Hardship: Ahead NLC rally, protests rock Edo, Lagos, Osun

Protests yesterday , grounded parts of Edo, Lagos, Osun and other states of the country as citizens kicked against economic hardship and called on President Bola Tinubu to address the problem of hunger in Nigeria.

 

The protests were organised by the Joint Action Front, JAF, the umbrella body of pro-workers civil society groups. It is a prelude to the two-day nationwide anti-hardship protest being organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, which begins today.

This is coming as Force Headquarters assured, yesterday, that the Police will protect workers nationwide and warned trouble-makers against hijacking the protests. It will be recalled that human rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN, had weekend written the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Kunle Fagbemi, SAN, asking him to urge Police to provide security protection for NLC members who will participate in today’s protest.

Protest grounds activities in Benin
Commercial activities were for more than three hours grounded in Benin City centre, popularly called Ring Road and adjoining streets, as Edo Civil Society Organizations, EDOCSO, started an early morning protest against economic hardship in the country.

They asked President Tinubu to address the problem of hunger in the country or resign. The groups brandished placards with various inscriptions, such as “Nigerians are starving to death”; “Tinubu, end hunger and suffering in Nigeria”; “FG, end the hunger in Nigeria now”; and “Tinubu, let Nigerians breathe” among others. In a statement read to newsmen, Interim TEC Chairman of the organization, Leftist Austine Enabulele, said the 14-day ultimatum given President Tinubu to fix the economy had since elapsed, noting that nothing had been done to address the issue of hunger in the country.

He said: “We cannot take the pains anymore. Enough of hunger, enough of hardship, enough of bad governance in Nigeria. “If he can’t fix the problems of Nigeria, he should resign quickly with his Vice President, Shettima and let us conduct a fresh election because Nigerians are dying every day. Children are now becoming orphans because their fathers are dying of hardship in Nigeria. We are saying enough is enough. If he can’t fix the problems of Nigeria, he should resign and go.”

Also speaking, Pastor of Omega Fire Ministry, Benin and governorship candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Pastor Azemhe Azena, who joined the protest, said the situation is getting out of hand and that government at all levels must do something to checkmate it. Azena said: “We are here to draw the attention of government to the state of the economy in the entire country.

They should do something fast because a hungry man is an angry man. To prevent anger, crime, violence in society, you have to attend to hunger. ‘’The prices of things are going up in Nigeria per hour. We should control, regulate the price of goods so that the poor man can breathe, and afford it.”

CSOs, others mobilise in Osogbo
In Osun State, civil society organisations thronged major streets of Osogbo, the capital, mobilising residents ahead of the nationwide strike scheduled for today and tomorrow. The groups, consisting of Joint Action Front, JAF, Osun Civil societies Coalition, OCSC, and Take It Back Movement, among others, moved through Olaiya, MDS to Freedom Park, sensitising residents on the importance of the “End Hunger Protest” in the state today. Addressing protesters at Olaiya under bridge, Wole Oladapo said Nigerians did not vote for hunger, hence President Tinubu must end the ongoing hunger in the country. “We must all come out en masse to register our grievances against government policies that have made life extremely difficult for us all. We did not vote for this government to unleash hunger on us, which is what it is doing presently. ‘’Let’s all come out to show the President and the governors that they are ruling over humans and they must be sensitive to our feelings,” he said.

Similarly, the Coalition of Nigeria Youth Emancipation, CONYE, in a statement by its Coordinator, Comrade Owolabi Hassan, charged President Tinubu to address the economic challenges immediately. “We urge President Tinubu’s administration to prioritize implementation of policies and initiatives aimed at revitalizing the economy, creating job opportunities, and improving the standard of living for all Nigerians.

‘’Additionally, we implore government to take decisive measures to enhance national security, combat terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and other criminal activities that continue to undermine peace and stability in various parts of the country,” he said.

Protesters hit Lagos streets, despite police warning
In Lagos, members of CSOs, identified as “Take It Back Movement”,trooped to the streets, protesting high cost of living and soaring food prices. The protest was in spite of the warning issued by Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Adegoke Fayoade, on Sunday. Fayoade had said that the Police is aware of plans by some people to protest in the state and will ensure that necessary measures are put in place for the safety of lives and property of Lagosians. He stressed that nothing will hinder the free flow of traffic or a peaceful environment to let residents carry out their lawful duties. Protesters were seen carrying placards with various inscriptions under the bridge at Ojuelegba area of the city to make their grievances known on the current economic hardship across the country.

“Yes, despite Police attempts to frustrate the people, Lagosians stood their ground. The police are paid by taxpayers’ money, they are meant to secure us. We were able to march from Yaba Labour House to Maryland. ‘’The protest will continue tomorrow (today) and updates will be given. We will join the NLC in their nationwide mass action to put an end to this hardship created by the ruling elite. “The Tinubu-led government must immediately reverse fuel subsidy removal, floating of naira and other policies of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, imposed on Nigerians,” their leader. Sanyaolu said. Also present at the protest were members of other civil society organisations, such as the Joint Action Front, JAF, and the Coalition for Revolution. Police officers with vans and officers of the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps were also seen following the protesters.

CSOs ask members, Nigerians to join NLC protest
Similarly, the Labour-Civil Society Front, a coalition of eminent civil society leaders and groups collaborating with the Labour movement on pro-people, pro-poor issues in Nigeria, has directed members across the country to fully participate in the NLC two-day protest against hunger and mass suffering in Nigeria beginning today. Leaders of the CSOs, including Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, national spokesperson; Labour – Civil Society Front, LCSF, Mallam Hamisu San Turaki, spokesperson, United Action Front of Civil Society, UAFCS, and Prof Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia, Jnr, Convener, Country First Movement, CFM, also called on Nigerians to troop onto the streets to protest against worsening hardship and frustration across the country.

In a joint statement, the CSOs leaders, among others, said: “We urge our teeming members and allies across Nigeria to join and participate fully in the peaceful national protest to draw government’s attention to the unmitigated sufferings and impoverishment of Nigerians foisted by the mindless implementation of dehumanizing economic policies of governments at both national and subnational levels of the country.

“Our decision to once align with organized labour on this mass action does not in any way have any political, ethnic or religious coloration, as hunger, declining health and orchestrated deaths ravaging Nigerian citizens, have not been discriminatory on grounds of political affiliation, ethnic and religious sentiments. “It is the right of Nigerians to protest and be protected as citizens while protesting peacefully, as envisaged by the Nigerian constitution. What the country is faced with today are dehumanising and disempowering state policies, which must be addressed as a matter of National Emergency. “We therefore call on the Inspector-General of Police to provide security to cover this peaceful protest as provided by Section 83(4) of the Police Act and by extension the Nigerian constitution. We trust that taking a cue from there, the DSS will also provide credible and useful information to government as this will work to ensure good governance of Nigeria instead of throwing up panicky propaganda.

Police HQ pledges to defend protesters nationwide
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police Force has reiterated its commitment to ensure the rights and freedom of protesters were protected during NLC’s protests today and tomorrow. Force Headquarters, while noting that personnel had been placed on red alert and will be deployed to ensure peaceful protest, said it will remain vigilant against any attempt to hijack the protests by individuals or groups of persons with sinister intentions. A statement by Force headquarters said: “On the heels of the proposed nationwide protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress, the NPF hereby affirms the fundamental rights of all citizens of the country to engage in peaceful protest in line with extant laws. “In line with its lawful duty to maintain law and order, the Nigeria Police Force has deployed personnel nationwide and placed them on red alert to monitor the planned protest. “All Commissioners of Police and their respective supervising officers have been briefed and instructed to coordinate officers on ground in ensuring safety and security of all participants if the protests hold as planned.

“While recognizing the importance of peaceful protest, the Nigeria Police Force remains vigilant against any attempts to hijack such protests by individuals or groups of persons with sinister intents. “Emphatically, the force, therefore, is fully prepared to respond swiftly and decisively to any unlawful activities or acts of violence that may threaten peace, public safety, and security in the event of such… “The Police will not allow wanton breakdown of law and order, loss of lives and property like we had experienced, in some instances, in the past, in any part of the country. “The Inspector-General of Police urges all participants at the proposed protest to conduct themselves peacefully and responsibly, adhering to the principles of non-violence and respect for the rights of others.

“He also calls on the organizers to cooperate with the Police and other relevant security agencies in ensuring that their protests remain peaceful and orderly even as the NPF works tirelessly to ensure that protests are conducted in a safe environment, conducive to the promotion of democracy and the rule of law in Nigeria.”

Falana to IGP: It’s police duty to protect protesters
Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday, warned the Police against clamping down on those participating intoday’s protest insisting that it is the duty of law enforcement agencies to protect protesters. Falana, in a statement titled: ‘Duty of Nigeria Police Force to protest protesters in Nigeria’, cited Section 83(4) of the Police Establishment Act 2020 to support his argument adding that protesters are entitled to police protection.

The statement reads: “In view of the threat of some police officers to clamp down on members of the Nigeria Labour Congress, who have resolved to protest against hardship in the country, from February 27-28, 2024, it is pertinent to point out that protesters are entitled to police protection. Specifically, section 83(4) of the Police Establishment Act 2020 provides as follows: “Where a person or organization notifies the police of his or its intention to hold a public meeting, rally or procession on a public highway or such meetings in a place where the public has access to, the police officer responsible for the area where the meeting rally or procession will take place shall mobilize personnel to provide security to provide security cover for the meeting, rally or the procession. “We are compelled to call on the Inspector-General of Police to ensure that the protesters are given adequate security by the various police commands in the country.”

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