The police in Lagos on Wednesday stopped members of the Joint Action Front who were protesting against the hike in fuel and electricity prices.

The protest was in alliance with other civil society and pro-labour groups in Nigeria.

The protesters, who defied the morning rain, called on the Federal Government to reverse the increase in fuel and electricity prices and also reject the privatization and deregulation policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The march took off around 10 a.m. at the Nigeria Labour Congress, Yaba, Lagos.

Achike Chude, the Vice-chairman of JAF, said the government keeps inflicting suffering on the people as a result of their gross failure.

Mr Chude said it is time for the Nigerian people to arise against bad leadership and say enough is enough.

Speaking on the role of the Labour Congress, Mr Chude said the NLC has historical duty to perform.

“They need to stand on behalf of the people and not on behalf of the government that is tormenting them, that is the impression that is being given by the silence of Labour on the monumental hardship of Nigerians.

“That they have taken sides with the government against the Nigerian people. I don’t want to believe that is true but they are the only ones that can prove that it is not true,” he said.

Malachy Ugwummadu, the former National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, said it is time for the people to rise up.

“The strength on those who oppress you lies in your weakness. Today we have decided to shake off those weakness and tell everyone that Nigeria belongs to us,” he said.

Stating their demands, the group asked for an unconditional reversal of hike in petrol price and electricity tariffs.

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“The government has a responsibility to make our refineries work and build new ones in order to ensure availability of Petroleum products at cheaper and affordable prices to all.

The group also demanded the implementation of new minimum wage across board and payment of all outstanding allowances and arrears to workers.

They sensitised people at Yaba market before marching to Ojuelegba, Ishaga and neighbouring communities.

Police action

While at Ishaga, the protesters encountered officers from the Area C Police Command who disrupted the protest and ordered many of them into their van.

The protesters were taken to Area C where their leaders were addressed by a senior police officer and subsequently released.

Mr Chude later told PREMIUM TIMES that the protest was peaceful until their march was halted by the police.

“It was peaceful up to that point, there was some altercation, they didn’t want us to move. I suspect it was because they did not have enough numbers to arrest us, so they called for back up. when the back up came they insisted on taking the leadership of JAF but everybody insisted they have to go with the leadership,” Mr Chude said.

“They took us to the area command, it was there that they let us go.”

The JAF official said the police did not give them “any reasonable” explanation for stopping the protest.

“There was nothing concrete they told us that made sense to us,” he said.

“But they mentioned that they had orders from above and that they were acting on those orders. They said that we should have informed them so that they can give us back up, you know the usual thing they say about hijack of protest by hoodlums and area boys.

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“But this is something we have done for so many years and not once has any of our protests been hijacked by anybody. The reality is that a lot of the people, even the area boys, are in agreement about the state of affairs in this country, nobody is happy with what is going on, with the increases in electricity and fuel.”

Last week, the police disrupted a similar protest against the government’s harsh policies, and arrested the protesters and the journalists covering the event.


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