Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Civil society groups mobilize to commemorate January’s deadly subsidy uprising

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Civil groups call for a reminder protest of last January’s anti-fuel subsidy removal.

 

Civil society groups have signaled a plan to stage a hard-biting remembrance of last January’s deadly anti-fuel subsidy removal revolt that claimed more than a dozen protesters.

A coalition has called for days of strikes, mass demonstrations and fresh demands to government in January 2013, to mark the 2012 action which ranked amongst the fiercest in the nation’s history.

A brutal government crackdown in several cities forced back demonstrators who had remained on the streets for 10 days insisting that a proposed removal of petrol subsidy, that was bound to spiral cost, be suspended.

As the protests gained momentum in days, police fired live bullets at growing crowd, killing protesters; used tear gas, and physically assaulted union leaders before a partial reversal of the policy brought the strike to an end.

The popular action has been partly credited for spurring multiple investigations into mega subsidy scam that cost the nation more than N2 trillion.

Several fuel marketers indicted in the fraud currently face charges.

But a recent remark by President Goodluck Jonathan, affirming an earlier position that complete subsidy removal remained the only option for the country, has fueled fears within labour ranks the government may be planning full withdrawal of the fuel funding early 2013.

The United Action Democracy, UAD, a coalition of citizen organizations, on Tuesday urged labour unions and affiliate groups to prepare for a grounding commemoration that will see at least two days of strikes, massive protests across and a tabling of fresh conditions before the authorities.

The series of events will “deepen the unfolding revolutionary process in Nigeria,” UAD said in a statement.

“Although it was the unconscionable hiking of fuel prices that triggered our anger and unleashed the fury of the January Uprising,” the group said, “we were all very clear that it was unbridled treasury looting that led us down the path where our refineries had become moribund, thus turning a country which is the 6th largest oil producer in the world, with the 3rd largest installed refinery capacity in Africa, into one that depends exclusively on importation of refined products to meet its domestic needs!”

As the January 2013 date approaches, revelations from investigations on the degree of abuse and rot in the petroleum sector, should frame new demands to government, the group, led by activists, Jaye Gaskia and Ken Henshaw said.

“We specifically urge two Days of Nationwide Mass Protests accompanied by a 48hour General Strike to mark the first anniversary of the January Uprising and place existing and new demands on the agenda with very clear timelines,” UAD said.

The planned actions are to be in cooperation with the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC; the Trade Union Congress, TUC; and other unions.

The NLC and the TUC have previously vowed to oppose any further removal of the subsidy, but it is not clear whether it will approve staging strikes in remembrance of the January demonstrations.

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