Anger as protesters shut down Lagos

Protesters are determined to fight on

The relatively peaceful protest organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and civil society groups, began in the morning, across the state with the various groups converging at the Gani Fawehinmi Park.

One protester, however, was shot at Ogba, Ikeja.

At the NLC secretariat, Yaba, protesters, led by Dipo Fashina, the chairperson of the Joint Action Front and other labour and civil society leaders, gathered to begin the march, chanting solidarity and anti-government songs.

Major roads and streets within the state were deserted as commercial buses as well as private car owners complied with the sit-at-home order by organized labour.

Shops, offices and markets were also closed.

Residents lined up along streets to cheer protesters.

At the Nigerian Army Ordinance Corps Headquarters near Ojuelegba, army officers in uniform stood at the gate to receive flyers from the protesters.

At Jibowu, a police van sped along a service lane, horns blaring loudly, as the protesters approached and the crowd cheered. One of the officers pumped his fist in the air.

Despite an earlier warning by the Nigeria Police against the setting up of bonfires, the protesting youth insisted on it.

Tyres were lit at various spots along the expressway with protesters circling the blaze, dancing to anti-government songs.

A small fracas ensued at Fadeyi after a group of youth chanting pro-Jonathan songs were chased into an inner street by angry protesters.

At the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, thousands of residents crowded the park and the expressway.

Also present were Tunji Braithwaite, lawyer and a former presidential candidate; Yinka Odumakin, spokesperson for the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC); Ganiat Fawehinmi, widow of the late Gani Fawehinmi; and Tunde Bakare, convener of the Save Nigeria Group.

At the podium erected within the park, various speakers addressed the crowd. “Today is the take off of the revolution,” said Dr. Braithwaite.

“All the opportunists, the impostors that we’ve been fighting all these years will run away. We will show them people’s power,” said Dr. Braithwaite, 76.

Dr. Braithwaite called on the officers of the Nigeria Police, the army and other security agencies to join in the protests. “Let the word go out from here that the revolution has started and no force will stop us,” he said. “I send word to all the security forces that they should join this revolution. Nobody can stop this revolution. Anybody that tells you to turn your guns on the people, turn your guns on them,”

In his address, Mr. Bakare called for a removal of the present government. “Those who want to remove subsidy, we’ll remove them from power,” said Mr. Bakare, a vice presidential candidate at the last general election.

“This is the beginning of a revolution. Please be ready to sleep here for as many days as possible,” he added.

The entertainment industry was also not left out in the criticism of the present government, especially the “failure of the president to redeem the USD250 million he promised the entertainment industry.

“This is betrayal,” said Jide Kosoko, representing the industry. “We say no to removal of fuel subsidy. The entertainment industry say no, the Yoruba film industry say no.”

Outside the park, a sea of humans flock the expressway. Smell of Indian hemp fills the air. Nearby, a team of policemen watch the crowd from their parked patrol vans.

Musicians such as Femi Kuti, Ras Kimono and others performed on the podium to the delight of the crowd.

A helicopter, circling the crowd, interrupted the blare of music from the large loudspeakers. The crowd vented their fury with chants of ‘ole’ (thief).

Mrs. Fawehinmi said that her late husband, who wrote about the non existence of oil subsidy in his book, has been vindicated.

The late activist’s first son, Mohammed, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to revert the pump price of petrol to N65 before six pm today (Monday). “For the first time all over the country, Nigerians have spoken with one voice,” he said.

A young secondary school student told the crowd how the hike in transport fares has affected him. “My daddy always give me N100 to go to school everyday. I pay N30 to get to the school and N30 to go back, the remaining N40 I use to eat at school. But now I pay N70 only to go to school.”

Most of the speakers charged the crowd not to relent in their struggle and to “continue to occupy” until the government listens to their grievances.

At about a quarter to three, Mr. Odumakin declared the protest formally over for the day. “We shall reconvene here tomorrow by 9 a.m to continue,” he said.

Afterwards, loud music from the loudspeakers took over.


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