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Nigeria: Subsidy Protests Turn Violent

Daily Trust (Abuja)

Mustapha Abubakar, Francis Okeke, Ismail Mudashir, Usman Bello, Toryila Kajo and Nurudeen Oyewole

4 January 2012

Ilorin, Abuja, Kaduna, Lokoja, Makurdi and Lagos — Protesters took to the streets in many major cities around the country yesterday, shutting petrol stations, forming human barriers and setting up bonfires in anger at the abrupt doubling of fuel prices.

Two people were killed when police fired live bullets at a crowd of protesters in Ilorin, Kwara State.

Hundreds were reported arrested in some cities, though many were later released. Protests also occurred in Kaduna, Lokoja, Warri, Makurdi and Bauchi.

Removal of fuel subsidy announced by regulator PPPRA on New Year Day officially shot up price of petrol to N144 per litre from N65.

But the prices went wild as a litre sold for as high as N200 in some places, rocketing transport fares and ratcheting up anger around the country.

In Ilorin, two persons were allegedly shot dead by the police yesterday when hundreds staged protest rallies that led to the vandalization of cars, filling stations and a bank in the city.

The two were killed at Ipata Market road and Murtala Muhammad road by the Post Office area roundabout in the heart of the city.

Hundreds of youths commenced the protest rally at about 10.20am and moved around the city.

Protesters went violent after they saw one of them shot dead. They began vandalising property, setting up bonfires on the roadways and damaging cars parked at the MRS and Total filling stations

One of the protesters said the protest was meant to be peaceful but when the police fired teargas in to air, the situation turned violent and in the process one man was hit and killed by a police bullet.

But spokesman for the police in the state ASP Dabo Ezekiel said the man killed at the post office roundabout was stabbed with a sharp object by some protesters for showing support to the scrapping of fuel subsidy. He said he could not confirm the other killing.

“The allegation that police stray bullet hit and killed the protester is not true. The deceased is a member of another splinter group of people who are also protesting in support of the fuel subsidy removal,” he said.

The Nigeria Labour Congress confirmed the killing of one protester by the police. “The perpetrators of this crime were armed policemen from the Area A Division, close to UBA Ilorin and the State Police Command along Sulu Gambari Road, Ilorin,” a statement by NLC president Abdulwaheed Omar said.

“The NLC had cautioned the Jonathan administration against the use of brute force and arms against unarmed Nigerians who protest publicly, their rejection of its murderous policy of hiking fuel prices by between 120 and 200 per cent.

“The Police is directly under the control and command of the Presidency and it is the Jonathan administration’s inhuman policy that has resulted in the murder of an innocent citizen. The NLC holds the Jonathan administration liable for this murder and advises it to fish out its agents who shot protesters in Ilorin and bring them to justice.”

Commissioner Information and Communication Prince Olatunji Morounfoye, in a statement, said the Kwara State government regretted the death in the protests. “Government would do everything within its constitutional powers to guarantee the safety of its citizens while appealing to the people not to allow opportunists hijack a legitimate protest for an undue political gain,’ he said.

Elsewhere, protesters blocked the Warri-Port Harcourt highway, until three vanloads of soldiers turned up to chase them away, Reuters reported.

In Kano, police arrested nine demonstrators but later released them, police spokesman Magaji Majiaya said.

In Kaduna, hundreds of youth protesting the removal of fuel subsidy slugged it out with security men at the Murtala Mohammed Square. The protesters who converged under the platform of “Occupy Nigeria” resisted efforts by policemen and soldiers to disperse them.

The youths registered their names in the anti-fuel subsidy removal list and sang against the policy.

Around 12.45, the policemen who were led by one SP Wakili Kwali succeeded in sending the protesters out of the square but they remained at the entrance.

Speaking to newsmen, Barrister Tajudeen Oladoja, National president of Muslim Lawyers of Nigeria (MULAN) who was among the protesters said they converged to register their displeasure on the removal of fuel subsidy. He said over 1000 persons cutting across all divides have registered their names against the subsidy removal.

“Nobody told anybody to come here; people just began to move here to this place. We have gathered ourselves under the name Occupy Nigeria, we are collecting names of interested Nigerians,” he said.

In Lagos, thousands of people marched in various locations as they sang, chanted and waved placards reading “no to fuel price hikes” and “we demand living wages”.

A group of demonstrators set up a roadblock of burning tyres on a major highway. Police in riot gear kept watch but the protest was largely peaceful apart from a brief scuffle between a protestor and a soldier, a Reuters witness said.

The Lagos protest rally, organized by coalition of civil society and labour groups, kicked off at Yaba at about 9am and spread to Ikorodu road, Ojota, Ketu, Agege, Egbeda and Iyana IPaja.

Traffic was brought to a standstill as protesters barricaded the highway, set up bonfires and observed Islamic prayers.

At Fadeyi bus stop, hundreds of youths lined up behind an unidentified man who led an Islamic congregational prayer, reminiscent of the ones displayed by Arab protesters during the Arab spring. Thousands of others were seen carrying placards and banners with anti-subsidy removal inscriptions.

At Maryland road intersection, policemen fired into the air to disperse the protesters.

In Makurdi, hundreds staged a peaceful protest in some streets of urging for the reversal of fuel subsidy removal. The youths carried placards apparently addressing President Jonathan, saying: “we are tired of your act before think attitude,” “We voted for Gen. Buhari not you”, “tackle Boko Haram”, “leave fuel subsidy alone”, “you have failed Nigerian students”, amongst others.

Yesterday, the main labour union NLC said it has called a meeting of its executive for today and would subsequently issue schedules of protest rallies across the country against fuel subsidy removal.

“We reiterate what we told Government, that Labour and the people stand opposed to fuel subsidy removal and hikes in the price of fuel. No amount of blackmail, propaganda or intimidation will deter Nigerians from reclaiming their country.

“Tomorrow Wednesday 4th January, 2012, the NLC and TUC will issue a clear directive on the date coordinated nationwide general strikes, mass rallies and street protests will commence, and the methodology of the protests,” NLC’s acting secretary general Owei Lakemfa said.

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