Video and article by Lagun Akinloye
Protests against the controversial removal of the Nigerian fuel subsidy took place outside the Nigerian High commission in London yesterday. The demonstration, organised by the Student Association of Nigeria in Diaspora and the Nigerian Youth League UK occupied a large swath of the street opposite Nigerian House. The protesters, numbering in their hundreds chanted, sang and vented their anger at the removal of the subsidy, which has caused the price of fuel more than double in the country from N65 ($0.41) a litre to N140 ($0.90). Banners with the inscriptions ‘Occupy Nigeria’ and ‘Call an end to our hardship’ were held high, as turns were taken by eager protesters to address to crowd.
January 1st witnessed the withdrawal of the fuel subsidy which costs the government an estimated $8bn a year to maintain. The government argued that rather than spend billions on the importation of fuel, they intend to reinvest the money into beneficial ’People focused’ projects, while at the same time searching for investors to build more refineries in order for Nigeria, a major oil exporter, to be self-sufficient in domestic petroleum consumption. .
The protesters, closely watched over by London's metropolitan police, were passionate throughout. Shouts of ‘Great Nigeria’, ‘Our Nigeria’ rang through the air, as those young and old, Muslim and Christians stood united in what they perceived as an assault on average Nigerian's living standards by the current administration.
When the official car of the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK, Dalhatu Tafida, arrived at side of the embassy, the crowd beckoned him to answer their protest. Tafida avoided direct confrontation by quickly entering the building and sending back out a representative to collect the protestors petition.
The demonstration became heated as the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) attempted to conduct interviews. The crowd thought their views would not be adequately conveyed by the government run network and proceeded to jeer and heckle, preventing the crew from filming.
Habib Gajam, a Nigerian student from Sussex University vented has anger by stating “We supply crude oil to many nations in the world, but unfortunately we import our own petroleum products. People are suffering, and the resources that we have are not accessible to the common man.”
Another protester explained his reason for attending, “We are here to register our grievances against this senseless and inhuman policy which also acts as the continuation of corruption. We are disappointed and displeasured. We are here to say no to the fuel subsidy removal.”
Deputy High Commissioner, Dozie Nwanna, gave his personal response to the protests to Think Africa Press stating, “The government was elected in a fair and honest way, so they should be left to carry out what they perceive as being best for Nigeria. Civil society and protesters should not be used to plunge Nigeria into a state of anarchy. I served during the Biafran war and the psychological scars are still there, I would not want the same for this generation. The protesters are entitled to what they are doing, but that does not necessarily mean they are right. Let those in Nigeria register their displeasure through their elected representatives in the national assembly and they will then take it up with the executive. But the protesters should allow government to achieve their objective, let those who wish for Nigeria to implode not get their wish.”
With Nigeria's largest trade union federation, the Nigerian Labour Congress, calling for a national strike on Monday in response to the subsidy removal, opposition to the subsidy's removal shows no sign of abating.
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