Fuel strike brings Nigeria to a halt

Reports from across the country indicate that the nationwide protests called by organised laboured and civil society groups to kick against government’s decision to remove fuel subsidy was largely successful. From the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos to Kaduna, from Abeokuta to Akure, Kaduna and Kano and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, there was no commercial activity as shops, offices, schools and petrol stations around the country closed on the first day of an indefinite strike called by the labour unions. In Lagos the streets were totally deserted as thousand people gathered at Gani Fewehinmi Park at Ojota where they listened to speeches made by labour leaders and civil society groups. Unconfirmed reports said three protesters had been shot at Ogba area of Lagos with one of them reportedly dead. In Kano, police fired tear gas and shot into the air to disperse thousands of protesters who were converging on the governor’s office. According to a BBC Hausa Service reporter, 12 people were injured during the incident. In the nation’s capital, Abuja, picketers closed the airport, preventing flights from arriving or leaving. There are reports that youths camping in the city’s Eagle Square were cleared out overnight by police using tear gas.

Further north in Kaduna, there is a heavy police presence and the streets are quiet, with all shops closed. According to reports, Ilorin was also at a standstill with people staying indoors. In Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, Civil Society groups, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Academic Staff Union of Nigerian University (ASUU) led by the state chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Monday stormed major streets of the ancient city. The rally, tagged ‘Mega Rally’ took off at the state secretariat of NLC at Ibara Housing Estate, Abeokuta in a convoy with men of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) as well as protesters who had besieged the secretariat for the rally. The mega rally train moved from the NLC secretariat amidst tight security through Oke Ilewo to Omida Market to Isale Igbeyin with a stop-over at the Ake’s Palace where the NLC chairman, Comrade Hakeem Ambali, presented the position of the union to the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, over the subsidy removal by the Federal Government. While presenting position of the labour to the Alake, Ambali said what President Goodluck Jonathan did on the removal of the fuel subsidy was not acceptable by labour as well as good people of the state, adding: “We are on the streets of Abeokuta to kick against the removal.”

In his brief response, Gbadebo told the union leader that “we are all suffering together”, warning that the rally should be done in a peaceful manner without destroying government or private properties in the name of protesting against the subsidy removal.

Social and economic activities were paralysed in Ondo State as residents both in public and private sectors complied with the strike action called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other civil society groups to protest the removal of fuel subsidy by Federal Government. Protesters as early as 7.30am trooped to the major Adeisda/Oyemekun Road in the Akure metropolis with placards bearing inscriptions condemning the action of the government, which they said would further impoverished Nigerians. Markets, banks, government offices, filling stations and shops were under lock and key just as streets remain deserted as commercial vehicle operators, taxi and commercial motorcyclists popularly called Okada abandoned their tools of trade. Many residents, who did not take part in the protest stayed indoors, while youths turned the major streets and roads into temporary football pitches.



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