SNG, Others To Mark Subsidy Protests’ Anniversary

SNG, Others To Mark Subsidy Protests’ Anniversary

The protests were organised in some parts of the country such as Lagos, Abuja and Kano in response to the removal of fuel subsidy by President Goodluck Jonathan on January 1, 2012.

SNG, Others To Mark Subsidy Protests’ Anniversary

The government’s action led to a hike in the price of petrol from N65 to N141.

No fewer than 20 lives were lost during the civil action and general strike, which began on January 2 and grounded the country for two weeks.

It came to be known popularly as the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protests.

Protesters shut filling stations and blocked highways while labour unions declared an indefinite strike on January 9. Social media and private broadcast stations were also massively deployed and helped to strengthen the protests.

The Federal Government eventually backed down on January 14 and reduced the price of petrol to N97, after which the general strike was called off and life gradually returned to normal across the country.

In a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, SNG Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said civil society groups would mark the anniversary.

Speaking on the significance of the protests, Odumakin said that had they been allowed to reach their full potential, the alleged suspects indicted in the subsidy probe would have been jailed by now.

He said, “The only regret is that unlike in the Arab Spring, Occupy Nigeria did not lead to the overthrow of the corrupt elite. They have recovered from the January scorch to be more ruthless in looting the nation’s resources.

“A few days before the end of the 2012, the president asked again for N161bn for subsidy despite N888bn budgeted in a year that N32 was added to a litre of fuel. All those indicted in the subsidy scam are walking free.”

He, however added that the group felt fulfilled that the protests opened the eyes of Nigerians to the fact that corruption remained a key issue in the oil sector, especially with the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu fuel subsidy probe report

He said without the protests, the facts would not have been revealed.

“Also, this regime has not been able to announce a fresh hike in the price of fuel because it is still being haunted by the ghost of those protests. But we shall do it again, if the need arises.”

Also speaking, the Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. John Kolawole, regretted that although labour acceded to the Federal Government’s call for an end to the strike and protests, there had not been any noticeable changes.

He said that all agreements reached with government remained unattended to, adding that the subsidy was not being backed up with funds, thus deliberating creating scarcity of fuel and forcing Nigerians to pay more.

“We agreed that the Federal Government would build new refineries, pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, among others. But one year after, they are still in the pipeline. We will not rest until government takes action on these issues,” he said.

Asked if labour would return to the trenches should government remove the subsidy, he said, “We will join any progressive action. Actually, labour called the 2012 January strike before our partners joined. That was why the moment we withdrew, the protests collapsed.

“The Federal Government is aware that if it attempts to remove subsidy without meeting those conditions, there will be instant reaction from labour, with or without our partners.”

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