Protests Skyrocket as Hunger Pervades Nigeria 

Protests Skyrocket as Hunger Pervades Nigeria 

Sunday Ehigiator and Ayodeji Ake chronicle the increasing spate of protests rocking some parts of the country over the rising prices of foodstuff and general cost of living in Nigeria, which has seemingly erased the middle class and plunged most Nigerians into hunger 

Many Nigerians have been plunged into a financial crisis and increase in their cost of living by the continuous rise in inflationary pressures being currently experienced in Nigeria.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s annual inflation rate rose to 29.90 per cent in January from 28.92 per cent in December 2023, compared to 26.98 per cent  when the president declared a state of emergency on food security. Food inflation seems to be no respecter of presidential declarations.

The statistics office said the January 2024 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 0.98 per cent compared to the December 2023 headline inflation rate.

The NBS said on a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 8.08 per cent points higher compared to the rate recorded in January 2023, which was 21.82 per cent.

This is greatly felt by the people as there has been a drastic reduction in their purchasing power due to the surge in the costs of food items and other consumables. It has also reduced the sales of foodstuffs in the market.

Due to the economic hardship, protests have already erupted in Kwara, Niger, Osun, Sokoto, Lagos, Kano, and Kogi States. More protests are expected in the coming days, as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has planned a Nationwide protest for February 27 and 27, 2024.

Protest in Niger: “Things are Unbearable”

On the 6th of February 2024, youths and women took over the streets of Niger State lamenting the rising cost of living in the country. 

According to reports, the protest started when a group of women blocked the Minna-Bida Road at the popular Kpakungu Roundabout to express the unbearable economic situation in the country, inflicted on them by the Bola Tinubu government.

The protest escalated and was later joined by men and youths who barricaded the road and halted vehicular traffic.

A youth, Ibrahim Gana, told the media that “a measure of rice was sold for N2,000 in Minna markets while maize was N1,000 per measure. The Federal Government needs to take action to reduce the hardship faced by poor Nigerians. Things are becoming unbearable.”

The Niger State Police Command spokesman, Wasiu Abiodun, explained that the police applied minimum force to disperse the protesters.

He said: “I woke up this morning with information that a large number of people protesting blocked Bida Road, obstructing motorists and people were unable to go about their work. So, we had to deploy there this morning

“After so much persuasion, they refused to open the road, even the deputy governor was there to address them. As a result of that, we had to use minimum force to disperse the protesters; the road was opened and there is free flow of traffic now.”

Protest in Osun: “We Can’t Cope Again”

Again, in Osun State, youth staged a peaceful protest in Osogbo, the state capital, expressing their displeasure over the rising cost of living, with a call on the government to immediately intervene.

The protesters chanted “We can’t cope again”, and made a call on the government to immediately intervene.

The protesters, who wielded placards with various inscriptions such as “change the unfavourable policies”; “Nigerians are suffering, we can’t cope again”; “We are humans, stop mistreating the citizens”, among others, assembled along MDS Road, Osogbo very early.

Addressing the protesters, the chairman of Osun Civil Societies Coalition, Mr Waheed Lawal, said the protest would continue until the Federal Government fields solutions to the current economic hardship ravaging the country.

He said: “Government must ameliorate the suffering of the people. They must do whatever they need to do to make sure that the people live in better conditions.

“Nigerians deserve the best. They promised us renewed hope but what they are giving us now is renewed hardship. We reject renewed hardship in our lives, and in our economy because Nigerians deserve the best.

“What Nigerians want is a peaceful atmosphere, we don’t want insecurity in our land again. We can’t travel from Osogbo to Ibadan without panicking. You will be thinking that they will kidnap you.

“The abduction of monarchs is the order of the day in our country now. We urge the government to provide security for the lives and property of the citizens. It is their responsibility, it is a constitutional responsibility.

“Every government that fails to provide security for the lives of the citizens is no longer a government. What we are saying is simple, we are ready to face the government in this hardship and we are marathon runners.

“We have started this struggle today and if the government fails to listen to us, we will continue to mobilise our people to protest this hardship because enough is enough.”

Protest in Sokoto: “We are Being Pushed to the Wall”

In the same vein, on February 12, residents of Sokoto protested over the high cost of living in Nigeria.

It was gathered that the protesters marched from the Tudun Wada area of the state capital to the front of the Government House.

Some of the protesters held placards, chanting “Beans is expensive”, “Maize is expensive” “Fuel is expensive” among others.

Addressing journalists, Abdullahi Muhammad, who led the protest, said the situation is pushing the people to the wall.

“It’s surprising how nobody is trying to bring the prices of commodities down. We elected these people hoping that things would be better but things are getting worse. We need price control to ensure stability in prices of goods,” he said.

He also accused traders of hoarding goods and unnecessarily increasing prices of commodities, calling on the government to put more effort into supervising businesses.

“A mudu of garri is N1,250 while a mudu of maize flour is N1,700. Traders are part of the problem because they are in the habit of increasing prices at will,” he said.

Another protester, Jabir Usman, called on the government at various levels and business people to fear God in their dealings.

A woman, who didn’t give her name, said the situation has compounded life for several households in the state.

“People want to get married but everything is expensive. Furniture is expensive for parents to buy for their children. A small bed is more than N500,000. A bag of cement is always increasing in price. Things are difficult for people, we want the government to help us find a solution,” she said in the Hausa language.

Protest in Kano: “To Pretend All is Well is Dangerous… Mr. President

Kano residents on February 8, took to the streets in protest against the high cost of food items and other essential commodities.

The protesters who were said to have staged the protest around Kurna, Rigiyar Lemu and Bachirawa areas along the popular Katsina Road, lamented that the economic situation was getting worse daily.

Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Usman Bello, a resident of Rijiyan Lemo, said the harsh economic situation has caused untold hardship to the masses in the state.

“We masses voted for President Bola Tinubu. It would not be good of him not to listen to our complaints and address the pathetic economic situation we were facing.

“To pretend that all is well is dangerous. Those people closer to Mr. President should tell him the truth that the masses are suffering and dying of hunger,” he said.

The protesters who thronged the streets along Katsina Toad expressed their grievances in the Hausa language.

According to him, they had been pushed to the wall, hence the need for them to come out despite the harmattan.

“Everybody is worried about the situation, hence the need for us to come out and express our displeasure over the situation.

“The situation is worrisome, this prompted us to stage this peaceful protest for the government to come to our rescue,” he said.

Bello added, “People cannot eat three square meals even the one square meal is now becoming difficult, as a bag of rice which used to go for N25,000 now attracts N70,000. Sugar which was sold for N8,000 now goes for N75,000.

“We want the government to intervene by coming to our aid because we can no longer bear the ugly situation but we know President Tinubu is a listening President.”

Protest in Ogun: “We are in Pains”

On February 15, some residents in Ota, Ogun state staged a protest over the prevailing economic hardship. The protesters marched across the streets carrying different placards with inscriptions expressing their pains. “We are in Pains”, “We are hungry”, “We need help from government”, they cried.

Protest in Lagos: “Baba Tinubu Nigerians are Hungry, Rescue Us 

Also, on February 10, some residents of Lagos State trooped to the street to stage a peaceful protest over the rising cost of living ravaging the country.

The protesters who are said to be market women and men as well as youth carried different kinds of placards to the Ibeju-Lekki area of the state to vent their grievances against the government over the hardship.

During the protest in the Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos, the women carried placards with inscriptions such as “Baba Tinubu, Nigerians are hungry”, and ‘Tinubu, come and rescue us”, among others.

Protest in Kogi: “Sales Patronage Low”

In the same vein, according to the report, protests broke out in Kogi State recently as residents lamented the high costs of food items.

Traders closed their shops as they no longer got patronage due to the high cost of commodities.

Pensioners Threaten to Protest Naked

In a related development on February 10, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners says its members will take to the streets naked if the welfare of pensioners in the country does not improve significantly any time soon.

The National President of the union, Godwin Abumusi, told journalists at a news briefing in Abuja that his union will take action to draw the attention of the world to the plight of pensioners.

“I am going to lead Nigerian pensioners naked,” he said. “I mean, when we are going to protest, we are going to go naked on the street so that the world will see the pensioners in Nigeria are demonstrating naked.

“If they like, they will arrest us and say, ‘Why did you go naked on the streets?’.

“In Nigeria, governments don’t think about the poor people. They only think about themselves. Otherwise, how can a pensioner in Enugu receive as low as N450? How can this be?” he lamented.

As the cost of living continues to skyrocket and with organised unions pushing for a new minimum wage for workers, pensioners are also calling for a review of the national minimum pension.

Mr Abumusi was clear on what it would take for pensioners to get by with the prevailing economic situation.

He said, “We wish to propose the sum of N100,000 as the national minimum pension to the tripartite committee in line with the proposed N200,000 minimum wage by the NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress); as anything short of that will incur the wrath of the pensioners who are hard hit by the prevailing economic hardship.”

Labour to Embark on Nationwide Strike

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has revealed that it will be embarking on a nationwide strike on February 27 and 28 over the current hardship facing the country induced by the high cost of living.

NLC President, Joe Ajaero, disclosed this during a press briefing in Abuja on Friday, February 16, after an emergency meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union.

He said the protest will begin a week after the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum it issued to the Federal Government which will expire on February 23.

“To this end, NEC unanimously noted its deep disappointment and condemned the actions of the federal government in refusing to implement the agreements and reached the following decisions: It reaffirms the 14 days notice issued to the federal government within which to implement the Agreement and address the mounting crisis of survival in Nigeria.”

Recalled that on February 8, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) gave a two-week ultimatum to the government to meet demands ranging from wage increments to improved access to public utilities, and accused it of failing to uphold pledges to soften the impact of the proposed reforms of President Tinubu’s administration.

APC Says Protests Unpatriotic, Coordinated to Instigate Unrest 

National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Felix Morka, in a statement stated “The protests in Minna and Kano were the manifestation of this devious and unpatriotic plot. That the protests happened simultaneously in both cities is not coincidental. It bears the bold stamp of an orchestrated and coordinated effort to instigate unrest and undermine the government.

“This mercenary opposition tactic is a clear and present threat to public peace and national security.”

APC Government Insensitive, PDP Says 

Reacting to Morka’s claim, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP),  National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, described APC’s action as insensitive, just as it accused President Bola Tinubu of Politicising economic hardship and worsening insecurity in the country. 

“The action of the APC in threatening Nigerians for exercising their democratic and Constitutional right to protest in the face of misrule, agonising poverty, hunger, killings, and other harrowing experiences under the Tinubu administration shows that the APC is insensitive and relishes the life-discounting situation in the country,” he said.

The statement partly read: “It is an assault on the sensibility of the people that rather than providing answers to how the Tinubu-led APC government in the space of nine months, turned the nation’s economy upside down leading to terrifying food scarcity and catastrophic high cost of living, the APC is seeking to label and clamp down on the suffering masses.”

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