….As Wheelbarrow Operators Protest Extortion by Revenue Collectors in Edo
Coalition of civil society groups, The People’s Alternative Movement, on Friday protested the planned hike in prices of petroleum products by Nigeria’s federal government. The group, which comprises civil rights groups in Edo State, had earlier warned that it would take to the streets to mobilise the suffering masses and protest what it termed continuous impoverishment of Nigerians by the government using fuel subsidy removal and increase in electricity tariff.
The protesters, bearing placards with different inscriptions like: “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, had congregated as early as 7.00 am at the ever-busy King’s Square(Ring Road) before taking to the streets.
Addressing the people, the South-south Coordinator of People’s Alternative Movement, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, said this marked the beginning of the campaign for an end to hardship in Nigeria, noting that an increment in prices of petroleum products would further increase the suffering of the Nigerian people.
“Nigeria remains the poverty capital of the world. The inflation rate in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world. 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 in an ongoing basis. And any policy that presents 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 kind can only succeed when we come together. Do you know that not all states are obeying the new Minimum Wage Act? Do you think of the hardship this imposes on the lowest among us? This coalition that is coming between the civil society and labor is the kind the civil society can do anything to sustain.
“To end the problem in the petroleum industry, the Nigerian oil should be refined in Nigeria. The Petroleum Industry Act, (PIA) is anchored on the privatisation of the industry. 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; and 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, Benedict Onwugbenu, a reverend father, and the Coordinator, Justice, Development, and Peace Commission, Catholic Church, said “we are saying enough to the hardship in the country. It is not what Buhari promised Nigerians that Nigerians are getting today. Buhari led a protest against fuel hike, but today he is doing exactly what he was against.” The coalition said the protest would continue January 27, 2022.
The protest by the CSOs was to coincide with that of wheelbarrow pushers who also took to the streets to protest alleged extortion by revenue collectors in Edo State. Alleging that they were made to cough out as much as N500.00 daily as taxes, they vowed not to go back to work until the harassment by the revenue collectors stops.
One of the aggrieved wheelbarrow pushers, Nura Kano, complained that “the revenue collectors come to us every day and collect ₦200; another group collects ₦200, and another group collect ₦100, totaling ₦500. And sometimes, we pay more than that.” Kano lamented that he doesn’t make up to ₦500 a day and vowed not to go back to his business until they stop the extortion.
Also speaking, Abdullahi Nora said the revenue collectors harassed them every day and that most times, they don’t make up to what they pay every day as tax. He therefore pleaded with Governor Obaseki to help them as they were also facing hardships in the country.