Mixed reactions greet subsidy strike

Mixed reactions have greeted the call by labour unions on Nigerians to begin an indefinite strike on Monday against the withdrawal of fuel subsidy. 

While some sections of the country heeded the call, normal businesses were ongoing in other parts of the country.

Correspondents of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report that in Abuja, offices, banks and popular shopping centres were shut while security operatives patrolled the streets. Schools in the city also postponed their resumption date to January 16, 2012.

Most petrol filling stations were shut, but some commercial drivers and commuters in the FCT were seen going about their normal businesses.

Traffic in the capital city was sparse with the usual crowd at major bus stops absent. A trip that would normally take about one-and-a-half hours from Lugbe, a suburb of the FCT, to the city centre, took only 19 minutes on Monday.

A resident, Juwon Olupeka, who works with the Federal Airports Authority, told NAN he was taking his time to study the situation before taking a decision whether to go to work or not.

In Lagos, thousands of Nigerians joined the protest with a procession from the NLC secretariat in Yaba moving through Ikorodu Road. Labour leaders and rights activists led the procession of protesters.

In Calabar, NAN correspondents reported that transporters, especially in Calabar South, did not comply with the directive to stay at home, but charged N100 per commuter, no matter the distance travelled. Markets were opened while business activities were going on as usual. Bank workers reported for work, but shut the gates. At the Calabar Road branch of GTB bank, however, the workers were seen preparing to attend to customers.

In Port Harcourt, the federal and state secretariats were closed; banks were shut as were major markets, but people were moving about freely while security was tight.

In Asaba, the strike recorded partial compliance as only public offices were shut. NAN reports that the main market in the capital city, Ogbeogonogo, was opened with traders in their shops just as commercial vehicles and motorcycles operated normal business. Also open were commercial banks whose staff members were in their respective banking halls.

The Asaba branch of the CBN also opened, but had its gates guarded by heavily armed mobile policemen. Entrances into all public offices, including the federal secretariat and the House of Assembly, were locked. Armed policemen were, however, stationed in strategic locations in the city, including the entrance of the Assembly complex.

The procession of protesters in Asaba was escorted and monitored by more than 30 armed policemen and plain-clothe security operatives.

Acting Secretary of NLC in the state, Fidel Emeni, threatened that organised private sector offices, especially banks, found open would be shut by the labour union and the workers dealt with.

In Enugu there was relative calm as residents defied the nationwide strike and went about their businesses. Petrol stations and shops on major streets opened for business as early as 8 a.m.

Long queues of vehicles were noticed at filling stations as many of the stations have been closed to customers since last week in the wake of the petrol subsidy withdrawal. There was also heavy vehicular traffic in residential areas, including commercial vehicles, indicating that people were going to their work places. Public power supply remained largely stable in some parts of the city like Independence Layout and Maryland, while it was erratic in places like Trans-Ekulu and Uwani.

In adjoining Abakaliki, all offices and schools were closed, but banks offered skeletal services. Markets opened, but the usual hustle and bustle were absent with policemen stationed in strategic places.

In Yenagoa, offices were shut, but markets opened and taxi services were in operation. Some banks opened, while others were shut.

In Katsina, government offices, banks and markets were shut. Traffic was sparse on Monday, while security operatives kept watch over government offices.

In Damaturu, shops and business premises were shut, while vehicular and human traffic were at their lowest ebb because of existing security challenge in the state which had been under attacks by bombers in recent times.

In Owerri, the state secretariat and banks were closed, but residents were going about their normal businesses with commercial vehicles plying the routes. The Owerri main market also opened for business.

In Abeokuta, a peaceful demonstration was underway with police operatives patrolling to ensure that the action was not hijacked by hoodlums. Offices, banks and markets were shut.

In Kaduna, hundreds of youths trooped to the NLC state secretariat to be part of the protest. NAN reports that although the NLC secretariat, the venue for the strike, was heavily guarded by the police and other security agents, the youth trooped into the premises peacefully. They carried placards with different inscriptions criticising government’s action and chanting labour songs.  

Both the federal and state secretariat roads, motor parks, markets, banks, petrol stations and public premises were shut with heavy security agents comprising the police, army, civil defence corps and others guarding them.  

Commercial vehicles were off the roads while people wishing to move to other places were seen trekking.

In Bauchi, residents appealed for a peaceful protest. They were seen milling around their houses and business premises.

Garba Faggo of Fadama Mada, who spoke in Hausa, said that the situation called for divine intervention and serious action by government.

“Truly, times are hard and everybody is feeling the pain, but then you don’t throw away the He said it was pointless throwing the baby away with the bath water. If you say you will scratch your body the way it itches you, then you will cause damage. The overall interest of the nation must be uppermost in the hearts of all Nigerians. I believe more tangible measures can be put in place to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal.’’

A commercial motorcycle operator, Ado Waziri, told NAN that government should take more stringent measures to fish out the perpetrators of economic crimes.

“The government should take action on corruption which is the root cause of our problems.’’

Most of the streets in Bauchi were deserted with only a few vehicles on the roads while many people were trekking for lack of commercial cars and motorcycles.

Radio stations in the city were also off the air and generally it can be said that the strike was peaceful without any heavy presence of security personnel and no protester marching on the streets

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