Tinubu: ‘Almost the Best of Times’
Street Protests: ‘Already the Worst of Times’
Spontaneous Protests Over Inflation in Four Regions as Police Make Arrests
By Luka Binniyat
KADUNA: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” was the opening sentence of Charles Dickens’ celebrated 19th century novel, Tale of Two Cities. President Bola Tinubu had promised at his swearing in ceremony in May he would expand the economy at least 6 percent a year, lift barriers to investment and create new jobs.
Yet, thousands thronging streets in four major Nigeria cities of Minna, in Niger State, in Kano, Nigeria’s most populous city in the north, to Lokoja,
capital of Kogi State, and in Sagamu in Ogun State, market women are protesting fast-dwindling living conditions in Africa’s top-most oil producing country of 230 million people.
But the ruling party – All Progressive Congress (APC) – which has been in power since 2015, Tuesday rushed out with a statement accusing opposition parties of sponsoring the protest in country where the minimum wage is N30,000 Naira (US$23 – @official exchange rate of N1,300 Naira to US$1)
According to reports, the demonstration took place in Minna, the capital city of Niger State in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, about 200 miles northwest of Abuja, and in Kano, commercial hub center of Kano state in far north Nigeria.
The four cities are separated by distances of hundreds of miles.
Crime Spikes Linked to Poverty
According to reports, soaring increases in food prices, high unemployment and worsening cases of kidnapping and sundry violent crimes in the Middle Belt of Nigeria and its Sahelian areas has led to a state of apprehension among citizens.
The Guardian reports that unlike past mass protests which were usually organized by Labor unions, that of Minna looked like a spontaneous gathering of unhappy women and youths which snowballed into a huge crowd around Kpakungu, Minna-to-Bida road junction.
The protesters carried placards with the inscription “No food, we are dying of hunger” and demanded a better condition of living and a reduction in the cost of living for the citizenry. They accused political officeholders of insensitivity to their plight even as they lamented their inability to feed even once a day, The Guardian reported.
As the peaceful demonstration led to a freeze in the movement of vehicles and businesses around some parts of Minna, police came in to disperse the protesters by noon on Friday, TruthNigeria learned.
Efforts by the police to control the crowd almost resulted in violence as protesters asked police to leave, forcing the police to fire several shots in the air, reported the Daily Post, Monday.
Undeterred, the protest continues with no clear leader of the crowd until the deputy governor of Niger State Hon. Yakubu Garba, arrived, according to Sahara Reporters.
The deputy Governor said that the government was aware of the pain and hardship facing families in the country.
Yakubu told the protesters that the government was working towards reducing the cost of living and the economic implications of the petrol subsidy removal, reports the Sahara Reporters.
The protest did not record any casualty.
Police Make Arrests
Meanwhile, the police in Minna announced Tuesday, the arrest of three women accused of leading the demonstration and 22 others who the police said were involved in violent acts during the demonstration.
Niger State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, W. A Abiodun in a statement made available to the Press in Minna reads:
“It could be recalled that on 5/2/2024 at about 0700hrs, a large number of women and miscreants mobilized themselves and blocked Minna-Bida road and Kpakungu Roundabout claiming to be protesting against increase in foodstuff prices, causing major obstruction on the highway and deprived motorists, travelers and other road users from gaining access to attend to their lawful businesses.
The statement said that the protesters were very unruly even after Niger State deputy Governor, and a deputy commissioner of police, DCP Shehu Umars Didango came and appealed for calm.
“However, the Police adopted minimum force to disperse the protesters who turned violent by attacking the Police with dangerous weapons such as stones, bottles, sticks, cutlasses and damaged Police patrol vehicles and parts of the Kpakungu Division roof,” claims the statement.
“In the course of this, the Police arrested the initiator of the protest one Aisha Jibrin 30yrs, Fatima Aliyu 57yrs, Fatima Isyaku 43yrs all of Soje ‘A’ of Kpakungu area of Minna and twenty-two other miscreants with the following dangerous weapons; -A bench and a stick used as barricade, three knives, one scissors, One cutlass, One saw blade, One iron pipe, Four other sticks, Two wraps of Indian hemp, Charms, etc.
Kano Women Protests
In Kano, an ancient trading post on the fringe of Nigeria’s stunted grassland and sparse forest, about 350 miles North of Abuja, scores of women poured onto the streets to protest rising cost of baking flour and associated condiment for making bread, locally known as “gurasa.”
Tribune reports that the masses of jobless women, widows and market women were led by bakers of gurasa.
Fatima Auwal, leader of the group, who address the press during the protest, said that high prices of flour and other bread ingredients have forced many of them to shut down business or run into debt they didn’t know how to get out of.
“Many of our members, who struggle to produce, are already indebted to numerous flour suppliers.
“We can no longer afford to pay the school fees of our children anymore, just as feeding is now a huge burden on us, which cannot be postponed,” she said as reported by Punch, Friday.
Protests Orchestrated by Opposition: APC Spokesman
In reaction to the demonstration, the ruling APC Tuesday in a statement posted on its official X handle, @officialAPCNig, said that the demonstrations were sponsored by opposition parties to dent the presidency of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Statement, which was signed by the Spokesman of the APC, Felix Morka reads:
“In its arrant desperation to portray the All Progressives Congress (APC)- led administration as under-performing, opposition parties have resorted to instigating unsuspecting young people to protests in the streets of some major cities,” APC claimed, adding that:
“The protests in Minna and Kano on Monday were the manifestation of this devious and unpatriotic plot.
“That the protests happened simultaneously in both cities is not coincidental. It bears a bold stamp of an orchestrated and coordinated effort to instigate unrest and undermine the government. This mercenary opposition tactic is a clear and present threat to public peace and national security.
“While we recognize the right of citizens to engage in peaceful protest, we urge our good people to be vigilant and not lend themselves to the treacherous attempt by the opposition to promote social strife by its incendiary rhetoric and manipulative plots,” said the APC
Government Orders Immediate Release of 100,000 Tonnes of Grains
In a rather panicky measure to address the rising surge of protests resulting from galloping food prices, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu Wednesday ordered immediate release of 100,000 metric tones of grains from Nigeria’s Strategic Grains reserves.
Nigeria Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris made this public while addressing the press in Abuja after series of meeting with the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention.
“The first one is that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has been directed to release about 42,000 metric tons of maize, millet, garri, and other commodities in their strategic reserve so that these items will be made available to Nigerians; 42,000 metric tons immediately,” the Punch quotes Idris, Thursday.
“The second one is that we have held meetings with the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria. Those who are responsible for producing this rice and we have asked them to open up their stores.
“They’ve told us that they can guarantee about 60,000 metric tons of rice. This will be made available and we know that that is enough to take Nigerians the next one month to six weeks, perhaps up to two months.”
“Now, the third item is that government is also looking at the possibility, if it becomes absolutely necessary, as an interim measure in the short run to also import some of these commodities,” the reports added in conclusion.
Luka Binniyat reports on politics and conflict from Kaduna for TruthNigeria.