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Fuel Strike : ASUU orders students out of campuses

Posted by By Chris Agbambu, Chuks Ehirim (Abuja) Wisdom Patrick, Alex Oni and Rafiu Ajakaye (Lagos) on 2005/09/14 | Views: 347 |

Fuel Strike : ASUU orders students out of campuses


Nigerians at home and in Britain could face the same disruption to their lives on Wednesday and over the same issue: The price of fuel.

Nigerians at home and in Britain could face the same disruption to their lives on Wednesday and over the same issue: The price of fuel.


Locals planning to escape to Briatin, their favourite holiday destination – and where several of them own homes and businesses – are not likely to find solace this time.


As the strike drums beat in Lagos, Calabar and Kano, so has the Fuel Lobby called out its members in London, Manchester and Cambridge to protest the price of petrol which has reached 1 pound (about $1.84) a litre after rising more than 20 per cent in recent months.


The price jumped from around N50 per litre in Nigeria about two weeks ago to N65. This, Labour and the rest of civil society are against.


University lecturers have asked students to vacate their campuses in anticipation of the disruption to be caused by the mass rally the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) would start on Wednesday in Lagos, from where it would progress nationwide.


The government says it is not against the protest, but issues caution.


The Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) alerted the government on Monday that learning would be impossible while the protest is on, and the only solution is for Abuja to listen to the voice of reason and revert to the old price.


ASUU President, Sule Kano, told reporters at the Lagos office of the NLC that students have been informed to stay off campuses and “match against an inhuman and a sadistic regime that has no interest of the people at heart”.


He said his union would be part of the protest band in Lagos where some 20,000 Nigerians – including members of civil society and 29 unions affiliated to the NLC – would take to the streets.


Kano’s position is supported by the National Association of Nigerians Students (NANS) which has urged all students to join the protest.


It said in a statement last week that students in all tertiary institutions in Lagos State should participate.


All markets are expected to close shop and their owners expected to join in the action.


Acting Inspector General of Police (IG), Sunday Ehindero, on Monday assured the NLC that even though the police will not disrupt the rally, dialogue remains the solution to all problems.


He informed NLC President, Adams Oshiomole, in Abuja that he invited him for dialogue knowing that he is a man of peace who follows due process in whatever he does.


His words: “I know Adams abhors violence, we believe very strongly that dialogue is the answer to whatever problem we have and if you recollect, a few days ago I called my DIGs, AIGs and CPs to a meeting and one of the issues we discussed was the mass rally being organised by you.


“I told them to use dialogue, they should not use firearms and that shooting should not occur at all. In fact, the use of firearm should be the last resort”.


Ehindero noted Oshiomole’s “altruistic motive” for moving the nation forward, adding that “without these rallies and disagreements there cannot be democracy – but how you resolve these disagreement is the hallmark of this democracy.


“Freedom of movement, rallies, demonstrations are all imbibed in the Constitution and it is the people’s right to enforce it. One of the reasons I invited Adams is to clear ambiguities about the power of the police as it concerns the law, and the Court of Appeal’s decision of March 2005 on rallies”.


Ehindero stressed that the rally against the increase in the price of fuel “is an issue we feel is desirable. The police have no problem with that and the police will facilitate the peaceful organisation of the rally. All we want is to ensure that hoodlums don’t hijack it. The police will give the protesters coverage and security”.


Oshiomole said he believes that all Nigerians and every stakeholder will like to see a nation prosperous and the citizens happy.


He lamented that Nigerians have agonised over the endless increases of fuel price which have resulted in closure of industries and massive lay off of workers.


He added: “An average Nigerian now contends with the arbitrary increase of 60 to 100 per cent in transport fares which in turn lead to the high prices in foodstuff.


“Labour continually chooses dialogue. We have urged the government to bring down prices, but it refused. Even Generals in the military must have negotiating skills, so that after war they can dialogue, you cannot just drop the bomb and go away, you must talk”.


He said a general strike is costly for everyone, “so we chose the rally option because we think that if we bring out many Nigerians on the streets with placards as done in other countries, it is an opportunity for them to show their genuine displeasure. That is why we are saying the protest must be peaceful”.


Leaders of the Labour and Civil Societies Coalition (LASCO) clarified on Monday that the protest would transcend a struggle against the hike in fuel price and be one of the plans to either put the government on its toes or sack it.


The action begins at 6.00 a.m. from the National Stadium, Surulere down to Ojuelegba and to Ikeja where a formal rally would be held. After that, a letter of protest would be handed over to Governor Bola Tinubu for onward transmission to President Olusegun Obasanjo.


The rally will be led by Wole Soyinka; Oshiomhole; LASCO Interim Chairman, Beko Ransome-Kuti; Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Peace Obiajulu; Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie; Gani Fawehinmi; Femi Falana, former Convener of the United Action for Democracy, Bamidele Aturu, among others.


“We are committed to a line of sustained action aimed not only at the immediate objective of total reversal of the latest price increases, but indeed the ultimate goal of bringing an end to bad governance”, Beko Ransome-Kuti said on Monday.


But Founder and President of Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), Frederick Fasehun, has registered his opposition to the rally.


He expressed the view in Lagos on Monday at the swearing-in ceremony of Tunde Smart as OPC Governor in Lagos State. He said another round of strike will further complicate the messy economic situation and the suffering of the common man.


Abuja on Monday appealed for caution over the rally planned by the NLC.


Information and National Orientation Minister, Frank Nweke Jnr, said in Madrid, Spain that the protest ``must be expressed within the limits of the law. The government is not averse to Labour and civil society groups making their views known on whatever platform, but it must not undermine law and order''.


He said the government has opened room for dialogue on the issue and urged all stakeholders to reciprocate the gesture, especially because the government has been ``accommodating”.


Nweke, on Obasanjo's delegation to the state visit to Spain, said the government has received encouraging signals from the Spanish business community.


However, it was learnt on Monday that the Presidency has infiltrated the NLC and the civil society groups and coaxed their members to stage counter rallies.


According to a Presidency source, a pro-government coalition, made up of about 50 groups (both Labour and civil society groups) met in Abuja last Thursday and held another meeting in Enugu on Saturday, which would be followed by another parley in Ibadan today. The final one is expected to be in Kaduna on Thursday.


The major aim, said the source, is to stage counter rallies in major cities to thwart the ones of Labour.


However, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) said it would do everything humanly possible to ensure the success of the rallies by the NLC.


Charles Agadaenyi Nwodo, National Chairman of Progressive Action Congress (PAC), a member of the CNPP, said: “As far as we in CNPP are concerned, nothing done by the government can counter the success, which the NLC-led rallies would record”.


CNPP Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu, added that the CNPP is pressing ahead with the rallies as agreed with Labour and that “we are not going to be detained by the actions of a few saboteurs and enemies of the people. By the time we are through with these rallies, Obasanjo would know how unpopular his regime is”.


Nonetheless, agitation against fuel price is not limited to Nigeria. Across the seas, Britain is bracing itself for a week of disruption, as protesters threaten refinery demonstrations and motorway barricades.


Campaigners from the Fuel Lobby have given government ministers three days to meet them to discuss their grievances or face protests on Wednesday.


Anger is rising over the new $1.84 price per litre of petrol which threatens to be forced higher by the disruption caused to the American oil industry by Hurricane Katrina.


British Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister), Gordon Brown, has issued a plea to oil-producing countries to step up supplies in order to calm the current price spike.


But the meeting of European Union (EU) finance ministers in Manchester failed to offer the tax cuts on fuel which demonstrators are demanding.


Brown dismissed direct government interference in bringing down prices, insisting that they were ``a global problem which requires global solutions''.


He urged oil producers to recognise their ``common interest'' in ensuring that sufficient supplies reached the market to keep prices down.


Fuel Lobby spokesman, Andrew Spence, said it would have made ``sense" for EU ministers to have agreed to fuel tax cuts to ease the burden on motorists and haulers, rather than relying on the oil-producing states to solve their problems.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.