Politics

Civil society protests in Benin over planned hike in fuel price, electricity tariff

A coalition of civil society groups, The People’s Alternative Movement, yesterday took to the main streets of Benin to kick against the impending hike on the price of petroleum products by the federal government.

The group which comprises civil rights groups in Edo State had earlier served notice of its intention to take to the streets to mobilize the people against what it termed continuous impoverishment of Nigerians by the government through the removal of fuel subsidy and increment of electricity tariff.

Armed with placards with different inscriptions such as “Nigeria Belongs to Us All”, “Abolish Poverty, Have security”, “Join the Campaign Now”, “No to More Poverty”, “Support The People’s Alternative Movement” among others, the protesters had gathered at Benin Museum, downtown Ring Road before taking to the streets.

Speaking, the South-south Coordinator of People’s Alternative Movement, Dr Osagie Obayuwana said, this is the beginning of the campaign for an end to hardship in Nigeria, that an increment on petroleum products would further increase the suffering of the Nigerian people.

Obayuwana, the former national chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP), lamented that Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world while the inflation rate in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world.

He said: “Life in Nigeria is a life of hardship. You can understand that a lot of Nigerians are leaving Nigeria on account of this hardship, but the time has come for the issue to be resolved on an ongoing basis. Any policy that presents a hardship to Nigerians, we will take it up.

“This is not an individual thing. We may speak as individuals, but more as an organization. We are building more links. This can only succeed when we come together. Do you know that not all states are obeying the new minimum wage act?”

As a way out, he said that Nigeria oil should be refined in the country, adding that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is anchored on the privatization of the industry.

The ex-Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice added: “We know that greed works against the collective interest of the people and the mess we found ourselves in this country today is on the account of the greed of a few. The act facilitates the domination of the industry by a few. What it means is that the wealth this country is blessed with will be in the hand of a few people. This will not make for redistribution of the wealth of Nigeria, but rather the rich will be getting richer and the poor will be getting poorer.”

Also speaking, Rev. Benedict Onwugbenu, the Coordinator, Justice Development and Peace Commission, Catholic Church said that the hardship in the country is not what President Muhammadu Buhari promised Nigerians when he was elected in 2015.

Rev. Onwugbenu said: “Buhari led a protest against fuel hike, but today he is doing exactly what he was against.”

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