By Osita Chinedu
Residents of the Niger state capital Minna, yesterday took to the roads in protest of the high cost of living and its attendant hardships being faced by Nigerians due to the economic policies of the Tinubu administration.
The protest which was started by youths and later joined by men and women brought about blockades on the major highways of the state causing obstruction of movements.
The Bidda-Minna highway was blocked disallowing flow of traffic to or from the state capital from the Bidda axis while motorists from the Suleja/Abuja axis were also affected.
The central Kpakungu Round-about was completely blocked forcing traders and businesses around the area to close up for safety.
Motorists who tried to find their ways through the blockades were rough handled and had their vehicles damaged causing other motorists, tricycle operators and motor cyclists to take to alternative routes.
Some youths in the areas seized the opportunity to extort money from the desperate road users.
The police that was deployed immediately the protests commenced was earlier watching on from a distance but had to employ tear gases to disperse the mob as it grew in intensity.
Reacting to the situation, the Niger state Police command through its spokesman, Wasiu Abiodun, said the Police had to apply minimum force to disperse the protesters.
“The police was this morning alerted that a large number of protesting people blocked Bida road, obstructing motorists and people were unable to go about their work. We had to deploy our men to the area.
“They refused to listen to government officials, led by the state Deputy Governor, Yakubu Garba, as he tried to address them.
“As a result, we had to use minimum force to disperse them and it paved way for the eventual opening of the road for easy flow of traffic.”
He assured that normalcy had been totally restored to Minna, the state capital, especially the Kpakungu area.
The governor of Niger state Umar Bago who reacted promptly stated that the protest was a decoy by some youths who were out to hijack trucks conveying foodstuffs from Lagos to Minna.
While addressing newsmen at the Government House in Minna after a security meeting that came after the protest, the governor maintained that the real reason behind the protest was to hijack trucks conveying foodstuffs into Minna from Lagos and not the rising cost of living.
In his words, “The real reason why women and youths protested in Minna was due to information they received that trucks of food were being conveyed to the state and the protest was being held to hijack the food trucks.”
“Yes, we had restiveness of youths and women in Minna and this was unfortunate. They were yearning and clamouring for the reduction in food prices. However, since that time, we have been in a series of meetings and we have discovered the latest happenings.”
“We learnt that a group or syndicate followed trucks of food traveling from Lagos to the North and they caused gridlock in the name of demonstration in Minna today, in an attempt to cause heavy traffic while items being conveyed by those trucks are looted.”
“People were said to have used town criers to gather these women but some good Samaritans informed the security and so, the trucks were diverted from Gidan Kwano to the Talba Farm Road and to their destination.”
“Thank God for the men of our security forces that averted the trucks that were heading towards this location and stopped them in front of the university gate at Gidan Kwano. The Federal Government has shown interest in the current situation and we are on top of it. We have sent several security apparatus to some locations which we think are vulnerable.”
The Governor said government had identified the major cause of the sharp rise in food prices and linked it to the mopping-up of foodstuffs in the villages by some group of people, adding that the government had issued an executive order that anyone found mopping up foodstuff in the villages or local markets would have their goods confiscated by security agencies and distributed to the public.
According to him, “We have noticed that due to the inflationary trend and the loss of value in naira, a lot of people have decided to stockpile food items in a lot of warehouses. The mopping of the food items is done by people who are a cartel that is sabotaging the economy.
“We are going to stop people from mopping up food. Even local chickens and goats are being mopped up. An executive order has been given to stop these people. We have issued an order that trucks which come to the parks or buy foodstuff from our villagers in bulk should be halted for now.
“We have stopped mass purchases from our local markets in all our local government areas till further notice. Anyone found wanting would have his truck seized and the food distributed to the people.”
This is coming right after a protest was staged in Kano state over the past week bemoaning the high cost of living.
Prominent Nigerians have been lending their voices calling on the President to rise to the occasion on the untold hardships that the ordinary Nigerians are facing.
Top among this list is the former Vice President and PDP presidential candidate in the last presidential elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who took to his X handle to call out the President on the effects of his administration’s fiscal policies on Nigeria.
A veteran Yoruba actor, Olaiya Igwe also took to his YouTube channel in a video he titled, ‘Apologies to all My Fans’ to apologise to Nigerians for influencing them to vote for Tinubu. It should be recalled that he went unclad towards the elections in campaign for Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
According to Olaiya in the video, “Nigerians, please don’t be angry. You see me as one of those who brought this hardship to the country. I accept. You are raining curses on me because you felt my going to the beach influenced you to vote for him. I’m sorry.
“Had it been that things turned out good in the country since Tinubu assumed office, those insulting me would have stopped.
“Nigerians are crying. Even those in diaspora are angry with the present situation of the country. I want to talk to our father, Tinubu that Nigerians’ expectations are not met. There’s a need for you to appoint a monitoring team to ensure your appointees deliver on your plans and promises to citizens.”
On the other hand, the presidency has continued to insist that she is on top of the situation. The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy Bayo Onanuga, while reacting to the call-out made by Atiku Abubakar stated that such claims are not based on facts since according to him, “Nigerians still enjoy the lowest cost of living in Africa.”
The First Lady of the federation, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, reacting to the situation urged Nigerians to exercise patience with the administration and assured that the hardship is about to end as a result of the right policies being put in place by the government.