Despite the cancellation of anti-government protests planned by a popular musician, Innocent Idibia, popularly known as 2face, hundreds of Nigerians, on Monday, trooped out to protest the harsh economic situation in the country.
There were protests against the government in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Osogbo, Port Harcourt and Uyo.
There was, however, another protest in Abuja, supporting the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government and its achievements.
Operating under the aegis of #IstandwithNigeria Coalition, the Abuja anti-Federal Government protesters accused Buhari of protecting corrupt people in his government while demanding the removal of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, for alleged graft.
Members of the coalition, who started their protest from the Unity Fountain, Maitama, marched towards the Presidential Villa.
Singing anti-government songs by the late musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the #IstandwithNigeria coalition insisted on transparency and accountability in the utilisation of bailouts, Federal Government revenue and expenditure among others.
The protesters also demanded the full disclosure on the secret recruitments by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation among others.
At the Aso Rock Junction, armed riot policemen blocked the protesters from accessing the Presidential Villa.
A former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, was one of the anti-government protesters.
Addressing members of the group at the Aso Rock Junction, Odinkalu called on Buhari to “sack the grass-cutter in his cabinet,” a reference to the SGF for his alleged involvement in a N200m contract award for grass-cutting in the North-East.
The youth, mostly dressed in different shades of green and carrying placards and banners with various inscriptions, caused gridlock on the busy road.
Odinkalu, who read a statement, expressed disappointment with the Buhari’s administration, saying it had failed to deliver on its election promises.
He reminded the government of its promise to fix power within six months, adding that over 20 months into the administration, there was still darkness in the land, noting that poverty had worsened.
“We want to know how many children of big persons have been hired by the NNPC, CBN, INEC and all the big offices across the country. We want to know how much the grass-cutter stole in order to make our IDP’s go hungry and we don’t want the grass-cutter to hire the President as his lawyer.”
Odinkalu added that the nation deserved to know the condition of the President, insisting that Buhari must address Nigerians on his health status.
He warned that the protesters would return to the streets if the situation in the country did not improve by May 29,
“We give this government notice; by its second anniversary on May 29, 2017, they must show substantive result of the things we have raised. Today, we are here with a yellow card. On May 29, if things are not better, we will come with a red card,” he stated.
Another speaker, Deji Adeyanju, accused the President of protecting corrupt people, stressing that the current administration had committed worse sins than the previous administration.
“We have a grass-cutter in Aso Rock, who stole from the IDPs and is being protected by President Buhari; we have Buratai, who stole government money, built houses in Dubai and is being protected by this government,” he stated.
Anti-govt protesters are saboteurs
The pro-government group also held its own rally by the Aso Villa access road, a few metres from the anti-government protesters.
The group, led by one Yemi Success, denounced the anti-government protesters, describing them as saboteurs.
“This government has taken more than 30,000 youths off the streets with its empowerment and youth employment programmes,” he said.
Success also recounted how hard the FG was fighting corrupt people in the country, adding that the government had delivered on many of its promises.
He dismissed the anti-government protesters as misguided, noting that no administration had done more than the Buhari administration for the country.
“This government has defeated Boko Haram, which the previous government could not do. It is generating employment for youths and diversifying the economy in order to create opportunities for Nigerians to thrive and prosper, but some misguided people are not seeing anything good in what the government is doing,” Success stated.
The pro-government group, which also started its street walk from the Unity Fountain, trailed the #IstandwithNigeria protesters to the location of their rally.
The group members rode in a truck which arrived at the Aso Villa junction just as the #IstandwithNigeria protesters were rounding off their rally.
However, there was no incident as the two groups maintained a healthy distance and carried on their rallies as the police watched with alertness.
Charly Boy, Sowore, others protest amidst heavy security in Lagos
In Lagos, hundreds of residents trooped out to protest against what they described as government insensitivity to the sufferings of Nigerians.
The protesters gathered under the aegis of ‘Enough is Enough Nigeria’ and were led by the Executive Director of the group, Yemi Adamolekun; social activist, Charles Oputa, aka Charly Boy; and Publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore.
The group converged on the National Stadium in Surulere, around 8am despite the heavy deployment of security operatives in the area and its environs.
The protesters sang solidarity songs as they condemned alleged looters, calling for a change in government policies that are said to be causing hardship for the people.
The protesters marched through Ikorodu Road and took a detour at the Ojuelegba Roundabout, before heading for the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu.
At the National Arts Theatre, where the protest ended, the group met another team of armed riot policemen and some military officers in patrol vans, led by the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni.
In front of the theatre, the protest leaders took turns to address the crowd.
Sowore, in his remark, said only a revolution would effect a change in government.
He said, “I came here today to fight for my right. It is your duty to fight for your right as well. And I did not come for a rally, I came for a protest. I came to protest against a government of inefficiency; a government that is absent completely from our lives; a government that the head of government is nowhere to be found and nobody can tell whether he is on a vacation or on a sick leave.
“The truth is that Nigeria has been destroyed since 1960. We have not been able to produce anything, not even toothpick. Nothing can give us a total liberation except a revolution. If you think a peaceful protest can do it for you, I wish you good luck. Go and ask those in Egypt and The Gambia. We are in for a fight until we are liberated.”
Popular comedian, Oluwaseyitan Aletile, aka Seyilaw, lamented that the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government had done nothing to improve the living conditions of Nigerians.
He said, “If our President could leave the country to go and seek medical help in London when Aso Rock has a multi-billion naira hospital, what is the hope of the masses? Before this government came in, they told us power was not stable because we were being ruled by amateurs. Now that the ‘professionals’ are there, has there been any change?’’
Charly Boy said the protest would continue until government heeded the call of the masses, adding that the absence of 2face had not affected the protest.
“Next month, there will be a bigger rally. We are going to shut down Abuja. We are sending a message to them. We have suffered enough. Our mumu don do,” he added.
The convener of the rally, Adamolekun, noted that her group had planned the demonstration with 2face before he pulled out.
She explained that her group was not interested in a revolution, adding that a petition had already been sent to the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, stating the demands of the group.
Owoseni, who addressed journalists shortly after the protest, which ended around past 12pm, commended the conduct of the security agencies, adding that the police were at the area to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order.
Protests won’t solve Nigeria’s problems –Tinubu
Meanwhile, the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, urged protesters to be patient with Buhari, insisting that protests could not solve the problems of Nigeria.
Tinubu said this on Monday while addressing some anti-government protesters, who were led to his Bourdillon, Ikoyi home by Moremi Ojudu, the daughter of the Special Adviser to President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu.
The APC chieftain likened economic recession to traffic congestion.
The former governor of Lagos State said, “It (recession) is like when you are going through enormous traffic. What we are going through will be resolved. We are going through a historical phase of a country that is holding a promise for you. There is a leadership in the land and you have to live with that for now. Protests won’t solve the problem. Will it?”
When the angry protesters asked what would solve the problem, he added, “The issue is re-planning, being responsive, being able to get engaged with you so that you will see the problem that we are facing. That is it.”
Tinubu advised Nigerians to stop complaining about the unfavourable exchange rate.
He said only importers should be affected by the forex scarcity since Nigerians earned their salaries in naira.
The former governor of Lagos State said the Peoples Democratic Party misruled Nigeria for 16 years, arguing that it would be unfair to expect Buhari to fix the problems of the nation in less than two years.
Tinubu said, “We are just two years into the administration. To make those changes effective and positive eventually, we have to be patient. The damage of 16 years will go through the system. You cannot get water out of a dry well.
An aide to the former governor, however, attempted to stop the protesters, insisting that “this is not a question and answer session.”
“If the PDP did not have a bad administration then, you would not have voted for us. You voted based on our promise. We are just two years into that promise compared to 16 years.’’
We hear your cries loud and clear, Osinbajo tells Nigerians
But the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday, said he and Buhari, who is currently on medical vacation, had heard the cries of Nigerians on their sufferings “loud and clear.”
He promised that the present administration would ensure that all Nigerians got a fair deal.
Osinbajo spoke at a Consultative Forum on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan held at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He admitted that the nation was in a serious economic situation and the President was particularly concerned about the lot of the common man.
While referring to those protesting against government’s policies, Osinbajo said they had the right to demand a better economy and the present administration was committed to see it happen.
Osinbajo stated, “I for one have been across the states and even today some people are out on the streets protesting that things are difficult.
“What we are saying to every Nigerian is that we hear you loud and clear and we are determined to recover the economy.
“Those who are on the streets protesting the economic situation and even those who are not but feel the pain of economic hardship; we hear you loud and clear. You deserve a decent life and we are working night and day to make life easier.
“You have a right to demand a better economy and we are committed to seeing it happen.’’
Osinbajo recalled that for the past 18 months, the administration had intervened three times in states to enable them to have enough resources to pay salaries with the last intervention being in December with the release of the Paris Club loan refund to the states.
Osinbajo spoke about the government’s Social Investment Programme, to which N500bn was allocated both in the 2016 and 2017 Budget.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, said the planned ERGP was expected to drive Nigeria to a minimum Gross Domestic Product growth rate of seven per cent within the plan period of 2017-2020.
Udoma said this in his opening remarks at the event
He said the government’s goal was to have an economy with low inflation, stable exchange rates as well as a diversified and inclusive growth.
NLC, TUC hold rally on economic recession, corruption Thursday
Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress are to collaborate with civil society bodies to organise a rally for the promotion of good governance, and to protest the harsh economic situation and corruption in the country on Thursday.
The President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said during a press briefing in Abuja, on Monday, that the rally, tagged ‘National day of action against corruption and for good governance’, would take place simultaneously in Abuja and Lagos.
He said it had become pertinent for a popular mass movement to support the government to press for good governance in order to overcome the current recession and the multiple exchange rates and their inimical effects on the manufacturing sector and the economy.
The NLC President added, “Our demand is clearly that we must be able to have good governance in place across all our structure. Part of why we have not made sufficient progress and these challenges keep occurring is that there is lack of good governance.”
But the President of the TUC, Mr. Bala Kaigama, said the rally planned by labour would not be against the government.
Kaigama, who stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, said, “We are not protesting about bad governance, but a kind of promoting good governance, and to galvanise the fight against corruption and to promote good governance.
“It is not an anti-government protest. You know the last time we had a rally to promote the fight against corruption; this is a follow-up to the first protest.”
Students, activists protested in Osogbo, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Uyo
Meanwhile, students, under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian students and activists, on Monday, staged a peaceful protest against the worsening economic crisis in the country.
The protesters, who are led by the National Deputy Coordinator of NANS in the South-West, Mr. Saheed Afolabi, and the coordinator of the Democratic Socialist Movement, Mr. Alfred Adegoke, marched through some streets of Osogbo, the Osun State capital, before addressing the protesters at Freedom Park.
Armed with placards with various anti-government inscriptions, the protesters said they had to embark on the protest despite the withdrawal of 2face because students bore the brunt of the economic crisis more than others categories of people in the country.
The protesters, who not provided any cover by security agents marched through the Station Road while music blared from stereo, fastened to a truck, following them.
Afolabi said, “Things are very difficult, all we are experiencing is the hike in prices of all commodities. Most students can no longer cope with their studies because of hunger.
“We have nothing against the President’s fight against corruption but he must address the serious economic crisis, which is the concern of everybody.”
The Secretary of the DSM in Osun State, Mr. Kola Ibrahim, said the government did not show any concern to the plight of Nigerians despite the debilitating hunger ravaging the land.
The coordinator of IstandwithNigeria Group in Osun State, Mr. Abiodun Idowu, who also addressed journalists, said Buhari administration had brought unnecessary hardship on the people with some of his policies.
Also, in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, hundreds of youths joined their counterparts in other parts of the country to protest bad governance and also demanded the whereabouts of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The protesters arrived at the Ibom Plaza in the morning, carrying placards with various inscriptions, decrying unemployment, high cost of living and power situation in the country.
The protest could neither progress beyond Ibom Plaza nor last beyond two hours as heavily-armed security personnel dispersed the protesters without delay.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Cordelia Nwawe, said the primary concern of the police was to protect lives and property of Nigerians.
Also, human rights activists and students from various tertiary institutions in Oyo State protested against hardship in Nigeria, saying the nation was ruled by wicked and callous leaders.
The protesters included labour leaders, human rights crusaders and unemployed graduates drawn from Democratic Socialist Movement and Oyo Navigators, under the aegis of Oyo Voice.
They occupied major streets of Ibadan as early as 7.30am with banners bearing various inscriptions, asking Nigerians to be bold in the quest to safe the nation from its present economic downturn.
The protest, which lasted for about five hours, began at the gate of the University of Ibadan, with heavily-armed policemen and other security agencies keeping watch on the rally.
One of the coordinators of the protest, Babatunde Badmus, said, “This is to tell the government that Nigerian masses are tired; we are tired with the way things are going.
“Nigerians should be vigilant and be ready to support the one voice to salvage the country from this traumatic way and callous way our leaders are running the country.”
In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State, there was heavy security mobilisation in strategic positions, on Monday, following information that some groups might have planned to join an anti-government protest in the state.
A source disclosed that some youths were gathering at the Isaac Boroh Park area of Port Harcourt at about 6.30am in view of the protest.
It was learnt that efforts to commence the protest were allegedly thwarted by the arrival of fully-armed security men, who had taken over the area.
The Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Police Command, Nnamdi Omoni said, “If you have seen our men today fully mobilised, they were out to protect lives and prevent the breakdown of law and order, which is our constitutional mandate.”