Occupy Nigeria is a series of protests that began in Nigeria on Monday, 2 January 2012 in response to the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria on Sunday, 1 January 2012.

Background

Nigeria is Africa‘s biggest oil producer, but still imports refined petrol. The country produces about 2 million barrels of crude oil daily which is exported to be refined abroad even though the country has 4 refineries with installed capacity of 445,000 bpd. Despite this, the country imports 250,000bpd of petroleum products into the country for sale to its citizens. The price of petrol has increased from 65 naira ($0.40; £0.26) per litre to at least 140 naira in filling stations and from 100 naira to at least 200 naira on the black market, from which many Nigerians buy their fuel. Due to years of mismanagement and systemic corruption, Nigeria does not have the capacity to refine crude oil into petrol and other fuels.

With the majority of Nigerians living on less than $2 per day, cheap petrol is viewed by many Nigerians as the only tangible benefit they receive from the state, hence the widespread disapproval. In addition, the economy is heavily reliant on crude oil (amongst other reasons,due to absence of essential infrastructure and services such as constant electricity). A consequence of this is that other seemingly unrelated items are tied to the price of fuel as has occured from previous price hikes. Due to the absence of stable electricity, gasoline generators are a common energy alternative for small businesses and residences.

With each hike, there is a commensurate rise in the cost of production of goods and services which would be transferred on to the consumers, leading to widespread inflation. Unfortunately, even when fuel price hikes were reversed in the past, the increase in the cost of goods and services (inflationary reaction) remained.

The removal of the subsidy took effect from Sunday, 1 January 2012 as announced by the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA Reginald Stanley.

Protests

Protesters shut petrol stations and formed human barriers along motorways. Nigeria’s main trade unions have also announced an indefinite strike and mass demonstrations from Monday, 9 of January 2012 unless the removal of a fuel subsidy is reversed. “We have the total backing of all Nigerian workers on this strike and mass protest,” the Nigeria Labour Congress’s Chris Uyot told the BBC

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Lamido Sanusi told the BBC the subsidy (which he said cost the government about $8bn last year) was “unsustainable”. Several previous governments have tried to remove the subsidy but have backed down in the face of widespread public protests and reduced it instead.

While there is agreement in some quarters that the subsidy might eventually need to be removed, protesters believe the time is not right for such a drastic move as the average citizen’s income is a pittance (Nigeria’s monthly minimum wage was recently increased to 18,000 naira or around $110) and this is the only benefit the common man gets from the government. Based on this, it would be an unsound economic policy to use the prices charged by some foreign countries as a guide to setting the price in Nigeria as their GDP and other economic indices is not comparable to Nigeria’s own, especially as Nigeria is a petroleum producing country and should therefore enjoy the benefit.

In addition, there is widespread indignation by the people that the government has not provided the basic amenities which they should have provided in the first place but rather mismanaged and enriched themselves with the available resources. They therefore believe that the additional income generated by the subsidy removal would be used to line the same corrupt leaders pockets.

It is claimed that the Government of Nigeria has always budgeted enough resources for the comfort of its officials, while disregarding that of the people. The supposed flagrant disregard for the people’s welfare by removal of the fuel subsidy without putting in place programs to cushion the effect, coupled with the fact that they (government) have not led by example in sacrificing their huge salaries and allowances (which is further claimed to be the highest in the world), has necessitated the Occupy Nigeria protests.

In other quarters however, there is a belief that there was no fuel subsidy in the first place as a former Petroleum Minister, Professor Tam David-West,claimed that the previous pump price of 65 naira was actually higher than the cost price of 40.02 naira (including tax and other real costs) and the supposed subsidy was a bogus claim by the government.

There is yet another unsubstantiated claim in some quarters that the current travails in the country (including the Boko Haram security incidents) are a deliberate plot by a cabal who are set to make the country ungovernable for the current president due to their candidate in the last election, General Muhammadu Buhari, losing in the election. Proponents of this claim further state that President Goodluck Jonathan is only a stooge who is powerless to make real decisions especially as members of this cabal are in the presidency itself and there might even be some foreign involvement from some Western powers. Other’s claim that the cabal’s intent is not to destabilize the political system (in which case they are separate from those sponsoring the Boko Haram security incidents), but to make profit at the expense of the masses, hence removal of the subsidy.

“The prices of everything will increase – transport, housing, school fees, food, etc. The common man will not be able to survive.” said Ganiat Fawehinmi, widow of the late human rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi.

Jonathan has shown that he can’t be trusted,” Issa Aremu, NLC vice president, told demonstrators. “He said he was engaging in dialogue and all of a sudden, he increased the price!”

In the meantime however, protests are gathering momentum, with protests starting in Abuja and Lagos on the 2nd of January and the rest of the nation catching the grip on the second day as Kaduna, Kano, Ibadan took over. Continued protests surfaced at Ibadan, Ilorin, Kebbi, Gusau and a host of other states across the nation. Meanwhile, there were claims that some protesters were shot at by policemen in Kano at midnight. It was claimed that the uniformed men ambushed them while undergoing peaceful demonstrations and shot at the protesters. With this, the protesters reportedly dispersed only to reconvene at another venue as they vowed to pass the night protesting.

Celebrities like Banky W, Funmi Iyanda, Seun Kuti, Dede Mabiaku and others have been at the forefront of #OccupyLagos, as the protests have been referred to in the nation’s former capital, Lagos.

NLC/TUC

On Thursday, 5th January 2012, the Nigeria Labour Congress issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government promising to halt the economy of the country by Monday, 9th January 2012.

“We are shutting down the Nigerian airspace to local and international flights from Sunday night” said Denja Yakub of NLC.

“If a revolution will solve our problems, why not, what is going on already shows that our people are prepared for a revolution. “But we will not ask for a revolution that will bring back the military, they are a part of the problem.” he added

Government Reaction

Following the emergency meeting of the Federal Executive Council, in Abuja, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, told newsmen the government was not oblivious of the pains inflicted by Nigerians as a result of the new policy. In order to ameliorate those pains, he said the government had commenced a ‘massive mass transit scheme’ aimed at cushioning the effects of the subsidy removal on transportation. 1600 diesel powered mass transit vehicles, he claimed, would be distributed.

Curiously missing at the pivotal meeting were two controversial senior officials and pillars of the new policy: Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Petroleum Resources Minister, Dieziani Alison-Madueke. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is quoted to having said that she’ll resign if the presidency goes back on its decision to remove the subsidy.

Media

It is claimed that the State media; Nigerian Television Authority NTA refuses to acknowledge the protest and is falsely reporting the entire Nigerian populace have accepted the increase in fuel price and are going about their businesses. It was further claimed that the Federal Government has reportedly ordered the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission to warn media houses to stop any broadcasts about the protest.

Channels Tevelevision and Galaxy Television, two local mediahouses in Lagos, covered the Lagos protests on January 3, 2012. There was also a report on the march in the Daily Times. [1]

Meanwhile it is claimed in some quarters that student websites in universities and blogs [2] are reporting the Occupy Nigeria Protests and student representatives are sending live pictures of ongoing protests.

Twitter is also being extensively used as a connecting platform for the protesters across the nation, and the world.

Hope For The Future

For the first time in the history of Nigeria Nigerians have come out with common voice tasking their government on good governance. The greatest vane of Nigeria’s development might be attributed to deep division along ethnic and religious lines. Nigerian politicians have been exploiting this to gain position of power.

To a large extent, public offices are mainly allotted based on loyalty to people at the helm of affairs, ethnicity, and who will do the bidding of political leaders as against quality and suitability of a person for the post. The citizens are so gullible that what they care for is the name and region from which the office holder is from.

The consequence of this is nepotism and corruption that have become the hallmark of the country. Any attempt for establishing probity and accountability is largely viewed as an attack on the tribe, region and religion of the person.

The occupy Nigeria movement is giving hope to the end of all these. Nigerians have now realized that the have a common destiny and their destiny is in their hand. They are now making a turn around toward a common goal of good governance and judicious use of the oil resources that the country has. There is strong indication that Nigerians will from now on not be blinded by ethnic or religious affiliation.

“curled from wikipedia”

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