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One killed as protests spread

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*Lagos, Kano, Ilorin affected; Policemen protest in Lagos

By OUR REPORTERS

LAGOS – One person was killed yesterday in Ilorin as spontaneous mass protests greeted the new year’s sudden removal of petrol subsidy in the country.

The protests in which about 300 serving policemen participated in Lagos also took place in Kano, Benue and Oyo states among others. The Police Headquarters in Abuja described its personnel who protested as mutineers.

In Lagos, Nigerians protesting the subsidy removal and the over 150 per cent hike in the pump price of petrol shut down major parts of the state, including the ever-busy Ikorodu Road as vehicular movements were halted for over six hours.

This came as a Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, (name withheld), descended heavily on junior police officers for not firing live bullets at un-armed protesters.

PROTEST - Protesters along Ikorodu Road, Lagos yesterday.

Led by leaders of Joint Action Front, JAF, and some labour leaders, the protesters chanted anti-government songs and made bonfires on Ikorodu Road. They said the protest was the beginning of a major revolution in the country.

Travellers who were taken unawares were trapped in the traffic gridlock while the protest lasted as they were prevented from either entering or leaving the state.

The protesters including Dr. Dipo Fashina, Chairman of JAF; Mrs Ganiat Fawehinmi, widow of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi; Femi Falana, Comrade Issa Aremu, Vice President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Secretary-General of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Chief John Kolawole; Vice Chairman of Lagos Council of NLC, Comrade Sanni Adeleke; Mr. Femi Aborishade, Senior Lecturer, Ibadan Polytechnic,and Comrade Abiodun Aremu, JAF Secretary, among others, moved from the Lagos office of NLC, in Yaba through Ojuelegba into Ikorodu road.

They displayed several anti-government placards some which read, “99.9 per cent of Nigerians say no subsidy removal”; “N65 per litre or revolution;” ‘’ we reject this wicked new year gift,” “deregulation is not the answer, build more refineries,” “Okonjo Wahala, IMF agent, leave now”, “Jonathan: Tunisia revolution can happen here”, and  “Power belongs to the people.”

At Fadeyi, the atmosphere became charged as area boys set bonfire on both the major road and service lanes, thus causing panic among motorists who hurriedly made u-turns and sped off from the area.

An un-identified soldier was manhandled and injured by some area boys after he had a disagreement with them at Fadeyi, but was later rescued.

Also, a Thisday Photographer was rescued by the area boys from the hands of an overzealous policeman who wanted to seize his camera for taking shots of burning tyres on the road.

Though some policemen fired tear gas canisters at the protesters in Fadeyi, the incident did not deter them as they took over both sides of Ikorodu Road.

While most of the protesters were dispersing at Maryland, a Deputy Commissioner of Police arrived at the scene and descended on police officers who were guiding the peaceful procession for not shooting at them.

He was seen hitting the juniour police officers  with his service pistol asking, “why are you not shooting?”

Immediately, the policemen started firing tear gas canisters at the remaining protesters.

At Ojota, the protest almost resulted to violence as four protesters believed to have been earlier arrested by men of Operation MESSA, were spotted and the protesters insisted that they must be released.

Consequently, they surrounded the policemen and their two pick up vans and were about to descend on them when the four persons were released.

Addressing protesters earlier, JAF Secretary, Comrade Abiodun Aremu said: “The struggle of June 2007, that reduced the price of petrol from N75 per litre to N65 per litre has just begun. It is on the account of that struggle that we are marching round the streets of Lagos to say no to further increase in the pump price of petroleum products.

“This protest which just commenced in Lagos today will hold across the 36 states of the country, starting with cities like Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Osogbo and Enugu among others.

Aremu said that there would be more protests today which would lead to barricading of roads just as bonfire would continue round the city of Lagos.

According to her the protest would ‘’continue until the Federal Government reverses the pump price of fuel to N65 per litre”, vowing that Nigerians ‘’must make the government to understand that the people in Aso Rock cannot determine their future.’’

About 300 policemen had earlier in Lagos, staged a peaceful demonstration against the  removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government even as the state Police Spokesman Mr Jinadu denied any knowledge of such protest.

Eyewitnesses, said the policemen demonstrated in the early hours of the day by marching through Oregun Road area of Ikeja and heading towards Alausa, the Lagos House, Ikeja, chanting anti-government slogans.

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