Revert to N65 Senate tells Jonathan

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ABUJA—The Senate, yesterday, joined the House of Representatives in asking President Goodluck Jonathan to revert fuel pump price to N65 per litre. In a closed door session, the senators urged the Senate President, Senator David Mark to convey the message of the upper chamber to President Jonathan within 24 hours.

This came as the nationwide protest called by the organised labour against the removal of subsidy on petrol which commenced on Monday was hijacked on its second day by hoodlums in Ogun, Kaduna, Oyo and Edo states even as the Nigeria Labour Congress vowed that the protests will continue indefinitely until the Federal Government reverts the pump price of petrol to N65.

The Federal Government also yesterday declared that it was still ready for dialogue with organised labour, saying that “the option of dialogue is still open”, as it cautioned the security agencies against the use of force against protesters.

In Abeokuta, miscreants yesterday hijacked the protest rally held in Abeokuta, Ogun state capital against the removal of fuel subsidy and allegedly molested and extorted money from people in the state capital.

A Protester at Agidingbi Road Ikeja, Lagos. Photo: Joe Akintola, Photo Editor.
The Police commissioner in the state, Nicholas Nkedeme was not spared by the hoodlums who barricaded various places within the metropolis when his cars were stopped, while some policemen escaped being lynched by the angry mob. The lucky policemen were said to had been stopped by some protesters along Abiola way and attempted to descend on them before the Area commander identified as Oyekunle Adegboyega pleaded with them before the mob allowed them to go. The Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi while commenting on the activities of the miscreants, during a radio programme,said, ‘even the police commissioner was stopped , but until we pleaded with them before we were allowed to pass” .

“So the agitators should be reasonable and objective in their protests. Those who are violent, I think the law will take its course on them. “Obstruction of traffic like that is out of the context.” In a similar development, there was a heavy bonfire few metres away from the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s corporate office in Abeokuta, Ogun state capital. The Office located along Quarry Road, Ibara and tagged Agbeloba House is the headquarters of the Obasanjo Farms Holding (OBH) Limited. Youths made bonfires with used tyres and some woods to make the busy road, about 200 metres and which is also about 1000 metres from the family house of the Ogun state governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun impassable.

Curfew imposed in Oyo, Kaduna

It was a similar story in Kaduna as miscreants attempted to hijack the peaceful protests and clashed with the security forces which led to the killing of a 23-year-old Abdulgafar Mohammed Hadis.

An eye witness told newsmen that Hadis was shot on the head at Enugu Road, Old Panteka as youths went on rampage to condemn the increase in petrol price.

According to him, the deceased was rushed to Biba Hospital, Tudun Wada, from where he was later referred to 44 Army Reference Hospital, where he was confirmed dead.

“While the soldiers were asking the protesters to calm down, near the Government House, the policemen came and started firing tear gas cannisters at them. Shortly after this, they started shooting at us with live bullets. One of their bullets hit the young Hadis on his head. The boys wanted to get to Government House and protest”.

There was tension in the state in the evening as Air Force and police helicopters hovered all over the metropolis following false rumours that Muslim youths were attacking Christians in some parts of the town.

Former Military Administrator of Kaduna State, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd) coordinated the protest. At the Waff Road, hundreds of youths however threw stones at police patrol vans and motorcycles, destroying their head lamps in some cases just as the police responded by throwing cannisters of tear gas at them just as some of them shot into the air to disperse them.

The demonstrators were occasionally supplied with bread and sachet water which were brought to them in Jeeps without number plates.

The same situation was reported within a radius of 500m from the Sir Ibrahim Kashim Government House, Kaduna before they were ordered to return to the Luggard Hall Round About which is the only place earmarked for the protests.

A statement issued by Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Bala M. Nasarawa said

“We have realised that the strike over the removal of subsidy has been hijacked by persons other than those committed to the cause. The demonstration which began yesterday peacefully, today turned violent. People were harassed, intimidated, and installations vandalised. In view of this unfortunate situations, the Kaduna state security council has no choice than to impose a 24 hour curfew in Kaduna metropolis and its environs wit effect from 9pm today (Tuesday) 10th January 2012. This measure becomes imperative in order to safeguard lives and property of innocent citizens. Government is urging all citizens of the state to remain calm, lawful and stay at home until further notice.

…Also in Oyo

Also in Oyo State, the state government resolved to impose curfew when the protests were getting out of hand. The curfew which was declared yesterday was imposed on the state from 7pm to 7am.

The Secretary to the State government, Alhaji Akin Olajide in a statement said the curfew was with immediate effect. According to the statement, the curfew became necessary to protect the security and lives of the people of the state.

The government noted that some hoodlums and miscreants, under the sponsorship of some politicians, had been hiding under the present anti-fuel subsidy removal protest to threaten the security of the state, especially at night.

On the first day of the strike, some of the government property in Ibadan North West Local Government were destroyed by some miscreants who mixed with protesters.

To checkmate destruction of property and protect lives, the government explained it had to declare the curfew.

It noted further that government had instructed security agencies in the state to apprehend and prosecute anyone who contravened the curfew.

“While the government appreciates the rights of the citizens to protest, the protection of lives and property of citizens is imperative,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, some protesters numbering about 2,500 yesterday forced a popular radio broadcaster in Oyo state, Kola Adegoke to join them in the protest.

Kola Ladoke who broadcasts for Splash FM, was held hostage at Olomi area of the city.

He said, “Some of them said that if they delay me and prevented me from being heard on my radio programme, it will go a long way to tell the government how embittered they are to the oil subsidy removed from petroleum products.

The protests in Ibadan were more serious than the first day of the strike.

Unlike the Monday when some commuters could still meander and take alternative road, all roads including the local ones were barricaded yesterday.

At Eleyele, a water tanker of the Nigerian Army was delayed for some irate youth who were playing football on the major road.

The driver of the truck had to plead with them before they allowed him to pass.

Most of the roads were deserted and blocked by the youth. Some commercial motorcyclists popularly called okada riders were turned back.

Police go tough in Edo

Also the Edo State Police Command has directed all police officers of the command to deal decisively with any body found to be blocking the roads, making bonfires and attacking innocent and law abiding citizens of the state.

In a statement personally signed by the state commissioner of police, David Omojola, he said the directive was to give full effect to the stay at home directive issued by the state councils Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), adding that it was to check further deterioration of the security situation in the state.

He warned parents and guardians not to allow their children or wards to be used to foment trouble, as any caught in the act will be treated as a common criminal and dealt with appropriately.

The statement regretted that Monday protest in the state witnessed violence, looting, arson and attacks on persons, which were not in consonance with the Labour movement.

Protests to continue indefinitely —Omar

The President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Abudulwaheed Omar yesterday declared the protest would be sustained and continue until the federal government reversed the pump price of petrol to N65 per litre.

He spoke at a rally held at the AP Plaza/Chicken House Junction along Adetokumbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II of the federal capital.

The decision to halt the procession at that point did not go down well with many of the protesters, especially the youths among them as they insisted that they must march on the Eagle Square.

Omar’s address was interrupted several times by youths chanting “Eagle Square”, while others chanted that they must march straight on Aso Rock Villa and chase away President Goodkuck Jonathan from office.

“We have superiors as I heard you asking us to proceed to the Eagle Square, we must make sure we follow instructions and procedures, you have fulfilled your own part by bringing more people today.

“We will continue to come out everyday until government reverts this obnoxious price back to N65 per litre. They have been calling us to call off this strike but we will do that under only one condition, which is to revert to N65. This strike has recorded a huge success as international radi stations have been broadcasting to the world”, Omar said.

The President General of the TUC, Com Peter Esele also tried hard to dissuade the protesters from marching on Eagle Square.

His words: “Let me ask you a question, our marching out to Eagle Square will it make any difference?

“Another question, did anybody contribute money for this rally? Did we give any of you money to come here? We are here because of the increase in N65 per litre of fuel.. This is the only thing in Nigeria that two presidents are presiding over two protests.

“As we protest, it is our responsibility to ensure that no life is lost and if we even march to President Jonathan, it will not make any difference. Yesterday we counted over 20,000 protesters but today [Tuesday], we have recorded over 40,000 protesters and by tomorrow you will bring 100,000 protesters do you promise? “Yes, protesters chorused”. You are our source of inspiration and we are drawing strength from you”.

The protesters who started out at the popular Berger Junction sailed through Herbert Macauley Way, Kashim Ibrahim Way, Aminu Kano Crescent to Ibrahim Babangida Way to arrive at the rally venue which was the same point where NLC and other labour leaders addressed the protesters on the first day.

Numbering several thousands, the protesters generally conducted themselves peacefully. They were escorted by 12 civilian Power Bike Outriders, heavily armed security officers in mufti and four pick-up vans fully loaded with stern-looking soldiers.

FG cautions security agencies against use of force

Federal Government yesterday warned security agencies in the country to be professional and exercise utmost restraint on the on-going protests

The Minister of Youth Development and Acting Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi observed that the excessive use of force by some security agents which has led to the death of few young Nigerians and caused injuries to some others is very unfortunate and regrettable.

In a statement signed in Abuja by the Special Assistant to the minister on media, Julius Ogunro, the minister noted that the right to protest is fundamental in a democracy therefore the Police and other security agents have a responsibility to protect this right.

Oil workers threaten to shut upstream production

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, yesterday threatened to shut down the upstream sector of the oil industry should President Jonathan continue to pay deaf ears to the cries of Nigerians.

This came as Labour accused the Presidency of importing former militants and other armed thugs from neighbouring states into Abuja under the banner of “PDP Transformation Movement”, attack and main anti-subsidy removal protesters, declaring that labour had concluded plans to report President Jonathan and Inspector General of Police, IGP, Affiz Ringim to the International Criminal Court, ICC, for the Monday killing of armeless protesters in the country.

Labour and Civil Society Coalition, LASCO, umbrella body for Labour and its civil society allies that is coordinating the strike and mass protest, warned that from today, the ongoing strike and mass action would take a new dimension if government refused to address Nigerians’ demand.

Fuel subsidy strike: Dialogue window still open—FG

THE Federal Government yesterday declared that it is still ready for a dialogue with organised labour over industrial face-off following the removal of fuel subsidy by the government, saying that “the option of dialogue is still open”.

Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr Emeka Wogu, who spoke to State House correspondents after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, in Aso Rock, said “I think each side is exploring the need to talk”.

He said: “When I said that the option of dialogue is till open, it implied that we are exploring that option and labour is equally that option. I don’t believe in putting one as a senior partner and the other as a junior partner. In this issue, there are three senior partners within the doctrine and principle of tripartism; the NLC/TUC on one side representing the trade union, government on one side because it could be government at the federal level or state. Then the employers consultative association, NECA”

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