Posted by Mayowa Okekale, Abuja | 6 February 2017 | 2,800 times
Thousands of angry Nigerians on Monday took to the streets in Nigeria’s capital Abuja and the economic hub Lagos to protest against the economic policies of the Muhamadu Buhari administration and the consequent recession which has made life unbearable for the greater majority of Nigerians.
In Abuja, protesters with the hashtag #IStandWithNigeria, as promised, trooped out en masse, brandishing placards with various inscriptions to express their grievances.
Leading the Abuja rally, Co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign (BBOG), Mrs Aisha Yusuf, said the protest is meant for Nigerians to express their anger over the hardship being faced by them.
One of the leaders of the protest who addressed some journalists in Garki 3 area of Abuja, Mr Chidi Odinkalu, indicated that corruption has not gotten better as promised by President Buhari but has become worse. He insisted that the government should be transparent, citing the case of “the Grass Cutter” – an apparent reference to Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal, who is enmeshed in a grass-clearing scandal.
Some of the reasons for the nationwide protest, according to the protesters, include bad economic policies; shielding of corrupt cabinet members from thorough investigation; royal treatment to killer Fulani herdsmen; and high cost of living, among others.
Another group of protesters who said they are in support of President Buhari meanwhile gathered at the Unity Park, carrying placards with inscriptions such as: “Nigerians support you sir”, “your Government is a good government”.
The protest was meant to counter the anti-Buhari demonstration which also took place at the Unity Park.
In Lagos, anti-government protest march eventually kicked off from the National Stadium without music star Tuface, the former arrowhead who opted out over the weekend citing security concerns.
“Unemployed people are hungry and angry”, read one Lagos demonstrator’s sign, against a backbeat of anthems by Afrobeat superstar Fela Kuti, a fearless critic of Nigeria’s often brutal and corrupt military rule until his death in 1997.
“Government of the rich, for the rich, making rules for the poor,” chanted other protesters.
Incidentally, Lagos Commissioner for Police, Fatai Owoseni was physically present on the scene to ensure proper security coverage by trekking with the protesters. He was clearly conspicuous in his black uniform as the protesters marched towards the National Arts Threatre in Iganmu.
In addition to the CP being on ground with the marchers, a police patrol helicopter also hovered in the air over the protesters.
Well-designed placards with variant messages were carried by the over 2,000 protesters.
Initially there had been fears that the protest would not take place when in the wee hours of the morning, fully armed policemen and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) had taken over the National Stadium venue of the planned protest.
Nigeria is mired in its first recession in 25 years and high inflation is driving up prices of basic goods.
Buhari, whose age is officially given as 74, took office in 2015 on pledges to diversify the economy away from oil, fight corruption and end an Islamic insurgency by Boko Haram that broke out in the northeast in 2009.
But critics say he has made little progress, with Nigeria still heavily dependent on crude exports whose price has halved since 2014.
The still active insurgency has killed more than 15,000 people and led to a humanitarian crisis has left 1.8 million Nigerians at risk of starvation and turned millions more into refugees.
Buhari has been in Britain since mid-January for treatment for an unspecified medical condition and, with no indication of when he might return, many Nigerians suspect his health is worse than officials admit.
With Buhari’s hold on power looking increasingly uncertain, some fear a rerun of the unstable three-month transition triggered when President Yar’Adua died, before his vice president Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in, in 2010.
•Additional reports by Reuters, New Telegraph and Channels TV.
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