- Category: Occupy Nigeria Protest
- Published on Tuesday, 10 January 2012 00:32
- Written by The Nation
- Hits: 729
The Nigeria Labour Congress on Monday shut down the nation's capital in protest against the removal of subsidy. Ministers and top government officials were left stranded to attend to issues personally.
In spite of the presence of about 15,000 policemen, workers, led by the National President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar and the President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, converged on Julius Berger Roundabout in the Federal Capital Territory at about 8am for the mass protest.
Under the nose of armed policemen and soldiers, the protesters engaged in solidarity songs and danced to the tunes of the late Afro- beat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
But the five-hour mass action was peaceful despite the fact that the workers were restricted to some routes.
The protest however jolted the Federal government leading to a sudden security siege on the Eagle Square in order to prevent ‘Operation Occupy Nigeria' holding at the place.
Although some of the protesters had mounted an emergency settlement opposite the Square at about 6.30pm on Sunday with their tents and blankets, the police and other security agencies disallowed them from gaining access to the place.
It was gathered that at about 3am on Monday, security agencies came to evacuate the protesters from their temporary camp.As at press time, the Eagle Square was cordoned off by armoured vehicles and security agencies to prevent the workers from having access to it for a rally. The siege on Eagle Square however did not deter the protesters from marching through Zone 5, Zne 6, Wuse Market to the AP Plaza in Wuse II.
The highpoint of the rally was the involvement of some past and present members of the House of Representatives, women in purdah, and the physically challenged persons on wheel chair and rolling skates in the protest.
Others who participated in the mass action were lecturers, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), civil society organizations, and power bike riders. Some of those at the procession were the NLC General Secretary, Comrade Owei Lakemfa; ace activist, Prof. Toye Olorode; a pop start, Charly Boy; a member of the Police Service Commission, Dr. Otive Igbuzor; the National Publicity Secretary of CNPP, Comrade Osita Okechukwu; Comrade Clement Nwankwo; Comrade Ezenwa Nwangwu; and the President of Human Rights Writers Association, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko; the President of the National Youth Council, Comrade Ajani, a human rights activist, Barrister Kayode Ajulo; Comrade Tunde Aremu; and a former President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Comrade Lanre Ogundipe.
About 50 past and serving members of the House who took part in the protest were Hon. Dino Melaye; Hon. Abdulmumuni Jibrin; Hon. Bamidele Opeyemi; Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon; Hon. Aminu Suleiman; and Hon. Babale Musa.
One of them said the House members who took part in the strike action were up to 50.The star of the procession was Obahiagbon, whose grammatical bombshell and coinage enlivened the protest amid shout of “we want more, we want more.”
The protesters wielded many placards with the following inscriptions: “Nigeria is not Animal Farm, it is our right to protest”; “Jonathan: Fight insecurity and corruption, our refineries must work now”; President Goodluck, is this your type of fresh air”; “Subsidy removal, a crime on Nigerians” ; “One day, the poor will have nothing to eat but the rich” ; “Security, stable power supply, good roads, education, job creation, affordable housing, not fuel price increase”; “We reject IMF/World Bank neo-liberal policies”; “Socialist Workers League: No to fuel price hike, revolution now”; and “Everyday for government, one day for its people” among others.
But at a stop over rally in Wuse Market at about 10.27am, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, asked Nigerians to prepare for a long drawn strike.
He said: "Comrades, we are not going to talk too much. But the message is that Nigerians are saying no to fuel price increase. What organized labour and civil society coalition are saying is that we must revert back to N65.
"Mr. President addressed the nation and in his address which of course was an emergency, he announced a reduction of 25 per cent of the basic salary of political office holders. Comrades, the President is the highest political office holder in Nigeria. His basic salary per annum is N3.5million. Alright if you reduce 25 per cent from N3.5million that means you are reducing about N650, 000.
"Comrades, let us assume that there are 1000 or 10,000 other political office holders in Nigeria. N650, 000 times 10,000 is only a paltry N65million. Comrades, the President's entertainment alone as provided in this year's proposed budget is N1billion.
"The provision for travels by Mr. President this year is N10billion. If you replicate all these in the same proportion in the states, what we are saying is that that is not what the government don't want. And if that reduction is done will it have any effect on the price of commercial vehicles? Will it have any effect on the goods we buy?