February 8, 2023

Fuel, cash scarcity: Youths protest in Ondo, Ogun, Edo


….As Abiodun, Oluwo call for calm

By Dayo Johnson, Ozioruva Aliu, Adeola Badru, James Ogunnaike & Efe Onadjae

COMMERCIAL activities were disrupted, yesterday, in parts of Ondo, Ogun and Edo states over new naira notes and fuel scarcity.

Irate youths set up bonfires on the road and blocked major roads over the scarcity lamenting that it has brought suffering to millions of Nigerians.

Ondo youths block Benin/Ore road

Youths in Ore, Odigbo council area of Ondo State, yesterday, staged a peaceful protest along Benin/Ore/ Lagos highway, against the scarcity of naira notes and fuel scarcity.

The action came barely 24 hours after the Ondo State Police Commissioner, Mr Oyeyemi Oyediran, warned against protests across the state or any action that can lead to a breach of peace in the state.

Oyediran said available intelligence revealed that certain unscrupulous elements planned to disrupt the peace being enjoyed by the residents of the state.

The protest caused heavy gridlock along the highway and left travellers plying the route stranded for hours.

Vanguard gathered that the protesters converged on the Ore flyover as early as 8 am, blocking the road and grounding social and economic activities in the commercial centre.

The protesters were heard chanting ‘All we are saying, give us new notes, give us petrol’.

Commuters plying the highway were held up on the road for several hours.

Transporters and drivers plying the road lamented the blockade while expressing dissatisfaction over the incident after struggling to buy fuel to travel to Lagos

A protester, who identified himself as Ayodele Ajimakin, said the current hardship ravaging the country is quite alarming and becoming unbearable.

Protesters block, set bonfires on roads in Ogun

Similarly, commercial activities were disrupted in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, following a protest by irate youths, who trooped into major roads in the metropolis to protest fuel and the new Naira notes scarcity

Vanguard reliably gathered that the protest began from a branch of a new-generation bank in the Asero area of Abeokuta, where customers had queued since 4 am but could not withdraw cash.

It was further gathered that the protesters had attempted to attack the bank but were repelled by the Police following a prompt intervention.

The protesters, however, blocked the busy Obantoko road, setting bonfires on the main road.

The protest also spread to other parts of the metropolis, including Sapon, Panseke, Ibara, and Iyana-Mortuary, where political posters and billboards were destroyed.

It was observed that schools and other businesses hurriedly closed to avoid being caught up in the crisis.

While parents rushed to schools to take home their wards at noon, residents were seen frantically calling loved ones to stay safe and avoid being victims of the ongoing violent protest.

To avoid being attacked, taxi drivers and commercial motorcyclists known as okada riders had to show solidarity by attaching leaves to their vehicles and bikes.

“We can’t withdraw our money, we can’t buy fuel, see long queues everywhere. There is no water, there is no light, yet these people are out there campaigning. What type of a nation is this? We must stop this nonsense,” one of the protesters could be heard in a video.

We’re monitoring the situation —Ogun police

When contacted, the Ogun State Police Command spokesman, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the incident, saying policemen were monitoring the situation.

While saying calm had been restored in Asero, Oyeyemi warned the protesters against causing more hardship for Nigerians, especially by vandalizing other people’s properties.

Abiodun sues for peace

Also reacting, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, yesterday, called for calm.

Governor Abiodun, who made the appeal during the Statutory meeting of the Council of Obas, held at the Oba’s complex, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is doing its best to arrest the situation.

Protesters block CBN entrance in Edo

In Edo State, a group, Edo Civil Society Organizations, EDOSCO, yesterday, protested at the gate of the Benin branch of CBN, over the non-availability of redesigned naira notes.

Armed with placards of various inscriptions depicting their grievances, the protesters blocked the Akpakpava Road where the bank is located and created gridlock in adjourning streets.

The leader of the group Omobude Agho said the CBN’s financial policy is killing Nigerians and crippling business activities in the state.

Agho said: “We are here because Nigerians have started dying inside their houses.

“As of today, we use N3,000 to buy N10,000 in Nigeria, this is not dollars anymore. We are now using naira to buy naira.”

Responding, the Branch Controller of CBN in Benin, Mr Renner Junbo urged residents of the state to be patient as machinery have been put in place to ease their suffering just as he gave the reasons the CBN came out with the redesigning of the naira.

“The money will circulate. We have pushed out the lesser denominations to cushion the effects of hardship.”

Protesters lay siege to bank in Lagos

However, a major attack on a new generation bank in Ikorodu, Lagos State by irate protesters was yesterday, averted following the hasty evacuation and closure of the bank.

The protest was staged by customers of the bank that were stranded after making futile efforts to either withdraw monies from the counter or the ATM at the bank situated near a popular garage in Ikorodu.

It was learned that the frustrated crowd, numbering over 100, made frantic efforts to call the attention of the bank to their plight without success.

An eyewitness told Vanguard that the crowd, made up of both men and women, started venting their anger by demanding that they should be paid some money no matter how small. 

The eyewitness said: “At this stage, the story took a different dimension as both the security guards in front of the bank and those inside securely locked the doors and escaped through their back doors.

“The irate crowd, however, chased after the fleeing bank officials but failed to meet up with any of them. Some policemen came later after the incident and took control of the situation.”

Oluwo tasks Buhari to avert looming war in Nigeria

Meanwhile, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to address the scarcity of fuel and new naira notes before they snowballed into crisis.

Lamenting that Nigerians are buying the country’s currency to feed, the monarch noted that the ugly trend had already eroded the goodwill the Federal Government enjoyed in the faces of many Nigerians.

The Oluwo said: “We are so close to war. I can see many Nigerians suffering. We cannot buy petroleum products at affordable prices.

“And the current new naira notes scarcity is a huge problem. These are the issues the president should address urgently.

“Unless some urgent redemptive steps are taken to ameliorate the debilitating effects of this trend, the consequences will be very unpleasant for the country.

“There is anger and frustration everywhere. The current hardship being experienced by ordinary people forebodes unpleasant consequences.

“These crises may set in motion a chain of events the end of which is better imagined.

“The Federal Government must make a categorical pronouncement on the availability of petrol and its price since it is the general belief that the country still pays humongous amounts as subsidy.”