Reactions to subsidy withdrawal from across Nigeria

04 January 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS – Varied reactions have followed Sunday’s removal by the Nigerian government of the subsidy on petrol, correspondents report from across the country.

Youths in their hundreds stormed the streets of Ilorin, Kwara State capital, Tuesday, venting their anger over the removal of the fuel subsidy.

One of them was allegedly shot dead by the stray bullets fired by security agents, allegedly into their midst to disperse them.

Motorists and motorcyclists, for fear of being attacked by the protesting youths hurriedly turned back while many pedestrians also ran away from the affected areas.

Security agents and anti-riots policemen, who stormed the scenes to disperse the protesters using canisters of tear gas and shooting into the air with alleged live bullets, were said to have been responsible for the death of the protester.

Pandemonium ensued when both the protesting youths and passers-by ran helter-skelter for dear lives, while shop keepers in the areas hurriedly closed their shops.

The death of one of the protesters, however, turned the protest violent, leading to the vandalism of a petrol station at the Post Office area and a van belonging to a Bank in Ilorin metropolis by the angry youths.

Angry protesters disrupted business and commercial activities in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, demanding that the Federal Government reverts its decision on the removal of petroleum subsidy.

The protesters, who peacefully marched through the streets of Makurdi under the close watch of men of the Police Force, bore placards some of which had inscriptions like; “Benue says no to this wicked decision,” “GEJ your decision is anti-people,” and “Nigerians cannot be slaves in their country.”

Addressing the protesters later at the Makurdi Woodland Park, one of the group leaders and renowned anti-corruption crusader, Comrade Frank Utoo, regretted that the decision of the Federal Government to remove subsidy on petroleum products was in total negation of the promises made to the people by the administration during electioneering.

Prices of commodities and cost of inter and intra state transportation, Tuesday in Edo State hit the roof top, following the sudden removal of fuel subsidy on new year day by the federal government.

In Benin, the Edo State capital, apart from NNPC mega stations where a litre of petrol sold for N138.00, most other fuel stations were selling for between N141.00 and N150.00, yesterday.

Fares from Warri to Benin rose from N550.00 for buses to N1,100.00, while those for taxis rose from N600.00 to N1,200.00, even as a basket of garri which hitherto sold for N400.00 in Benin reportedly went for N700.00 Tuesday.

Youths in Oyo State under the aegis of the Students Union Government, University of Ibadan and Coalition of Youths Against Fuel Subsidy Removal, Tuesday, trooped to the office of the State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi to protest the fuel subsidy removal.

They alleged that the governor as their representative should not have joined the league of those drumming support for the removal of the subsidy.

“We are aware of the position of the Governors’ Forum, which you are part of, and we see this as cruel betrayal of the mandate the masses sweated, toiled and laboured to give to the Governors at the April 2011 Elections,” they said.

This came as commercial drivers in Ibadan mobilised their colleagues to withdraw their services as they could not afford the outrageous fuel hike.

Most residents of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, have devised the means of cutting down spending in the wake of the astronomical hike in fuel price and its attendant effect on transportation cost by resorting to trekking to their destinations, distances they ordinarily would have used taxis or commercial motorcycles, otherwise known as Okada.

Also, it was observed that the number of vehicles on the roads of the capital were minimal, Tuesday, compared to the high traffic usually experienced before the removal of subsidy which triggered the increase in fuel price and transportation cost.

With a litre of petrol selling between N140 and N250 respectively at filling stations and black market outlets in the predominantly riverine , most motorists who cannot afford the high cost have abandoned their cars at home and now use public transport which they considered more economical.

The price of fuel has jumped to N141 at petrol stations in Dutse and other parts of Jigawa State, following the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.

Following the increment, transport fares have risen in the state, as most people have resorted to treking instead of paying almost twice the price of what they paid for a drop.

Commercial motor cycle riders were seen hanging around the streets, while people were moving about on foot which may not be unconnected with the high cost of transportation.

Most of the residents accused the Federal Government of being anti-people with its policy, while others blamed members of the National Assembly for not protecting the interest of the Nigerian masses, who are already suffering from the subsidy withdrawal.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council, urged the body to “act urgently to stop the Nigerian government from implementing its unlawful policy of removal of fuel subsidy.”

It urged the world body “to consider the removal of fuel subsidy as amounting to violation of the country’s international human rights obligations.”

It ‘ll worsen health indices – Experts
Stakeholders in the health sector have rejected the sudden removal of fuel subsidy on petroleum products, warning of dire consequences from the effects that could portend the emergence of an epidemic of life -threatening disorders that could further worsen the nation’s health indices.

The stakeholders who spoke in separate telephone interviews alleged that the removal of the subsidy would definitely affect cost of running hospitals and will in turn increase cost of treatments, drugs and general health care.

Calling for the immediate reversal of the subsidy removal, they said the resultant high cost of petroleum products would definitely worsen the already precarious scenario in the nation’s healthcare delivery system.

In his reaction, National President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Omede Idris, stated that clients and patients, whom in addition to inflationary multiplier effects in hike of fuel price, will be worse off in procuring health, in a system without safety valves for the informal sector and majority of formal sector workforce.

Prepare for total paralysis — CD
President of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, has called on Nigerians to prepare themselves for “total and effective paralysis of activities nationwide.”

Dr Odumakin said the protest march was imperative, adding that the “unbearable prices are clear signal to the suffering people of Nigeria that if there is no mass uprising that shakes Jonathan regime to its foundation, it would continue to inflict pains that would eventually kill them off.”

Lagos PDP berates artificial activists
On its part, the Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said though it supports the right to hold only peaceful protest, it warned the Lagos Protesters not to allow “artificial activists to hijack the process for cheap patronage.”

In a statement by the state Publicity Secretary, Comrade Taofik Gani, the party said “we believe Lagosians should not protest behind some persons like Mr. Femi Falana, Dr Okei-Odumakin, who only select the Human Rights Abuse they protest against.”

In addition, the party said it has now “become clear that these set of Artificial Activists participate in protests to seek relevance with the Authority and not to genuinely be on the side of the masses.”

Lagos indigenes call for truce
Also, the Council of Lagos Indigenes appealed to the people of Lagos State to be peaceful in their protest in order not to overheat the polity.

Chairman of the group, Chief Sunbo Onitiri, said “we wish to appeal to all Lagosians to be peaceful in their protest against withdrawal of oil subsidy. We have no other country we can call our own. If we burn down our country no country in west African can contain us. Please let us adopt dialogue and be patriotic.”

Subsidy removal unnecessary, Senator Abatemi-Usman
Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, in his reactioin, said the removal of the subsidy was unneccessary.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Michael Jegede, he lamented the pain and hardship Nigerians have been subjected to since the beginning of New Year 2012 as a result of the withdrawal of the subsidy.

Abatemi-Usman, wondered why the people would be made to start year 2012 on such a painful note just as he called on the Federal Government to have a rethink on its decision which, according to him, is clearly against the wishes of the Nigerian masses.

Abisoye report way out —Olanrewaju
Former Minister of Communications and Chairman, Presidential Review Committee on Abisoye Panel Report on Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju has reiterated his position on the need for the Federal Government to revisit the Abisoye Report as, he said, it contained the required answers to the fuel subsidy imbroglio.

The General Abisoye Panel report, as General Olanrewaju pointed out, identified some avoidable areas of wastage from which, if the report had been implemented, could save several billions of naira for the country. It was also said that the wastage areas constituted the bulk of the subsidy that the government had borne in making petroleum products available to the Nigerian market.

How removal can achieve purpose —Lawyer
As reactions continue to trail federal government’s removal of subsidy on petroleum products, a Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Prince Gbogboade Akitoye, has suggested ways that will not only make the policy achieve its goals but also make it acceptable to the Nigerian citizens.

Akitoye, who spoke in Lagos, said if corruption in the country and stealing in high places could be checked, the country will have enough resources that will make life worth living for its citizens.

He noted that the high level of corruption in the society has made the average man in the street to become suspicious anytime the government makes a proposal that affects the welfare, stressing that government in the past have deceived the populace by making unfulfilled promises.

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