Protesters in Abuja today paid glowing tributes to Nigerian youths who were killed in cold blood by the Police in various locations while participating in the nationwide protest called by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Nigeria to protest the removal of fuel subsidy.
Apart from referring to them as gallant heroes who lost their lives fighting to reclaim their country, the NLC president, Abdulwaheed Omar, urged Nigerians to ensure that they did not die in vain.
A minute’s silence was observed by the protesters in honour of murdered protesters and the NLC officials reiterated the union’s determination to ensure that the killers of the innocent protesters were made to face criminal charges.
According to the NLC President, the aim of the protest is not to fight anybody, even in the face of provocative actions by government against the people, pointing out that labour’s objective is to pressurise government to reverse the anti-people policy of petrol price increase and save the country from unnecessary crisis.
Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nasir el Rufai, urged the people to remain firm and reject any government that does not listen to them, pointing out that the protest is not only to express disagreement with government over the removal of subsidy on petrol, but to demand the repair of the refineries and better governance.
“We are rejecting the President’s New year gift. We want his shoes,” Mr. el Rufai said. “Nigerians must remain steadfast till the price of petrol goes back to N65. We will not stop, even if the price goes back to N100, N90 or N70 per litre. We are not going to be tired because the fight for freedom does not take place in a day, week or month.
“For those that are saying the government is broke, and that government must withdraw subsidy for the economy to survive, we can tell them where to find money. If government can cut the N3million daily provided in this year’s budget for the food of Mr President and his deputy; N200million to water the gardens in the Presidential villa; N45million for newspapers; N800million for furniture maintenance and N11billion for foreign travels, there will be enough money to execute projects without removing fuel subsidy.”
TUC President General, Peter Esele, said the protest was not just about a rejection of the high fuel price, but also against high corruption in government.
He said a country which appropriates over N3.2trillion for recurrent expenditure as against N1trillion for capital projects, would make no progress.
He said the only reason government was asking Nigerians to pay more for petrol is was to enable it to have have enough money to service the huge huge appetite of officials for corruption.
Another NLC official, Isa Aremu, said the protest amounted to the struggle for the country’s second independence after our forebears won our initial independence from the colonial masters.
“We must fight to liberate ourselves from local imperialists. We are citizens, not refugees in our own country, that government has promised to give us palliatives,” Mr. Aremu said.
A 71-year old pensioner, who spoke at the rally, accused the government of mortgaging the country to foreign capitalist organizations such as like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as the European Union (EU), whose official delegations, he pointed out, visited the country shortly before the decision by the government to remove the petrol subsidy.
“President Jonathan has identified the cabal as the greatest beneficiaries of the corrupt subsidy regime in the oil industry, but failed to go after them, because he is a member of the cabal. Early this week, he also said the terrorist group, Boko Haram, has infiltrated his government. Yet he does not have the courage name to the culprits. How are we sure he is not a member of the Boko Haram?” he queried.
A representative of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) urged the President to reciprocate the good gesture of Nigerians by reversing the policy he said has inflicted so much pain on the people.
“When Jonathan came to tell us that he did not have shoes, Nigerians bought shoes for him, and he wants to use the same shoe to trample on us,” he said. “We should not allow him do that to us. When he was campaigning, he said he was poor. Today, he is rich, but he wants to impoverish all Nigerians”.
A Niger Delta youth activist, who commended former President, Musa Yar’adua, for the Amnesty programme that has resulted in the peace in the region, challenged Mr. Jonathan to show what he had done for the youth since he took over as president apart from inflicting more pains on parents, who are already burdened with high school fees and lecturersstrike.
Today’s turnout was more than double the population on the first day of the protest, with Christians and Moslems taking turns to observe their prayers in the course of the protest, with adherents of both group singing the National Anthem together at the end of every hour.
After about 20 kilometres trek around major streets adjoining the Julius Berger area of the city, the protesters decided to begin a day-long overnight sit-in at the AP Junction at Wuse 2.