No fewer than six lawmakers raced to safety on Wednesday after Nigerians besieged the National Assembly complex in a demonstration over the draconian removal of subsidies by President Bola Tinubu.
Peoples Gazette was told by witnesses that the lawmakers were standing near the front parking concourse when protesters pulled down the main barriers leading into the parliament while chanting anti-government and populist songs.
Some of the lawmakers were not immediately identified, but David Fuoh, representing Kurmi constituency in Taraba, was said to be among those who immediately took shelter behind the House of Representatives Wing on the southern end of the premises. Mr Fuoh did not immediately answer a message from The Gazette seeking comments.
The development came shortly after Nigerians took to the streets across the country in nationwide solidarity with labour unions, who summoned protests after talks with Mr Tinubu’s officials failed to materialise between last weekend and Tuesday night.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) said the administration should reinstate subsidies on petrol and raise the minimum wage for public employees to N200,000 per month. The government has said the demands were unrealistic and proposed vast measures to ameliorate the raging suffering of the masses, aggravated by the subsidy eliminations in late May.
In a nationwide broadcast on Monday night to persuade labour unions to shelve today’s planned walkout and demonstration, Mr Tinubu said wide-ranging measures from affordable transportation alternatives to the distribution of seedlings to farmers were being considered as part of savings from the subsidy removal, which he said would have cost the country more if not done. Western economists, especially the International Monetary Fund, appeared to agree with the president’s position but urged urgent implementation of relief measures to avoid large-scale hardships.
Mr Tinubu, who assumed office on May 29, has been working to constitute his cabinet for a more rounded and speedy implementation of his policies, although it was not immediately clear whether today’s protests would delay senators, who have been vetting Mr Tinubu’s ministerial nominations this week. A Senate spokesperson did not immediately answer calls seeking comments.
Protests were held in several cities, including Kano, Enugu, Lagos, Benin and Abeokuta. NLC President, Joe Ajaero, leader of NLC, and his TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo, addressed protesters in Abuja and railed against the government’s excesses at Unity Fountain, Federal Secretariat and other stops. While turnout was not as big as anticipated, labour officials anticipate participation would grow as more people become aware in the coming days.