of Abia State, the Ariaria International Market opened for business while people went about their normal business. Vehicular movement was normal as commercial vehicles and motorcycles operated. The Commissioner of Police in Abia State, Mr. Bala Hassan, said there was no form of strike in the state.
In a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Bala said: ``I have monitored the situation in the state and reports from my field officers in Abia show there is not strike in the state.
“The area is calm. People are going about their normal businesses,’’ he said, adding, “the main markets in Umuahia and Aba are open.”
Similarly, the Onitsha Main Market in Anambra State, opened for normal business and life in the city was normal but banks were shut.
Also in Imo State, a less successful outing was recorded, although public institutions such as government offices, banks, filling stations were under lock and key, while a handful of protesters mainly labour leaders were seen chanting solidarity songs with placards in some streets in the metropolis.
It was less successful in Maiduguri as the NLC said it had shelved street protest in the ongoing fuel subsidy strike following appeal by security agencies in the state.
The Borno State NLC Chairman, Mr. Titus Abana, told NAN in Maiduguri that the strike would not involve any kind of street protest, saying, all other aspects of the strike would continue as scheduled. Government offices, business and commercial enterprises were shut down in Bauchi State in another successful, but peaceful protest just as major roads across the state capital were cordoned off by angry protesters against the removal of the fuel subsidy, amidst tight security in the state.
THISDAY checks reports that as early as 7a.m in the morning, Civil servants, youths, public servants, carried placards with various inscriptions, such as: “…we have suffered enough, subsidy must be reversed”, among others as they joined the organised labour in the state and led a procession to the Emir’s Palace, as the starting point of the rally.
Thousands of people living in Kebbi State Monday protested against the fuel hike announced by President Goodluck Jonathan last week.
The protest was led by the state chairman of NLC, Comrade Sadiq Kaoje.
The protest was very effective in all the nooks and crannies of the state especially in Birnin Kebbi Argungu, Jega, Yauri, and Zuru among other areas.
Some of the placards of the demonstrators read “Bamuso a kara kudin mai”, “we oppose to fuel hike” and “we don’t want subsidy removed.”
In Kano, the state government put in place a 6pm to 8 am curfew as a measure to avert breakdown of law and order, following the disturbance which followed the on-going strike, which was allegedly hijacked by miscreants.
The protesters also torched and vandalised the office of the secretary to the state government, vandalised the fence wall of government house, while over 18 cars also set ablaze at the SSG office.
Residence of Senator Bashir Garba Lado of Kano central residence at Wharf Road in Kano was also destroyed, his cars were also vandalised by the suspected hoodlums during the protests.
Sokoto State Police Commissioner, Mr. Baba Adisa Bolanta, said about 5000 policemen were deployed in the state to maintain security during the strike.
Speaking to journalists in Sokoto yesterday, Bolanta said the command took the measure in order to avert the breakdown of law and order in a protest which completely shut down commercial and government activities.
In Kaduna, the crowd that responded to the nationwide strike was unprecedented. Hundreds of thousands of youths, including the Almajiris stormed in support of the labour unions.
Shops and markets were closed while residents of the city remained indoors for fear of the unknown, leaving the city centre deserted.
The youths were daring in their protest over the removal of fuel subsidy as they marched round some parts of the city singing solidarity songs, carrying placards and saying all sort of unprintable words about President Goodluck Jonathan and his deputy, Alhaji Namadi Sambo.
Workers yesterday shunned the strike called by labour due to the ‘security situation’ in the state. The union however said it was in total support of the nation-wide strike called by its national body, and it was fully complied within Plateau State.
The state Chairman of the union, Comrade Jibrin Bancir, who announced the suspension of the protest, while addressing journalists and the unionists at the NUJ Press Centre in Jos, said: “The immediate negative impact of the price increase on transportation, food items, drugs, school fees, rents, indicates that government is insensitive to the hardship experienced by Nigerians.”
Bancir said: “It is disheartening to note that while the country is facing a great challenge of insecurity; lives and properties are lost every day without a solution at hand, the government has decided to add more pains to Nigerians through this inhuman policy.”
In Ilorin, it was a glorious outing for the organisers as workers in both private and public service, students, civil societies, markets women, artisans among others in Kwara State came out in large numbers to comply with the order of the NLC to protest the removal of petroleum subsidy by the Federal Government in the country.
Offices, shops, kiosiks, business premises were also closed down and thereby halting buying and selling in Ilorin, the state capital and other towns in the state,
THISDAY investigations revealed that, the situation in other major towns in the state were the same as all shops and business activities were also shut.
The affected towns includes Offa, Ajase-Ipo, Oro, Omuaran, Share, Patigi, Lafiaji,Erinle and Shonga.
Although the state capital experienced heavy presence of policemen who were armed to the teeth ,an Air force aircraft also hovered around Ilorin.
In Lokoja, Kogi State, no gunshot was fired, no tear-gas canister was released, no arrest was made and no injury whatsoever was recorded but there was graveyard calm yesterday in the entire area with the ever busy Lokoja - Abuja road deserted when protesters held the state to ransom for about five hours.
Labour leaders, comprised of the Chairmen, NLC, Comrade James Odaudu, his TUC counterpart, Comrade Abdulazeez Ganiyu, and other leaders of Civil Liberty Organisations (CLO) and NGOs were gathered at the Paparanda Junction as early as 7am where youths carrying anti-subsidy and anti-President Jonathan inscriptions converged to start the mass protest against subsidy removal by the Federal Government.
The multitude of protesters, mostly youths marched from their Paparanda convergence point through IBB Way and Lord Lugard road where they arrived at the Kogi State Government House where the protest almost went out of hands. It took the persuasive efforts of the NLC and TUC leadership to avert the outbreak of lawlessness.
One of the organisers of the protests and Kogi State Coordinator, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CCHRCR), Comrade Idris Miliki, said the protest in the State was successful.
“For two reasons, the protest is a victory protest. Since we went out and came back safely. Secondly, because our message has been passed. Nobody can hold us responsible for any violence or lawlessness and yet, our objective has been achieved. We also thank the police, since they stood by their words that if we are not violent, they will not be violent too,” he recounted.
Similarly, the NLC Chairman, Odaudu commended the protesters for conducting themselves in an orderly manner that was devoid of violence. He blamed breakdown in communication for the skirmishes that occurred at the government house.
At the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, in an apparent obedience to the call for an industrial action, most streets of the city, were virtually empty.
Though, the heavy presence of Police and armed military personnel contributed in keeping many residents of the city off from the streets.
Apart from the empty streets, the banks, the hotels, various shopping malls and plazas including the famous Wuse and Garki markets were under lock and key.
From the MKO Abiola Street which stretched from Area One to the International Conference Centre near the Radio House by Area Eleven was empty, the situation was the same as the other parts of the city.
Workers did not come to work at the Federal Secretariat housing all the offices of the federal ministries and agencies. Though, the NLC and the TUC rallies did not get near to the Eagle Square, as it was blocked by Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) Vehicles manned by the Police, Army and members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officials cordoned off the square.
Both the striking NLC and TUC officials and workers of the Federal Secretariats were not allowed to get nearer the secretariat. From the Agonyi Ironsi street housing the Transcorp hotel to the THISDAY Dome, Federal High Court Complex and adjoining streets were all cordoned off by security officials.
Also at the junction of the Louis Edet House (Force Headquarter) to the Federal Ministry of Finance Office Complex were all cordoned off. It was therefore difficult to say whether the absence of workers from their respective offices was either in obedience to the NLC, TUC induced strike or due to the fact that they were not allowed into their offices by the presence of security officials guarding the place.
But a petrol station that dispensed the petroleum product was the AP station located opposite Transcorp Hilton Hotel. As usual, the AP station had a long queue as vehicles used the opportunity make a quick buy of the PMS.