How hoodlums hijacked workers’ protest in Lagos
NLC plans to shut down Murtala Muhammed International Airport today
After several rounds of fence-mending discussions failed to break their resolve, including an order of the National Industrial Court stopping the planned strike, it was a case of no retreat, no surrender in Lagos yesterday when the Nigeria Labour Union (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) took to the streets to protest against the fuel hike.
From the Labour House in Yaba, hundreds of protesters marched to Maryland and made a closure to Day One of the strike action at Airport Road in Ikeja area of the state, with a vow to continue today by shutting down the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA) Ikeja.
The Ayuba Wabba-led faction of the NLC threatened to ground flight operations at the MMIA from Thursday, if the Federal Government refuses to revert the pump price of petrol to N87 per litre. Mr. Adelegan Solomon, Vice-President of NLC, made this known while addressing protesters at the MMIA over the government’s removal of fuel subsidy.
Solomon, who is also the President of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUCPTRE), urged Nigerians to unanimously reject the hike in fuel price.
He noted that Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) were members of AUCPTRE, adding that arrangements have been perfected to ground flight operations at the airport from Thursday. “Today, few planes have taken-off and landed on this airport but by tomorrow, no plane will land or take off. It is operation occupy Lagos State,” Solomon said.
Mrs. Victoria Menta, Commissioner of Police, Lagos Airport Police Command, who deployed officers around strategic locations at the airport, later met with the union members and enjoined them to be peaceful. However, some travellers were left stranded for several hours, due to the traffic caused by the protesters.
Despite measures taken by the Lagos State Police Command in beefing up security at strategic areas around public facilities ahead of yesterday’s nationwide strike, hoodlums yesterday hijacked the protest in Lagos.
The protest, which started at the Fadeyi area of the state, along the Ikorodu Expressway, was supposed to be a peaceful one to express their displeasure over the hike, but according to eyewitnesses, the protest, which started well turned awry when some hoodlums said to be from the Mushin, Bariga and Somolu area stormed the protest and hijacked it.
The hoodlums had blocked the entire stretch of Fadeyi, forcing motorists heading towards Ojuelegba to turn back. Some of the hoodlums, who were armed with dangerous weapons ranging from stones, machetes, bottles and axes, soon became violent and began to attack and rob some innocent motorists.
Although no life was lost, so many pedestrians and motorists were injured by the assault from the hoodlums, even as several cars were torched. At about 8.56a.m., some anti-riot policemen were deployed to the scene, but their attempt to quell the situation was rebuffed by the rioters, who pelted policemen with stones.
However, the arrival of some soldiers, who were said to have been deployed from Abalti Barracks, Ojuelegba, brought calm to the area. Collaborating with the anti-riot policemen, the security agents used tear gas to destabilize the rioters.
Speaking with newsmen, one Olufemi Momodu, a resident of the area, said: “We were going about our business at about 7a.m. when the protest started. Although it started peacefully, we were surprised it even held since we heard news of the court order.
“Also, the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, asked us to go about our daily activities without fear. But I didn’t leave anything to chance. On my own part, I closed my shop because they were already vandalising people’s shop and were stealing their goods. They held the area hostage until the police and soldiers came.”
The rally and momentary disorder caused a heavy traffic snarl from Yaba to Maryland bridge despite attempts by traffic personnel to contain it.
Also speaking, the President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Nasir Fagge, said Nigerians must remain united against the ruling class. “We are convinced that what is going on now is a war of liberation. We in ASUU believe that any change that does not lead to transformation is underdevelopment,’’ Fagge said.