Police arrest protesters, journalists in march against fuel, electricity tariff, VAT hike

The police, yesterday, clamped down on anti-fuel, electricity tariff and Value Added tax (VAT) increment protesters in Lagos State and arrested 18  protesters and four journalists covering the event.

This comes as the Joint Action Front (JAF) and 18 civil societies vowed to mobilise Nigerians to demand reversal of the new energy and VAT policies.

Pump prices of petrol and electricity tariffs have gone up by more than 100 per cent in the last two weeks following the deregulation of the sector  as VAT rate also increased from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.

The new policy has, however, attracted widespread condemnation and protests by citizens who consider it as anti-people, especially coming at a time the country was gripped by an economic crisis that has shot up prices of basic foods, following months of lockdown from COVID-19 pandemic.

In Lagos, yesterday, attempts by the police led by its Area Commander to foil the protest and its coverage by the media, was met with resistance as SPN members vowed to go ahead with demonstrations. SPN National Secretary, Chinedu Bosah and other protesters told the police that they had the right to stage a peaceful protest against any anti-people policies, but the security personnel demanded they produce a police permit that allowed them to be on the street.

The protesters and journalists were thereafter arrested at Ojuelegba and taken to the Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja in two police vans.

A member of SPN and National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, who was also arrested, in an SMS message said:  “We have just been arrested alongside several other members of the SPN and journalists for protesting  this morning against fuel price hike, electricity tariff and de-registration of SPN. Typing this message at the back of a police van taking us to Area C.  We are in two police vans.”

JAF Secretary, Abiodun Aremu and Deputy Chairman, Achike Chude, said the group and other civil societies have met to fine-tune strategies for the protest, which could start on Wednesday, September 16.

Addressing newsmen on the forthcoming nationwide mass protest, Achike said the meeting was the third of such independent activities in the past nine years that JAF would rally nationwide resistance of labour, CSOs and the suffering majority of Nigerians against hikes in prices of fuel and electricity.

It urged Nigerians to hold mass meetings and sensitisation rallies to reject the latest hikes and struggle to defeat it.

The group demanded immediate and unconditional reversal of the hike in petrol price from the N160 to the N86.50, stating that government has a responsibility to make the refineries work and build new ones to ensure availability of petroleum products at cheaper and affordable prices.

Meanwhile, the International Press Centre (IPC) in a statement by its Programme Officer/Safety Desk Officer, Melody Akinjiyan, has condemned the arrest of four journalists saying they were going about their legitimate duties and demanded their unconditional release.

However, Timipre Sylva, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources says the Federal Government’s decision to fully remove subsidy from petrol will earn the country one trillion naira annually and create massive jobs.

Sylva told newsmen in Abuja that beginning from October, Nigerians “can now convert cars using petroleum to gas, which will be cheaper.

“It is time for Nigerians to face reality and do the right thing. What is deregulation going to do? It is going to free up a lot more money. At least from the very beginning, it will save us up to a trillion and more every year. Already, we have taken up the budgetary provision for subsidy which is about N500 billion in the budget. Also, we have taken off the excess forex price that special rate that was given to NNPC which also came at a cost. – The Sun.

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