By OLASUNKANMI AKONI
AS the world celebrates the beginning of a new year, 2013, today, much water has passed under the bridge of Lagos state. The year 2012, though, full of mixed grills across every sector of the state’s economy, witnessed wild protests against both federal and state governments harsh socio-economic policies.
The year started on turbulent side with the President Goodluck Jonathan’s shocker to Nigeria on the announcement of suspension of fuel Subsidy o January 1st 20112, with the attendant increase in pump prices of Petroleum Motor Spirit, PMS, from 65 per litre to N140 per litre.
As expected, labour organizations, concerned Nigerians, Human Rights groups, civil societies, Non Governmental Organisations, NGOs, political parties, converged on Lagos to hold rallies and strike dubbed “Occupy Nigeria” against the fuel price hike by the Federal government.
The Central bank of Nigerian, also commenced the pilot phase of cash-less policy in Lagos. On January 3, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state, signed into law the state’s Year 2012 Budget with a call on Lagosians to voluntarily pay their taxes to provide the government the essential tool to successfully execute the budget for the benefit of the people.
The N485.292 billion Appropriation Bill, represented to the Governor for his assent with had an increase of N6.65 billion as the House jacked up the Budget to N491.941 billion.
Fuel Subsidy protest
Jan 10 to 17
The Federal government announced a stop to payment of fuel subsidies January 1, which doubled fuel prices and led to higher transportation costs and soaring prices of food and other goods.
As prices at the pump skyrocketed overnight, Nigerians accused their leaders of corruption and of having squandered oil revenues in a country where most citizens battle grinding poverty.
The effect of unprecedented over one week strike and rally, totally brought Lagos to a standstill as violent protest erupted across the state between January 10 and 17, leaving at least 10 people dead.
Armed Soldiers, deployed by FG to quell the protest, later took over the Gani Fawenhinmi Freedom Park, located at Ojota area to ward off any convergence of protesters. FG, later reverted the hike from N140 to 95 per litre after much negotiation with the labour leaders. Even at the end of it all Lagosians blamed their governor, Babatunde Fashola saying he invited the soldiers.
Dana air crash
On a dark Sunday afternoon of June 3rd, a Boeing McDonnell Douglas (MD-83) with registration number 5N-RAM operated by Dana Airlines Limited from Abuja crashed into five houses on Akande, Poopola Streets, Iju-Ishaga in Ifako-Ijaye Local Government Area of the state, leaving three houses severely damaged and over 153 people killed in the process.
Fashola, in his magnanimity, adopted three children who lost their parents in the ill fated incident and had since been taken care of by the state government.
Okada restriction protests
One of the land mark events in the past year, was the signing of Lagos Traffic Law which has continued to witness great opposition from commercial motorcycles riders, known as Okada riders.
The law restricts their operation on 475 out of about 9, 000 roads in the state. Initially, the okada riders went to court and defeated the state government on restriction.
The victory was however short lived as Lagos government went back to trenches to perfect the law at the state House of assembly. And on August 2, Fashola signed the traffic law which automatically, restricts activities of okada riders in some parts of the state.
Thousands of motorcycles were impounded and crushed by the state Taskforce on Environmental Offences
The rest is history as series of protests followed.
A commercial motorcyclist, whose name was given as Alagede, was confirmed dead during a scuffle between police officers and motorcyclists in Alakuko, near the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Lagos State, on Tuesday.
While some witnesses say the deceased was shot by a police officer when he resisted arrest, others claim the motorcyclist was crushed by a vehicle as he attempted to escape police arrest.
Commercial motorcyclists and security officials have been on the warpath since the state government began enforcement of its ban on motorcyclists plying 475 designated routes in the metropolis.
A week after, an estimated 3000 motorcycles were impounded.
Following the death of Alagede, residents of the area and other commercial motorcyclists stormed the Alakuko Police Station, threatening to burn it down with scores of anti-riot police officers deployed to the scene.
The already edgy relationship between commercial motorcycle riders, commonly called Okada, and the Lagos State Government further took a dive as the motorcyclists, went on a rampage in the Ilupeju and Magodo areas of the state over the alleged killing of one of their own.
It was alleged that a cop shot a motorcyclist after he evaded the policeman who was about to arrest him for violating the new traffic law in the state restricting the operation of commercial motorcyclists.
Witnesses claimed the cop, alongside his colleagues, immediately fled the scene of the incident.
The riot started after the shot motorcyclist was pronounced dead in a nearby hospital.
Riot policemen were mobilised to the troubled area to forestall complete breakdown of law and order.
Scores of police officers armed with AK47 rifles had to be stationed near the Nigeria Labour Congress secretariat, Lagos, in anticipation of planned mass action by commercial motorcyclists.
The police stopped a similar protest by the motorcyclists, popularly known as okada riders, a week earlier.
The motorcyclists, alongside some civil society groups, are protesting the new Lagos Traffic Law which bans then from plying 475 roads in Lagos.
The LASU school fees face-off
Activities at the Lagos state University, LASU, Ojo was early in the year paralysed following upward review of tuition fees by the state government. Still in response to the yearnings of students and parents, Governor Fashola Monday, January 23rd, 2012 for the second time extended for one month the registration date for all categories of students of LASU.
Fashola, had on Friday, January 6, 2012, approved the extension of the deadline for registration of both fresh and returning students of the University, to Friday, January 13, 2012 from the initial date December29, 2011.
The students were also given the concession of paying their fees in two installments of 70 – 30 per cent. Responding to an appeal by a student of the University while fielding questions at a stakeholders forum to mark 1, 700 Days in office of his administration, the Governor, who said the Vice Chancellor of the institution had earlier made the request, gave the approval because, as he said, the students “are our children, we want them in school, we want them to have the best of education.”
Boat capsized killing
Tragedy struck again in Lagos, February 13th, when a canoe capsized on the Lagoon in Ojo Local Government Area of the state leaving at least 10 children dead and several injured during an early hour rainstorm that was accompanied with gust of winds.
A teacher at St Gregory College, Obalende was reportedly killed by a mast which collapsed on him. The roofing of many buildings, numbering over 150, were also blown away by the ranging wind leaving them homeless in the process. The other local government areas equally hit by the early morning downpour, included: Ejigbo, Onipanu, Obalende and Lekki.
Boko Haram threat
In the wake of Boko Haram insurgence in the country, Fashola lamented the state of inadequate security at the Government Secretariat, Alausa in Ikeja, noting that as it was lives and property were not fully secured and issued an executive order ordering the Ministry of Transportation to immediately clear the public car park, hitherto used as a dumping ground for impounded vehicles of traffic offenders by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA within seven days.
The executive order dated 15 February, 2012 and signed personally by the governor, stated that an alternative location should be looked for to move the abandoned vehicles.
2nd tolling on Lagos- Epe put off
Also, following strong opposition and condemnation by members of the public, the state government, two weeks ago, after an emergency meeting announced the suspension of the proposed introduction of toll on the Lekki-Epe Expressway second gate, earlier scheduled to commence on Sunday, December 16, 2012.
Ayo Gbeleyi, Special Adviser/Director-General Office of Public-Private Partnerships and the Acting Managing Director, Lekki Concession Company Limited, LCCI, Mr. Mike Edington., after a marathon meeting with Governor Fashola at the state House, Marina announced the indefinite suspension.
Christmas fire crackers inferno
To crown the year, no fewer than 15 houses and dozens of cars were burnt last Wednesday in an early morning inferno caused by fireworks popularly called ‘banger’ in Jankara area of Isale-Eko, Lagos, leaving a sixteen year old girl burnt to death
The fire started from a building, which served as a warehouse for the fireworks and spread wildly to other buildings around the area.