By Bukola Oriowo And Emmanuel Egobiambu
Residents of Ibadan, Oyo State have taken to the streets in protest against the hardship triggered by the naira notes swap and the hike in fuel price.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) late last year introduced newly-designed N200, N500, and N1,000 notes and gave a January 31st deadline to phase out the old notes. The deadline was later extended by ten days following the outcry that greeted the policy.
Despite the extension, the new notes are scarce and Nigerians are finding it difficult to get the old ones.
Also, in several parts of the country, the pump price of fuel has increased with many people buying the product for as high as N500 per litre. Queues tailing back into major roads have also resurfaced in many places.
The situation forced some residents of the Oyo State capital to take to the streets, asking the authorities to urgently address the situation.
The roads leading to the Iwo area of Ibadan were deserted as the protesters barricaded them. They were also burnfires on the road and reports suggest that a commercial bank was attacked in the process.
“People are fed up and need relief,” one of the protesters, Tayo Adetunji, told Channels Television.
“The government in power should give us relief,” he added.
He claimed that “the system is no more working in Nigeria. The money that we suffered for to collect it is now a problem”.
The government, he pleaded, should allow Nigerians to continue the usage of the old notes to alleviate the plight of the people.
Another protester simply identified as Taofeek, accused the government of being insensitive to the plight of Nigerians, lamenting the hardships occasioned by the hike in fuel prices and the naira swap.
The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, on Friday night, announced the deployment of free ‘Omituntun’ transport buses to cushion the effect of the fuel scarcity and naira crises in the country on residents of the state.
Makinde announced this in a state-wide broadcast aired on the state-owned radio service, the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State.
The governor, who frowned upon the violent protests that erupted in the state earlier on Friday, said his government was ready to do whatever was needed to ease the pain of the people.
He, however, urged residents of the state to express their grievances peacefully, adding that his government would not condone the breakdown of law and order.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Taiwo Adisa, noted that Makinde also put security agencies in the state on high alert to avert any breakdown of law and order, according to a report by The Eagle Online.
According to the governor, the Omituntun Mass Transit Buses will be deployed to more routes within the state to convey residents free of charge in order to ameliorate the suffering of the people.
The governor also said he was working with the chairmen of local governments in the state to provide immediate palliatives for the vulnerable people in order to alleviate the hardships that the crises had brought upon them.
In the broadcast, Makinde said, “My Dear Good People of Oyo State.
“I am addressing you today because of the prevailing conditions in our state and country that have led to protests and riots, especially in Ibadan.
“First, let me say that I understand the need for these protests. When citizens get pushed to the wall, there is only so much that they can take.
“The continuous fuel scarcity and the scarcity of the naira have led to slow economic activities. I must repeat, I understand, and I feel your pain.
“I have always maintained that peaceful protests are fine. When things are not going how we want them to go, we have a right and even a responsibility to protest.
“Let me also state that while we are protesting, we must remember how easily a peaceful protest can turn violent and lead to the loss of lives and property. The violence that erupted in parts of Ibadan today (Friday) is condemnable and will not be tolerated.
“In response to this, I have suspended all campaign activities forthwith. I have also met with the heads of security agencies in Oyo State to restore calm and maintain the peace in our dear state.
“Violence cannot and will not solve our problems, it only creates new ones. We have another opportunity in a few weeks to move this country in a new direction. Use your PVC, not violence.
“We must not allow elements within us who have other motives to take advantage of peaceful protests to perpetrate evil or push their agendas.
“I urge all law-abiding citizens and residents of the state to go about their lawful activities. All our security agencies are on high alert and so, peaceful residents of the state have no cause to fear.
“As a palliative measure, I have directed that the Omituntun Mass Transit Buses should be deployed to more routes within the state for free.
“We are also working with Local Government Chairmen to see what immediate palliatives we can make available to the most vulnerable amongst us to alleviate the hardships that the twin scarcity of fuel and the naira have brought upon our people.
“Once again, we have another opportunity to put an end to oppressive systems and that is through the ballot. For now, I urge everyone to remain calm as we are doing our best to mitigate the hardships.”
PUNCH Nigeria Ltd