BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
BENIN CITY-ECONOMIC activities were grounded in Benin City, Edo State capital Thursday, when market women, youths, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Civil society organizations under the umbrella of the Coalition to Save Nigeria, in their thousands, stormed the streets of the ancient city, protesting the Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidy.
The peaceful protest which started at about 6:30am, commenced at Ring Road, the heart of the city, forcing banks and other business organizations to be under lock and key till 12pm. The protesters called for the immediate resignation of the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, accusing her of coming to implement the agenda of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The protest was led by the Chairman of the State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Philip Ugbodaga, President of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Nimo Bassey, President of the Conference of NGOs in the state, Comrade Austin Osakwe, Executive Director of the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev. David Ugolor, Sabina Osehobo, Igbotako Nowinta and Dr (Mrs) Victoria Amun.
The protesters carried a coffin and placards reading “Jonathan you are a disappointment, resign now”, “Edo people say no to fuel”, “Jonathan, we are disappointed with you”, “Resign if you are incapable”. A combined unit of mobile policemen and soldiers were following the protesters to ensure that the peaceful protest was not hijacked by hoodlums.
Dr Ugbodaga who addressed the crowd, lamented that Nigerians have suffered for too long and argued that rather than removing subsidy, the Federal Government should cut the cost of governance and fix the economy for the better.
In a letter addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan, which the Coalition handed over to Governor Adams Oshiomhole at Government House yesterday, it stated that “in the interest of peace, unity and progress in Nigeria, we recommend the immediate reverse of the price of fuel to N65.00k in the first instance and thereafter to N39.50k, which is the ideal price of a liter of petrol.