The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and civil society organizations (CSOs) say they have commenced a legal process that would make President Goodluck Jonathan and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Hafiz Ringim, liable for the death of Nigerians killed by the police during the first day of the nationwide pro-subsidy protests.
“This mindless killing of unarmed Nigerians on a peaceful protest is strongly condemned”, NLC’s head of information unit, Chris Uyot, said in a statement. “The Inspector General of Police and President Jonathan will be held responsible for these senseless deaths. We have started the process with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to bring these culprits to book.”
While commending workers and other Nigerians for turning out enmasse to demonstrate their feelings against the insensitivity and callousness of the Federal Government in increasing petrol prices from N65 per litre to N141 and N250, he urged them to continue to participate in the exercise till the price is reversed.
The NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, had during the protest asked Nigerians to hold Mr Jonathan, responsible for eleven protesters labour said were murdered in cold blood by trigger-happy policemen in Lagos, Kano, and Maiduguri.
Mr Omar said the killings showed that there was more to government’s determination to go to any length to implement the controversial policy, even if it meant killing Nigerians to achieve it.
“We are very very sad about the news of the killing of several Nigerians participating in the nationwide protest,” Mr Omar said. “We will be writing to President Goodluck Jonathan to inform him that Nigerians will hold him personally responsible for the lives of these Nigerians that have been taken by Policemen to defend his illegal decision to remove subsidy on petrol. If this bad decision was not taken, Nigerians would not have found it necessary to protest for the police to have the opportunity to kill them.”
Several other leaders of the protest, who spoke during the protest, described the decision of the Federal Government as one calculated to inflict more pains on the people, particularly at a time they needed government to take steps to improve their quality of life.
A former member of the House of Representatives, Patrick Obahiagbon, criticized the Jonathan administration for not embracing the basic tenets of democracy, which, he said, included consultation and adherence to due process.
“What the government is practicising is ‘cabalocracy’, which is government of the cabal, by the cabal and for the cabal,” Mr. Obahiagbon said. “It is shocking that rather than the government going after the cabal it said benefited from the huge subsidy that is causing the problem in the petroleum industry, it is preferring to punish the people who gave him the mandate.”
Another member of the House, Aminu Suleiman, who participated in the emergency session of the lower house that passed a motion on Sunday asking government to halt its decision and allow for wider consultation by stakeholders, said federal lawmakers would not relent in pressurizing government to hearken to the voice of reason and revert to the old price.
For Dino Melaye, a former member of the House, government, rather than work towards finding lasting solutions to the scourge of corruption has been busy chasing shadows, adding that no amount of blackmail and character assassination by pro-government agents would dissuade the people from continuing the protest till the petrol price hike is reversed.
As early as 8 a.m., most streets in the FCT were deserted, as a combined team of the Nigeria Police, military and the Nigerian Security & Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), took over most part of the Central Business District where key government offices are located.
Security roadblocks were erected at strategic points, particularly around the vicinity of the Eagle Square and the adjoining areas, to ward off protesters.
But, in spite of the heavy security cordon around town, residents made their way early to the Berger Roundabout at Utako which was announced as the take off point for the protest march to the city centre.
At about 9.30 a.m, the NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, and the TUC President General, Peter Esele, led protesters through major streets of the nation’s capital.
Chanting anti-goverment slogans and wielding placards with various abusive inscriptions, the protesters danced along, stopping at strategic locations along the route for speeches by the labour leaders, who emphasized the need for government to obey the rule of law and follow dues process in its handling of the subsidy issue in the interest of the people.