Fuel subsidy removal: One killed in Kwara, another shot in Kogi | Protests turn bloody | Vehicles, fuel stations vandalized

Pandemonium in Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Oyo
From YINKA FABOWALE, GBENGA ADESUYI Ibadan, EMMANUEL ADEYEMI, Lokoja, LAYI OLANREWAJU, Ilorin, DESMOND MGBOH, Kano, ABDULGAFAR ALABELEWE, Kaduna and BIMBO OYESOLA, TESSY IGOMU, Lagos.

Protests against fuel subsidy removal, which led to over 100 per cent increase in petrol prices, claimed the first casualty yesterday when a man was found dead in Ilorin, Kwara State. Police claimed he might have been stabbed by a colleague, but the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) disagreed.
 In Lokoja, Kogi State, another protester was shot and several people were injured when policemen allegedly opened fire on them.

 Businesses were paralysed. There was traffic snarl as a result. The protesters trooped out, blocking vehicular movements along Lokoja-Abuja highway. Banks, government offices and petrol stations were hurriedly closed.

 Elsewhere, parts of Lagos metropolis were shut down yesterday as protesters, led by human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana and Labour officials, marched through the streets after they were addressed by the NLC at its Yaba secretariat.
 Traffic, especially along the ever-busy Ikorodu Road, was disrupted for several hours. The march became violent when policemen tear-gassed protesters. The residents trekked to their destinations as commercial drivers withdrew their vehicles to protect them from being vandalized.

 The protesters carried unprintable placards against the Federal Government which started deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry from January 1, 2012. The development raised petrol price from N65 to between N138 and N250 per litre.
 A member of the National Assembly, Hon Tajudeen Yusuf, from Kogi State, condemned the Federal Government for deliberately inflicting pains on the poor masses
 According to him, the removal was ill-timed especially now that Nigerians were mourning the victims of the bomb blast on Christmas Day who were killed at St Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla
 Yusuf, who is representing Kabba-Bunu/ Ijumu federal constituency, said that the Jonathan administration was not sensitive enough to the plights of the citizens, who he said, are under serious economic stress.

 Confirming the protester’s death, the Kwara State police command’s spokesman, Ezekiel Daboh, an Assistant Superintendent, said one of the protesters around the railway station, opposite the General Post-Office, Ilorin, died.
 He, however, disclosed that the man might have been stabbed by his colleagues as the wound in his stomach suggests.
 To him, the wound does not show any sign of police bullet.

 Daboh said that two petrol filling stations around the Post Office area were attacked by the protesters, who destroyed their fuel pumps while two vehicles found inside the premises of one of the filling stations and a bullion van were equally vandalized.
 There were bonfires around the Emir’s palace, Oniyangi area, Ipata market, Taiwo Road -Niger Road junction. Other parts of the town where protest took place include; Alore, Sango, Oloje Ipata market areas of the metropolis. Some suspects were arrested.

 Meanwhile, the state government regretted the protester’s death.
 In a ststement, the government said it has ordered an immediate, but full-scale investigation into the killing. Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed assured all and sundry that adequate security measures are being taken to forestall a reoccurence.
 He urged residents to go about their lawful businesses and conduct themselves in an orderly manner. “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”, the governor said.

 But the NLC insisted that the protester was shot dead by the police, even as a meeting for the planned “mother of all protests” with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) holds today.
 The NLC said it was holding the Jonathan administration responsible for the dead victim.
 In a statement signed by the NLC president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, said the victim was shot dead around the Post Office area in central Ilorin, the Congress announced with a heavy heart.

 “It is with a heavy heart that the Congress announced the murder of an anti-fuel price hike protester. The perpetrators of this crime were armed policemen from the Area A Division, close to UBA, Ilorin and the state colice command along Sulu Gambari Road, Ilorin’’, he said.
 Comrade 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 the government’s murderous policy of hiking fuel prices by over 100 per cent.
 He stated that the Police are 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’’, he stressed.

 The NLC leadership praised Lagosians for their massive protests on the streets of Lagos yesterday which ended at the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota and also commended the protesters who have been on the streets in various parts of the country from Lokoja to Kano.
 On the Belgore and Kolade committees, the Labour leader said it was an after thought and meant to give Nigerians the impression that the government wants to consult Nigerians.

 He lamented that no one would have believed that the revered office of the President could stoop so low to tell a lie.
 “First, the Presidency had invited Labour to a follow-up discussion on the issue of fuel subsidy removal only for it to abort the process by removing the subsidy. Secondly, it announced to Nigerians that it was consulting them on the issue only for it to announce new PMS prices. Thirdly, the government announced that even if the subsidy is to be removed, it will be from April 1, 2012 only for it to carry out same on January 1, 2012.

 He said that Labour is seeking legal opinion as to the constitutionality of spending public funds without appropriation by the National Assembly on the Christopher Kolade Committee on the so-called Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme.
 In Kano State, students of some tertiary institutions yestetrday, embarked on a peaceful demonstration even as the state government has urged the people not to exploit the situation to disrupt peace.

 The protesters, compricing Kano students from universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the state marched peacefully from the gates of Bayero University, Kano, to Aminu Kano School of Legal Studies, to Kano State School of Management Studies down to Kofar Nai’sa, folding up at the Silver Jubilee Square, at about 2.00pm.

 Their leader Comrade Mohammed Hamisu Sheriiffa, said they were protesting the recent hike in fuel prices as well as the continued strike of university lecturers. Nine protesters were arrested, but later released.
 In Kaduna State, youths under an NGO, Occupy Nigeria, yesterday converged at the entrance of Murtala Muhammed Square, Kaduna where a register was opened for people to register their grievances against the fuel subsidy removal.
 The youths were, however, prevented by policemen who barricaded the gate and denied them access to the main bowl of the Square.
 Committed to press home their demand, the youth remained at the gate where the register was made available for people to append their signatures against the subsidy removal.

 Notable among other Nigerians that were there to join the protest was a lawyer Tajudeen Oladoja, the National President of Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) who could not hide his anger while speaking with Daily Sun.
 He said: “The youths of Nigeria are all here under the auspices of an NGO, Occupy Nigeria, the group here is devoured of any political, religious and ethnic colouration and we are here in our thousands to attack the policy of President Goodluck Jonathan, the act of illegality he has committed by unjustifiably and unlawfully removing the fuel subsidy”.

 Youths in Ibadan, Oyo State also trooped out yesterday to protest.
 However security agencies, including policemen, soldiers and State Security Service (SSS) men were on hand to maintain peace, law and order.
 They were deployed in the Governor’s Office for protection of public assets and to control motor traffic which was thrown into chaos in the city as a result of the protest.

 Among the major areas affected were the Governor’s Office, Agodi, Agbowo Area, gate, Dugbe, and Challenge.
 Also economic activities were paralyzed as banks and other business centres closed shops
 Customers who besieged banks after the holidays were disappointed as they were turned bank at the gates which were firmly shut.
 The youths led by the University of Ibadan students union president, Tokunbo Salako demanded the immediate resignation of President Jonathan for allegedly lacking what it takes to lead the country.

 They also asked the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Minister of Information, Labaran Maku who they claimed were misleading and misinforming Nigerians about government’s intentions and Minister of Petroleum, Allison. There was traffic gridlock.
 They asked members of National Assembly to immediately call of their recess and reconvene to stop the executive from further impoverishing Nigerians through the development.

 Salako, who led the protest, told journalists that, by announcing the removal of oil subsidy on January 1, the Federal Government had demonstrated high level of insensitivity to the plight of the masses, while also insisting that petrol pump price must be reversed to the old price of N65 per litre in the interest of peace.
 The students’ leader, who led a march to Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s office at the state secretariat, Agodi, where they submitted a letter of protest, said:”It is quite disappointing that we have a government that takes its people for granted…We have two positions here. First, we want the governor to tell Mr. President to return the pump price to the former N65 per litre. We don’t believe in subsidy remocal and we are going to declare war on Jonathan’s government.

 The youths warned that if the government failed to adjust the price to N65 they would take over the National Assembly until Jonathan resigns.
 Governor Ajimobi, in his response, urged the youths to display high level of maturity in pressing home their demands, while assuring them of his administration’s cooperation and support.
 He assured again that his administration would not engage in any anti-masses policy.
 “What you are doing today is part of democracy. Whatever message you have brought will be delivered accordingly”, Ajimobi said.

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