By Richard Thomas, Ibadan
Members of Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB) and other members of the civil society organisations, including Joint Action Front (JAF) on Monday staged a peaceful protest across various streets of Ibadan, demanding an immediate reversal of the hike in the electricity tariff and fuel price.
Membership of ASCAB includes Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigerian Union of Teachers(NUT), Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria(MHWUN) and others.
Leaders and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU), Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU), ASCAB, JAF, including Comrade Femi Aborisade, Comrade Andrew Emelieze, Comrade Adebayo Titilola-Sodo, Comrade Rasheedat Adesina, Prof. Ademola Aremu, Prof. Deji Omole, Comrade Taofeeq Lawal, Prof. Adenike Ogunshe; market women, students and the youths joined the protest, chanting solidarity songs across various parts of Ibadan. They chided President Muhammadu Buhari for compounding the economic woes of Nigerians.
The protesters took off at the Oyo State NLC office, American Quarters, Gate, and moved to Oje Market and landed at Beere, before heading to the state Secretariat Complex.
They carried placards bearing various inscriptions such as: “Don’t destroy this country”, “Nigerians are hungry”, “Reverse all privatization”, “reverse pump price hike “, “What is the outcome of NDDC/EFCC probe”, “we want to sleep with eyes closed “, “we say no to corrupt leaders”, “Stop importation of petrol”, and others.
Addressing journalists, the state’s Vice-Chairman of ASCAB, Femi Aborisade, said: “We are carrying out this peaceful protest to challenge the unjustifiable and punitive economic measures being imposed on the Nigerian masses by the Federal Government. By section 14 (b) of the Constitution, the essence of government is to provide the basic welfare and security for the people.
The Federal Government has chosen to wage economic war against Nigerian people. The labour movement, the market women, students and workers in Oyo State are out demonstrating against the increase the electricity tariff and fuel price. As far as 2013, the Federal High Court has ordered that deregulation of petroleum products by which oil dealers will be selling oil at their whims and caprices is not only unconstitutional but also illegal, null and void.
“For the Federal Government to go ahead to deregulate petroleum products and allow oil dealers to increase prices at their whims and caprices show that the Federal Government is lawless.
“Nigerians are saying the government should rule according to the law. In 2016, another high court also declared that the 45 per cent increase in the electricity tariff to be unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. Up till today, the Federal Government has not brought the DISCOs to justice.
“I oppose the compromise entered into by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) leaderships. I oppose the resolution of betrayal of the interest of the Nigerian masses entered into by the leadership of the NLC and TUC. We must be governed by the rule of law.
“The Federal High Court had made an order as far back as 2013 that the regulation of petroleum products by which oil dealers can increase the prices of petroleum products at their whims and caprices that policy is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
“In 2016, the Federal High Court ordered that the 45 per cent increase in electricity tariff was illegal, unconstitutional, null and void and that all DISCOs should reverse back to the old price.
The federal government has not brought to book the DISCOs, oil dealers yet they are repressing the Nigerian people. I oppose any increase in fuel price, electricity tariff. Our government should not be lawless but should be law-abiding.
“When President Muhammadu Buhari was campaigning he said the government of Jonathan was fraudulent. He said when he got to power he would ensure that no increases would be imposed on the price of electricity and fuel. He has got there and started to increase the prices of electricity and fuel.”
Prof. Adenike Ogunshe who is the Secretary of ASCAB in Oyo State said: “President Buhari who cried so much before becoming President is making Nigerians crying. Is this a country? Mr President speaks from both sides of the mouths. NLC, TUC may decide to suspend the strike but ASCAB says No petrol price and tariff hike. This government is borrowing too much, unfortunately, women are going to labour only to watch their children die.”
The convener of All Workers’ Convergence, Andrew Emelieze, said: “We are showing our displeasure to the state of bad governance in Nigeria. Things are getting from bad to worse and we can no longer continue in this way. We are not happy with the state of Nigeria.”
Former ASUU Chairman of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Deji Omole, said: “The government policies have not gone down well with the Nigerian masses. If we are truly practising democracy a responsible government will listen to its people. You don’t just gather a very few people and that they have decided on behalf of the Nigerian people. Nigerian masses are not happy with this government and that is why we are demonstrating.”