Police arrest 18 protesters, journalists in Lagos

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JAF, civil societies mobilise for mass protest

Deregulation’ll earn Nigeria N1trn annually, create jobs –Sylva

Edozie Udeojo,

Men of the Lagos State Police Command, 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.

The protesters, who gathered under the aegis of the Socialist Party of Nigeria, displayed placards demanding a reduction in the prices of goods and services.

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.

The group was at the Ojuelegba area when they were intercepted by the police and arrested.

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.

The youth leader of the SPN, Hassan Soweto, in a post on his Facebook page, said they were taken to the Area C Police Command.

He stated, “We have just been arrested alongside several other members of the Socialist Party of Nigeria and journalists for protesting against fuel price hike, electricity tariff and deregistration of SPN. A total of 18 arrested, including four journalists.”

The National Chairperson of the party, Abiodun Bamigboye, in a statement, demanded an end to the violation of human rights by the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

Bamigboye said, “We demand immediate release of all arrested, public apology from the police and payment of medical bills and other damages to those arrested. The unjust arrest today again reveals the despotic character of the Buhari/APC government and further betrays its anti-democratic and anti-masses character.”

The International Press Centre, in statement, condemned the arrest of the journalists.

The statement, released by the IPC’s Program Officer, Melody Akinjiyan, said, “IPC disapproves of the harassment and brutalisation of the journalists in the course of legitimate duty and particularly decries the seizure and damage of their working tools.

“IPC demands the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists. The police should also return their seized gadgets and pay compensation for the damaged ones.”

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.

The Joint Action Front, in another statement by its Secretary, Abiodun Aremu, also condemned the police action.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Muyiwa Adejobi, said the journalists had been released.

He said the others were charged for conducts likely to cause breach of public peace and were discharged by the court.

Adejobi said, “The protesters were picked by police personnel in the Surulere area. The four journalists were released, but others were taken to the task force base at Oshodi, and they were charged to court under Section 168 (1D) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015. They were warned by the court and discharged. As we speak, we don’t have anyone in our custody.

“This is just to serve as a warning that any procedure that you want to do must follow due process. We were not informed of the protest today; it was a surprise to us. We will never tell anyone not to have a peaceful protest.”

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.