Metro

#EndHunger protesters seek end to economic hardship

Protesters, on Wednesday, stormed cities in some southwestern states and other parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as the country marked the 2024 Democracy Day.
June 12 was declared as Democracy Day by immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari in honour of the late Chief Moshood Abiola, the adjudged winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election that was annulled by the military junta.
Protesters trooped out in Lagos, Osun, Oyo and Edo to demand an end to economic hardships, insecurity, and reversal of fuel subsidy, among others.
In Lagos, demonstrators gathered at Ikeja Underbridge amid tight security presence, as policemen and officials of the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps and the Civil Defence were sighted at the venue.
The protest also led to slight traffic in the area as the protesters in their numbers marched on the road and chanted solidarity songs.
They wielded placards that had inscriptions like: ‘President Tinubu, let the poor breathe’, ‘Payment of living wage to all Nigerian workers now, ‘End Insecurity,’ ‘Nationalise the power sector,’ and ‘Reverse Fee Hikes Now,” among others.
Civil society groups, including the Take It Back Movement, the Education Rights Campaign, theoalition for Revolution and the Socialist Workers League, spearheaded the protests across the different parts of the country.
While speaking with our correspondent, the TIB representative and chairman of the Lagos chapter of the African Action Congress, Ayoyinka Oni, said Nigerians could no longer tolerate the hardship “forced on them by the Federal Government” led by President Bola Tinubu.
“Enough is enough! The cabals ruling Nigeria are thronging us into worsening economic hardship every now and then. They claimed they wanted to let the poor breathe but they are suffocating them. Fuel subsidy removal has not helped the economy.
“We are only paying more while the politicians and marketers are getting richer, so it must be reversed. The fee hikes across our public universities must be reversed and we also call for an end to insecurity in the North and every other part of Nigeria,” Oni said as he led protesters alongside the ERC National Coordinator, Hassan Taiwo.
A protester in Lagos, who wore a nurse uniform but whose name could not be immediately confirmed, was heard calling for a revamp of the healthcare system.
“Our nurses are leaving the system, fix the health sector!” she chanted.
In Abuja, a handful of protesters gathered at Unity Fountain to stage a protest.
Human rights lawyer and activist, Deji Adeyanju, was seen with some youths during the demonstration.
“The DSS and other security agencies do not have the right to tell Nigerians when or how to protest. Special appreciation to all Nigerians who came out despite the threat to protest in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and other parts of the country,” the lawyer wrote on X on Wednesday.
The protesters held a banner that had the inscription: ‘We are hungry protest.’
Civil societies coalition also staged a peaceful protest in Osogbo against economic hardship.
The protesters began their rally in the Ayetoro Area of Osogbo, the state capital before moving to Olaiya Junction and eventually to the OgoOluwa area, where speeches were delivered.
Decrying the hardship that Nigerians were facing, they demanded the immediate reversal of some policies that had made life difficult.
While the protest lasted, there was gridlock in major parts of the state capital.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, the chairman of the coalition, Waheed Lawal, recalled that the current President, Senator Bola Tinubu, was part of the financiers of the struggle that followed the annulment of the June 12 presidential election in 1993.
He added that Tinubu was also a witness to all the promises made by the adjudged winner of the poll, Chief MKO Abiola, during the period.
Lawal said: “He (Tinubu) was there when MKO made those promises that he was going to better the lot of Nigerians if elected president. Those promises remain unfulfilled till now. Nigerians are living in hardship. Tinubu must pay workers a living wage, and do something about the ailing economy.”
Also speaking, the Director, Ola Oni Centre, Osogbo, Wale Adebisi, said Nigerians would not be tired of demanding for good governance.
Protesters under the Edo State Civil Society Organisation on Wednesday called on the government to end the suffering of the masses and advance policies that will better the lot of Nigerians.
One of the leaders of EDOSCO, Kola Edokpayi, who stated this at a protest in Benin, said they came out to vent their frustration over the state of the nation.
He said, “We reject this brand of democracy being practiced in the country. This democracy is not for the people, it is against the people. We cannot continue to be silent amid poverty, hardship and unemployment.
“The reason why we are out today (Wednesday) is to vent our frustration over the state of the nation. The masses are suffocating due to the iron grip of hunger, poverty and economic downturn under President Tinubu.
“We are saying that this country should be fixed so that we can avoid agitation for self-determination as witnessed in the South-East, with people in that region saying they are not part of Nigeria.”
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, protesters under the aegis of Coalition for Revolution rallied in the Mokola area and also called for an end to economic hardship. They sought the reversal of the hike in electricity tariff.
Some of the protesters, under the aegis of Take It Back Movement and Concerned Nigerians, were reportedly arrested by the police.
An eyewitness, who spoke to our correspondent in Ibadan, said, “In the course of their actions, they were harassing and molesting the police that were deployed to the area to ensure the protection of the security of lives and property.
“This development infuriated one of the senior police officers on ground who later ordered their arrest.”
Another source told our correspondent that the protest was initially peaceful before some miscreants joined them.
In Kwara, a cleric, Most Reverend Anselm Lawani, said the people of the country were worried over the high rate of inflation caused by the removal of petroleum subsidy, saying that the palliative measures being taken by governments in the country to cushion the effects were yet to mitigate them.
Addressing journalists on Democracy Day, the cleric said, “Incessant increase in the pump price of petrol, occasioned by the subsidy removal from petroleum products last year, has continued to impact other sectors adversely. Prices of services and goods in the markets, including agricultural commodities, keep soaring in geometric progression.
“The situation is indeed gruesome and painful even as governments at different levels continue to grapple with some recovery initiatives for the nation’s economy. Unfortunately, the palliative measures being taken have not significantly mitigated the effect of the subsidy removal policy.
The Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State on Wednesday dismissed the June 12 celebration as a mockery of the spirit of democracy.
The opposition party, in a statement by its State Publicity Secretary, Raphael Adeyanju, described the governing All Progressive Congress, as “an embodiment of anti-democratic tendencies and therefore, not qualified to supervise Democracy Day celebration in Nigeria.”
Adeyanju stated, “If the APC claims to celebrate their so-called Democracy Day in honour of late Chief Abiola, the man who laid down his life for the actualisation of democracy in Nigeria, then they have done his memory a great disservice.
“Since the inception of the present administration at the centre, Nigerians have been crying of hunger, many have died of poverty-induced illnesses, while the ruling class continued to celebrate the primitive acquisition of ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the hunger-stricken populace.”
Adeyanju stated, “Our party is aware of the antics of the APC. This party deliberately initiates terrible policies meant to reduce the economic power of the people so that they can remain vulnerable to manipulation during the election period.”
In Kaduna, Kasim Balarabe, the son of the Second Republic Governor of old Kaduna State and leader of the Peoples Redemption Party, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, asked President Tinubu to resign over the current economic hardship Nigerians were facing.
The PUNCH reports that Balarabe was a Nigerian left-wing politician who was elected Governor of Kaduna State during the Nigerian Second Republic, holding office from October 1979 until he was impeached on 23 June 1981.
Kasim, while leading a peaceful protest to mark the June 12 Democracy Day in Kaduna on Wednesday, noted that Nigeria had retrogressed under the Tinubu administration.
Addressing teeming PRP members, he maintained that there was nothing to celebrate on Democracy Day.
He said, “The military which we fought against before 1999 cannot allow this kind of killing and maiming of citizens, abuse of citizens. They won’t allow it.
“Nigeria has seen its darkest period since the country got her independence in 1960.
“Nigeria has seen her worst and darkest period as there are so many killings and food is so expensive.
“No good schools and the medical situation is appalling. If the president has been overwhelmed by challenges confronting the country, he should resign.”
====== PUNCH ======

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