Protests linger, Labour pledges to shut down economy

  • Govt probes marketers over alleged protest funding 
  • NLC, TUC ask citizens to stockpile foodstuff 
  • Police absolve selves of Kwara killing 

ORGANISED Labour yesterday picked up the gauntlet inevitably thrown before it by the Federal Government with the new year day removal of subsidy on petrol by calling for a general strike beginning from Monday, January 9, 2012.

In a two-page joint communique by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), the two central labour unions said only a recapitulation on the part of the government by way of a reversal of the policy before midnight of Sunday, January 8, 2012 could stop the strike.

The communique was signed by President, TUC, Peter Esele and his NLC counterpart, Abdulwahed Omar yesterday in Abuja.

Stressing that all offices, airports, seaports, markets and banks would be shut down for the strike, Labour charged Nigerians to stockpile foodstuff in their homes.

The communique read in part: “After exhaustive deliberations and consultations with all sections of the populace, the NLC, TUC and their pro-people allies demand that the Presidency immediately reverse fuel prices to N65.

“If the government fails to do so, they direct that indefinite general strikes, mass rallies and street protests be held across the country with effect from Monday, January 9th, 2012. From that Monday, January 9th, 2012 date, all offices, oil production centres, air and seaports, fuel stations, markets, banks, amongst others will be shut down. We advise Nigerians to stockpile basic needs especially food and water.

“We call on all Nigerians to participate actively in this movement to rescue our country. The emphasis is on peaceful protests, rallies and strikes while refusing to be intimidated.

“Labour calls on police, armed forces and other security agencies to reject orders that they turn their weapons on fellow Nigerians. We warn that anybody who does so will be individually brought to justice.”

But as the labour unions get set for the general strike, security agencies yesterday initiated a probe of six marketers for allegedly bankrolling the proposed nationwide protest.

Also, there were indications yesterday that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have been placed on the alert over curious withdrawals meant to support the mass unrest.

According to findings by security agencies, the concerned marketers were alleged “to be working in concert with some trade union leaders to make the country ungovernable.”

It was gathered that the marketers have budgeted over N1 billion to frustrate the withdrawal of petrol subsidy.

It was also learnt that the security agencies uncovered a secret meeting between the marketers and some senators and members of the House of Representatives on how to compromise the National Assembly to reject the withdrawal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.

However, Deputy Governor with CBN, Mr. Tunde Lemo, said: “If anybody is concocting huge withdrawals to finance a national strike, it will fail. I think we should all rally round the government to allow this deregulation to succeed. There will be initial pains but Nigerians will enjoy the benefits.”

Meanwhile, the Kwara State Police Command yesterday denied that a protester, Mr. Mustapha Opobiyi, was shot dead on Tuesday in the course of the subsidy protest in Ilorin.

Besides, the Command confirmed the arrest of eight persons over the protest.

At a media briefing yesterday, the state Police Commissioner, Peter Gana, claimed that his men used minimal force to dislodge the protesters and that the Police only picked the remains of the deceased on getting to the scene to clear the bonfires lit by the rioters.

Gana denied reports of “the death of two or three persons” in Tuesday’s riot and alleged that hoodlums had taken over the protests in Ilorin, which nevertheless continued yesterday as protesters used bonfires to cordon off Maraba Junction and Murtala Muhammed Way, as early as 9.00a.m.

However, the Police later put out the fire and opened up the highways to trapped motorists.

The protests against the deregulation also continued yesterday in some states of the federation. In Kano, hundreds of protesters yesterday sought divine intervention over the petrol price hike.

Converging at the strategic Silver Jubilee intersection in the city, the protesters offered two raka’at prayers to Allah to touch the heart of President Goodluck Jonathan, with a view to making government reverse petrol price to N65.

The protesters, who were mainly drawn from various tertiary institutions in Kano, blocked the roundabout that links commuters and a section of the residents to the city centre and those coming from the Zaria Road end of the city.

In spite of the armoured tanks and truck loads of armed policemen officers, supported by state owned vigilance groups, and other security agencies, the protesters shouting on top of their voices, poured invectives on the Federal Government.

Also, market women, artisans, students and unemployed youths yesterday marched through streets of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital to protest the fuel price increase.

After marching through some major streets with placards condemning the government’s action, they assembled at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre, Oke-Ilewo where their spokesman, Mr. Akinbode Olaniyi spoke with reporters.

Olaniyi urged the South-West governors to unanimously condemn the pump increase “else they will be seen as a bunch of disappointment and unprogressive lots, masquerading as lovers of the masses.”

Similarly, several youths yesterday took to the streets of Oke-Igbo, an agrarian community located in the cocoa belt of Ondo State, protesting the removal of petrol subsidy.

The youths barricaded the town’s main road and disrupted social and commercial activities in the sleepy community for about three hours.

Also, hundreds of Zamfara State students yesterday held a rally against the removal of the premium motor spirit otherwise known as petrol subsidy.

The students, who converged at the Zamfara State College of Arts and Science, Gusau, later move to the Government House, where they were prevented from gaining entrance by police who used tear gas to disrupt the protesters.

The state Police Commissioner, Tambari Yabo, confirmed the arrest of six suspected organisers of the protests under the aegis of National Association of Zamfara State Students (NAZAMSSA).

On the alleged plans marketers to fund Monday’s protests, a reliable security source who pleaded anonymity, said: “We are probing some marketers for taking undue advantage of issues raised by Labour to cause mayhem nationwide. Security agencies have identified six of the marketers, who are the arrowheads of this covert plot to bring down the government.

“These marketers have voted over N1 billion to hijack the Labour strike to make the nation ungovernable. Some of these marketers will soon be invited for questioning. And whoever is involved might be tried accordingly.

“These marketers are unhappy because the removal of subsidy will put an end to cooking of records to get refund from government and diversion of subsidised imported fuel products to neighbouring African countries where they make triple profits. They are also angry that it will no longer be business as usual. They are some of the beneficiaries of fuel subsidy.

“Unfortunately, they have made Labour leaders to believe that they are backing Nigerian workers for a just cause.”


By By Dele Fanimo (Lagos), Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin), Collins Olayinka (Abuja), Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt), Charles Coffie Gyamfi (Abeokuta), Adamu Abuh (Kano), Niyi Bello (Akure) and Isah Ibrahim (Gusau)

Source: The Guardian Newspaper

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