As Protest over High Cost of Living Berths in Ibadan…

Kemi Olaitan reports on  Monday’s mass protest in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, over current hardship being faced by the citizenry  and the need for President Bola Tinubu to act fast.

With the hardship occasioned by the economic policy of the administration of President Bola Tinubu biting hard on Nigerians everyday, the atmosphere in the country has been laced with anger and discontent.

Indeed, it would be an understatement that Nigeria has been grappling with spiralling inflation since President Tinubu ended the subsidy on petrol and unified the exchange rate in 2023 with Nigerians battling with persistent economic hardships caused by the policies.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), headline inflation rose to 29.90 per cent in January, 2024 from 28.92 per cent in the previous month while food inflation rose to 35.41 per cent from 33.93 per cent.

The pervasive crisis of exorbitant prices of foodstuffs and other basic services in the country has led to the outbreak of protests in places such as Kano, Minna in Niger State, Osogbo in Osun State and Lagos State as Nigerians battled for survival demanding solutions to the problems and calling on the President and his lieutenants to urgently do something about the situation or face an uprising.

While prominent top government officials that include the President himself;  Vice President Kashim Shettima; Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Olayemi Cardoso, have been taking turn to regale Nigerians with what the government is doing to make life better for them, however this has not reduce the tension as Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, on Monday, took its turn to play host to protest by Nigerians.

The protesters that include youths, traders and other passers-by who defied warning by the state Police Command who described them as faceless group in a statement issued a day before by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Adewale Osifeso, began their demonstration after initial hiccup at about 11.15 a.m., converged on the popular Mokola Roundabout and subsequently moved to Sango, en route dual carriageway that leads to the University of Ibadan (UI), chanting solidarity songs to denounce what they termed growing inflation and the dwindling purchasing power of Nigerians.

The protest which caused gridlock along major parts of the city such as Mokola Roundabout, Veterinary, Oremeji and Sango neighbourhoods slowed down socio-economic activities with the protesters, displaying various placards, underscored the need for the administration of President Tinubu to do the needful in order to mitigate the suffering of the masses.

The youths later moved from the University of Ibadan main gate area to Bodija market, in Ibadan North Local Government Area, where they were joined in solidarity by some traders mostly women who expressed concern over poor sales and arbitrary increases in the prices of goods and commodities, charging President Tinubu to reverse some of the policies that his administration initiated as they were inimical to the economic development of the country.

The protesters who accused the administration of allegedly inflicting pain and hardship on the citizenry, called for Tinubu’s intervention to salvage the nation.

From Bodija, the protesters headed to the state Secretariat Complex, Agodi, brandishing their placards with various inscriptions such as ‘End food hike and inflation,’ ‘The poor are starving,’ ‘Tinubu, don’t forget your promises,’ ‘Tinubu, stop this bad governance’, and ‘Tinubu, put an end to this hardship’, among many others.

The spokesperson of the protesters, Emiola Solomon, while addressing journalists, said the protest was organised under the aegis of ‘All Concerned Nigerians’ over the unbearable hardship Nigerians are going through, calling on the President to address the issue without delay to avoid mass civil unrest, capable of jeopardising the peace and unity of Nigeria.

He said, ‘‘This is all due to the bad economic policies of President Bola Tinubu. The masses are suffering due to the hike in prices of food items. Buying food has become difficult now. All food items are costly. All coalitions are part of this.”

Another protester, who identified himself as Pastor Paul Steve, said the residents embarked on the protest to show their grievances to the present-day government as it has failed to fulfil the promise made to Nigerians before getting elected, alleging that the government in power has brought nothing but hardship on the citizens and it is important for it to go back to the drawing board.

“Things have become so expensive and out of the reach of the common man. An average Nigerian can no longer feed himself, take care of his children, provide accommodation for his family, take care of his aged parents, pay school fees for his children, and so on.

“This is why we are here on a day like this to let the government know that the way they are running this nation is not conducive for Nigerians anymore. They need to retrace their steps,” Steve said.

Another protester, who simply identified himself as a driver, while expressing his grievances, lamented the high cost of living as he could no longer afford to feed his family. “They said ‘it is our turn,’ should we not be able to eat? Is it till hunger kills us? We want to pay school fees, we can’t; we want to eat, we can’t eat. How many people were drinking garri before? Even that garri is now very expensive.

“We want the government to have mercy on us. This suffering is too much. How did everything get to this level? If they can’t do it, let them leave the seat for those who are capable,” he said.

While the protest lasted, armed police personnel, officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and sizable personnel of the Nigerian Army were spotted at strategic areas along the routes that the protesters moved through to prevent it from being hijacked by hoodlums and other criminal elements.

The state PPRO, SP Osifeso, while speaking with journalists on the protest, said the Command would always provide security for peaceful protesters and all residents of the state.

His words, “From Mokola, which is the starting point of the protest, the police have been following them step-by-step to Bodija Market, Awolowo to the state secretariat. Having got to this point, they are turning to the secretariat. The command wants to assure the residents that we have their interest at heart and we will ensure that relative peace in Oyo State remains as it is.

“Our people have the right to freedom of assembly. Our duty is to ensure that it is not hijacked by unscrupulous elements. We are here to provide protection to the protesters and to ensure that they are not led to the issue that will cause chaos.”

For political observers with protest over the hardship in the country spreading day by day, it is becoming urgent that the present administration of President Tinubu must think out of the box rather than the rhetorics that it is spewing to assuage the frustration that Nigerians

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