Anger Over Hike In Fuel Price Spreads

The protest against the removal of subsidy on petrol continued in some states yesterday with claims that the police in Kano shot a student dead in the course of breaking up the rally.

Leader of the Kano students-protester, Comrade Audu Bulama, claimed that the student was shot dead by the police at the Jubilee Roundabout in Kano, which the protesters have renamed “Tahrir Square.”

One of the protesting students, who declined to give his name, claimed that the remains of their shot colleague had been deposited at the Murtala Muhammed Hospital Mortuary, Kano. But the Kano Police spokesman, Musa Musa Majiya, faulted the fatality allegation, saying, “there is no iota of truth in the claim.”

Also, lecturers under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Bayero University, Kano (BUK) Branch yesterday staged a protest march round strategic roads in the city over the new fuel price regime.

Chairman of the BUK ASUU Branch, Dr. Mahmoud Lawal, condemned the removal of the fuel subsidy, saying it showed that the Federal Government was “insensitive to the plight of the commoners in the country.”

Lawal added: “The Nigerian ruling elite has failed. They cannot provide jobs, education, healthcare, affordable transportation and roads etc. They are unable to protect the people from hunger, robbery, murder of innocent citizens and general insecurity.”

However, Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Lamido Sanusi, has again restated that the subsidy removal would ensure the socio-economic development of the country. Sanusi explained that he was in support of the policy out of his conviction that Nigerians would reap the dividend derivable from it in no distant time from now.

The CBN governor spoke in response to scathing criticisms of the subsidy removal by members of a cyber-community tagged, Raayirigayahoogroup. Listing some of the inherent benefits in the policy, Sanusi noted: “At the macro level, it helps to preserve reserves, it helps us steady the currency and support it and hence reduce imported inflation. It reduces government debt and at least helps direct that debt to the finance of infrastructure that should create jobs and more inclusive growth.

“It brings in investment into downstream and helps build refineries and petrochemical plants. Better fiscal management and a structural adjustment lead to reindustrialisation and development.” .

In a related development, Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has pleaded with Nigerians to embrace peace as the only way to resolve the fuel subsidy crisis. Ahmed made the plea yesterday when he paid a condolence visit to the family of Alhaji Mustapha Oke-Odo on the death of their son, Muhydeen Oke-Odo, who was killed during the oil subsidy protest in Ilorin.

His words: “The current travail is transient. With collective zeal and determination to succeed, we shall survive it. We have more to gain by embracing peace and dialogue rather than violence which ultimately affects the people we are supposed to be agitating for.”

Ahmed, who was represented by a high-powered government delegation, led by the Secretary to the State Government, Isiaka Gold, described the death of the deceased as an unfortunate development, considering his age and the priority accorded youths by the state administration. The governor renewed his call on security agents in the state to fish out the killers of Muhydeen.

Meanwhile, fresh violence erupted in Ilorin, Kwara State capital yesterday, as the oil subsidy protest, continued. According to sources, butchers in the town counting their losses during the earlier protests, had allegedly resolved to shun the abattoirs at Ipata Market and cattle ranch at Sango area of the town until when they would have exhausted their stock. But a disagreement set in among them when some of them allegedly defied the “gentleman’s agreement,” slaughtering their cattle and displaying same for sale. Customers ordinarily shunned the older stock and instead went for the newer ones.

Dangerous weapons were freely used by the butchers, leading to injuries among their members and some unsuspecting customers. Activities at the market were grounded as others flee for their lives when the crisis erupted at about 11.00 a.m. The prompt response of the men of the state police command saved the situation, but not before the fire lit by the butchers on the road using disused tyres gutted some shops made of wood lining the road.

Sources said about four persons sustained serious knife injuries and were rushed to the emergency wing of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH). Eyewitnesses said two persons died in the crisis but others claimed that the injured ones were simply mistaken for the dead. Calm had returned to the troubled area as at about 4.00 p.m. yesterday when The Guardian visited.

Spokesman of the Police Command, Dabo Ezekiel, confirmed the development. Ezekiel said 16 persons have been arrested in connection with the crisis. He added that they would be investigated and charged to court if found culpable.

Also, activities in Benin City, Edo State and parts of Edo North Senatorial District were disrupted for over six hours as thousands of people gathered in response to a call by the Coalition to Save Nigeria (CSN) group for a mass protest against the removal of subsidy from petrol. The entire Oba Ovonramwen Square, which is the city centre was completely taken over by the protesters as they blocked all adjoining roads, creating traffic gridlock across the city.

The CSN is made of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Students’ Unions, Civil Society groups like the African Network for the Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOEN), market women, Okada riders and over 150 other associations.

Speaker after speaker at the protest, which they vowed would continue today, condemned the removal of subsidy from petrol. The protesters said they would present a formal statement to Governor Adams Oshiomhole for onward transmission to President Goodluck Jonathan.

Similarly, the protest against the fuel price increase, which began in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Monday continued yesterday as hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets in the ancient city. The peaceful demonstration, which began at about 7.00 a.m. at Panseke area, took the demonstrators to the palace of the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, where they called on the Egba monarch to prevail on President Jonathan to rescind the unpopular decision.

From the Alake’s palace the angry crowd trekked to the Oke-Mosan Governor’s Office, a distance of about four kilometers where Governor Ibikunle Amosun addressed and told them that their grievances were legitimate. Amosun assured that he would pass their message to President Jonathan.

Also, attempts by some students to stage a peaceful protest in Ado Ekiti yesterday against the removal of the oil subsidy were disrupted by the police. The protesters under the aegis of Students Youths Coalition had been gathering at the Old Garage area in the heart of the town by 8.00 a.m. but were dispersed by stern-looking policemen that cordoned off the area.

In another development, thousands of protesters who took to the streets of Kaduna yesterday over the fuel subsidy removal called for the impeachment of President Jonathan if he fails to drop the subsidy policy. Though they conducted themselves peacefully in a long procession and chanted songs like ‘Jonathan must go’ and ‘we no go gree oh’ as they headed towards the State House of Assembly, armed policemen halted their progress, forcing the protesters to later converge at the Lugard Roundabout, were they were also hemmed in by armed security men.

At about 1.00 p.m. when the Muslims among them converged for prayers at the location, their Christian counterparts formed a protective ring around them.

And, protesters against the fuel subsidy removal in Ibadan, Oyo State yesterday held a minute prayer for the slain Okeodo, who died in the Ilorin protest. Led by a former Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Dr. Ademola Aremu, the protesters lighted bonfires on major streets of Ibadan and marched round the state capital, paralysing commercial activities in Dugbe, Challenge, Apata, Molete and Mokola.