NIGERIA was, on Monday, shut down completely by anti- subsidy removal protests which took place across the federation.
Protesters, who stormed major streets of the states, came out as early as 6.00 a.m. to kick against the subsidy removal they claimed had brought untold hardship to Nigerians.
Reports gathered from every part of the country, however, revealed that the protest was characterised by peace and orderliness in some parts while violence and killings were recorded in some other parts.
The Lokoja-Jamata Bridge and Abuja roads were shut down by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), while several people were reportedly killed and wounded in Lagos, Kano, Edo and other states of the federation.
Also, in Kano, 30 vehicles were set ablaze by the protesters.
The seat of power in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, the Lugard House, was deserted by government house staff, as security agents took over the main entrance to the Governor’s Office.
The deputy governor’s office was also deserted by workers as none of the security agents was posted to the area.
The demonstration was led by the state chairman of the NLC, Comrade James Odawudu, and his counterpart from the TUC, Comrade Abdul Ganiyu.
The peaceful demonstration took off from Obasanjo Square in Lokoja, down to the Lokoja-Abuja federal road.
All roads leading to the state capital and the one leading to the South and the North were blocked, as the state capital was brought to a halt by the strike.
Shops, banks, ministries, markets, schools and hospitals were all closed down as people had to trek to their various destinations.
The protesters who marched to the Government House urged the governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, to call President Goodluck Jonathan to order.
In Niger State, the Etsu Nupe Bida’s palace was pelted by protesters as the labour-organised protest against withdrawal of fuel subsidy turned violent in the ancient town.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that the protest started on a peaceful note with members of the organised labour leading it, but was later hijacked by hoodlums.
The hoodlums were said to have vandalised all the billboards in front of the Etsu Nupe’s palace and pelted the gate of the edifice, damaging it a little.
NAN also learnt that security agents went into action and contained the situation, dispersed the hoodlums from the area and effectively brought the protest march in the town to an end.
When contacted, the Etsu Nupe’s secretary, Alhaji Abdulmalik Usman, confirmed the story, and said that “it is true that the protesters vandalised some structures in front of the palace.
“The security agents have effectively handled the situation and everything has returned to normal in the town.
“People are now going about their usual business.”
In Kano, the protesters set no fewer than 20 vehicles parked on the premises of the Secretary to the Kano State Government (SSG) on fire, while about 10 hoodlums were arrested.
This is just as the security operatives arrested one of the angry youth in army uniform, while another youth found in possession of an army identity card claimed to be an ex-army officer.
In the course of interrogation, the arrested youth in uniform said he was coming from Maiduguri.
The youth, who claimed to be an ex-army officer, was caught in possession of a knife and other dangerous weapons.
In Edo State, three persons were reported killed in various parts of Benin City, the state capital, when hoodlums, who hijacked the protests, engaged the police in a shoot-out during a looting spree.
There was pandemonium around Ogba community in Lagos State, on Monday, as a police team shot at protesters, killing one person in the process and injuring four others.
Two factions of hoodlums in Fadeyi area of Mushin also created moments of confusion for residents of the area, as they took advantage of the protest to cause mayhem and loot shops, while also damaging three vehicles.
It was said that one of the injured protesters later died at an unnamed hospital at Agege, sparking serious protest from angry youths.
There were two conflicting reports on the incident that led to the death of a protester identified as Ademola Aderinto at the hands of a trigger-happy senior police officer.
A version of the report has it that the protesters were marching peacefully along Yaya Abatan at Ogba, when the police team, led by the divisional police officer, tried to disperse them.
The protesters, who were said to be mobilising others to join them, resisted the attempt by the DPO to force them to abandon the protest against the removal of the fuel subsidy.
The DPO was said to have brought out his rifle and shot at the protesters killing Aderinto in the process with four others severely injured.
When we visited Pen Cinema police station on Monday afternoon, there was palpable fear among policemen at the station, who were seen discussing the death of another protester.
A policewoman, who was unmindful of the presence of reporters, informed one of her colleagues that one of the injured protesters had died at the General Hospital, Ifako.
The state police commissioner, Yakubu Alkali, while speaking on the incident, stated that the identified DPO had been arrested and handed over to the State Criminal Investigation Department.
The Lagos police boss informed newsmen he had, on Sunday, warned all his officers to be very careful and not to use tear-gas cannisters, not to talk of live bullets.
He also stated that the arrested DPO was on his own, as he would be made to face the full wrath of the law on the incident, which according to him, was unfortunate.
Meanwhile the remains of the deceased, Aderinto, had been handed to the homicide section of the state police command and subsequently deposited at an unnamed public mortuary in the state for proper autopsy.
In another development, there was panic in Fadeyi and Jibowu areas on Monday morning as rival gangs took advantage of the protest to unleash mayhem on law-abiding citizens.
Also, some private and commercial vehicles were allegedly damaged in the early hours of yesterday by some hoodlums under the pretext of joining the organised labour to protest the removal of fuel subsidy at Oko Oba area and some other parts of Lagos State.
Although, the protest was generally peaceful, some of the hoodlums barricaded the road to extort money from motorists, damaging the vehicles of those who refused to part with their money and their vehicles were damaged.
Speaking on behalf of the NLC, the Secretary of Joint Action Forum, Mr Biodun Aremu, said that the protest became imperative now so that the government could quickly rescind its decision on the removal of fuel subsidy.
He said the protest would continue daily until the government was able to listen to the voices of the masses to bring back the price of Premium Motor Sprit to N65 per litre.
In the same vein, former President of Academic Staff Union of Universities, Dr Dipo Fashina described the removal of fuel subsidy as criminal, adding that Nigerians had come out to say no to the government’s decision.
He said: “This is unacceptable. What we need is food on our table, good road, good education and security. We reject in totality the removal of fuel subsidy.”
The convener of Save Nigeria Group and Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, Tunde Bakare said that the protest was one of the steps that must be taken by the masses to rewrite their destiny.
He said: “The time has come for Nigerians to take their destiny into their with hands. President Goodluck Jonathan has failed us. This government has not done anything good to improve the lives of the masses but has only come out to add to our pain. Enough is enough.”
According to Bakare, the fuel subsidy removal cannot solve the problems of this country unless the government is able to solve the problem of corruption, which has since crippled the economy.
Corroborating him, Human Rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, said that the protest would spur Nigerians into the freedom that had since eluded the people.
He said: “This protest is solidarity for freedom and justice and as we continue everyday, I believe, we shall win this battle. I will like to reiterate my commitment to expose the cartel that has been eating the resources of the country.”
He called on the government to name the members of the cartel instead of removing the fuel subsidy, which is now a burden on the masses.
“Why is it difficult for the government to expose this group of minority Nigerians who have hijacked our economy? This protest is the beginning of our struggle to liberate ourselves from this people,” he said.
Reading the message of Professor Wole Soyinka at the rally, Chairman of Campaign for Democracy, Dr Joe-Okei Odumakin, the Nobel Laureate described the removal of fuel subsidy as medicine after death.
Soyinka said that the removal showed that the administration of Goodluck Jonathan had alienated itself from the people it meant to serve.
He said, “The palliative measures put in place by the president are a step too late. They ought to have done these before the removal of the subsidy.”
The chairman, NANS, Lagos Mr Adeyemi Aibana described the government’s action as exploitative, calling for the reversal of the oil subsidy removal.
The students called for the equipment of educational facilities, educational research with scholarship and award. They also called on government to provide full welfare package to all students, such as free transportation, hostel accommodation and monetary incentives with full skills acquisition and entrepreneurship in the education sector.
According to the President of Association of Nollywood Core Producers, Mr Alex Eyengho, members of the union totally stood against fuel subsidy removal.
He said: “Members of Nollywood are not in support of the government’s action and have joined the protesters to express our disagreement with the removal of fuel subsidy.”
Also at the rally were Mohammed, son, and Ganiat, widow of the late human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who spoke against the fuel subsidy removal.
The rally also featured music stars, including King Wasiu Ayinde, Akande Abolore, popularly known as 9ice, reggae musician, Ras Kimono, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, Dede Mabiaku and Seun Anikulapo-Kuti, who performed against the fuel subsidy removal.
In Oyo State, the Joint Action Force shut down Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, as security operatives attached to the Oyo state Government Secretariat fired teargas at protesters.
Most roads were closed as early as 7.30 a.m., by youths making bonfires to force defiant commercial vehicle drivers and motorcyclists out of the roads while banks and petrol stations remained shut in line with the directive of the NLC, TUC, Civil society organisations, among others.
At about 8.25 a.m., the Agodi Gate Secretariat of the NLC was filled to capacity with the protesters comprising civil servants, students, civil society members, market women and others armed with various placards condemning the removal of the subsidy on petrol.
The protesters set out from Agodi Gate to Oje market area and later to the Mapo Hall, where the protesters were addressed by labour and civil society group leaders on the reason for Nigerians to reject the sudden removal of the subsidy on petroleum products by the Federal Government.
While addressing the rally at the Mapo hall which was named Freedom Square, the Oyo State coordinator of the Joint Action Force (JAF), Dr Ademola Aremu, chairman of the NLC, Comrade Bashiru Olanrewaju, immediate past President of the NBA, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) and president of the Transition Monitoring Group, (TMG) Comrade Moshood Erubami, said Nigerians were ready to continue with the protest until President Jonathan returned the price of a litre of petrol to N65.
The labour leaders stressed that Federal Government was only trying to impose the IMF and World Bank agenda on Nigerians with the removal of subsidy which never existed, adding that the time had come for Nigerians to reject the insult once and for all.