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The stage is set for another round of protests over the hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol from N86 to N145 per litre. Already, there were pockets of protests in Abuja, Anambra and Ondo states.
But the police deployed its officers to the popular Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota to forestall breakdown of law and order in Lagos. Thousands of protesters shut down business activities in Onitsha and Nnewi, Anambra State, while protesting against the Wednesday’s increase in the price of petrol by the Federal Government. The protest, which was organised by tricycle riders (Keke NAPEP) and commercial motorcycle riders, grounded economic and social activities in many parts of the two cities. The protesters, who were over 1,000 in number, matched through the Bridge head-Uga Junction, Upper Iweka to Owerri road and Nnewi.
The protesters, who sang the old national anthem, Nigeria We Hail Thee, carried posters with various inscriptions like ‘Nigeria at crossroads’, ‘Nigeria is dying of hunger, starvation’, ‘Buhari not a democrat, but a dictatorship,’ ‘Buhari, let my people go’, ‘United Nations, help! Nigerians are dying’. Addressing newsmen at Uga junction, the leader of the group, Mr. Innocent Amukwu, said the removal of the subsidy by the government was to increase the economic hardship being suffered by Nigerians.
Another speaker at the protest rally, Lady Queen Asidu, lamented that over 85 per cent of Nigerians are living below poverty line. She appealed to leaders of thought, the traditional institutions and other stakeholders in the country to call President Muhammadu Buhari to order before the situation gets out of hand. “We are dying, our children are roaming about the bush and yet there is Nino one to help, let every Nigerian now speak.
“The price of fuel will increase cost of food, transport, and the poor masses will not be able to meet up with the present socioeconomic realities in the country,” she said. In Abuja, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) said the over 40 million Nigerian students would re-enact the Occupy Nigeria protest against the removal of subsidy from petroleum product next week. National President of NANs, Comrade Tijani Shehu, stated this in Abuja, at a protest rally where the association called for the removal of the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu. He said NANS is already mobilising Nigerian students to resist the new N145 per litre pump price of petrol.
“A directive has been issued to all tertiary institutions to shut down all campuses on Tuesday and Wednesday, next week. After that, they will all converge on Abuja for a mass protest. “On behalf of NANS and the whole 40.1 million Nigeria students, we condemn the new fuel price and by Tuesday or Wednesday, the whole Nigerian students would occupy Nigeria. So, the Federal Government should look into this before NANS mobilises the entire Nigeria students to occupy Nigeria,” Shehu said.
The students, who came in their hundreds, arrived at the headquarters of the Ministry of Education, blocked the ministry’s entrance and carried different placards asking the Minister of Education, to either resign or President Muhammadu Buhari should remove him. Also, there was early morning protest in Akure, the Ondo State capital, over the increase in pump price of petrol. The protest was led by the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) who dropped all the passengers in their vehicles, forcing many commuters to trek to their various destinations.
The commercial motorcyclists, popularly called Okada, also took to the streets to register their protest over the sudden price increase. However, the men of the State Police Command prevented the breakdown of law and order and directed the protesters to leave the major streets in order to allow free flow of traffic.
The NURTW members responded by increasing their transport fares from N50 to N100 per drop. In an apparent move to forestall breakdown of law and order in Lagos, especially at Ojota area after Wednesday’s increase in the price of fuel, the Lagos State Police Command deployed some of its officers to the popular Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota. The park, which is also known as Freedom Park, was the point of convergence for activists and Nigerians during the January 2012 protests against the increase in pump price of petrol by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
A detachment of policemen from Mobile 22 were seen around Ojota area of the state in what could be said to be a desperate bid to forestall protests in the area. However, the area remains calm as residents were seen going about their businesses peacefully.
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) has demanded the immediate resignation of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, over the fuel hike. The TMG, in a statement signed by its Chairman, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said the “imposition portrays the government as insensitive, and out of touch with the daily unbearable plight of the ordinary Nigerian.”