The minister made the claims at a press conference where he tried to defend government’s decision to remove subsidy on petroleum products. The minister said most of the protesters are ignoramuses being pushed around by a few bent on undermine the government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“What is happening is instigation by some people to get some people into the streets to protest over a government policy,” the minister said. “Most of the people who have gotten into the street do not even know why they are hitting the streets.”
The protests started on January 2 in Abuja where hundreds of protesters signed a petition calling for a rollback of the policy. The protest quickly spread across major cities in Nigeria the following day.
Roads in Lokoja, a link town between Abuja and the southern part of Nigeria were blocked by hundreds of protesters causing serious vehicular traffic and slowing access to Abuja.
“Lokoja was an issue of hoodlums streaming into the highway and blocking the road, smashing the windscreen of every vehicle bearing government numbers,” the minister said. “It was bedlam.”
The minister’s comments underlines government’s resolve to employ force to quell protests and ensure the policy is accepted by Nigerians. Unlike other climes, where protesters are controlled with rubber bullets, the Nigeria government use both military and civil force, armed with live ammunitions to checkmate protesters.
The first protest in Abuja was greeted with massive deployment of soldiers and mobile police officers all armed to the teeth. Twelve protesters were arrested and released the following day.
Muyideen Mustafa, one of the two killed when police fired live bullets at a crowd of protesters in Ilorin, Kwara State, on Tuesday was buried this evening.
Hundreds of protesters have been reportedly brutalized and detained by the police across Nigeria.