By Funmilayo Aremu, Wale Akinselure | Ibadan, Ebenezer Adurokiya | Warri and Idahosa Moses | Benin City
THE scarcity of cash and fuel rocking the country took a disturbing turn on Friday with protests turning violent in Ibadan, Oyo State, and angry protesters blocking major roads in Warri, Delta State, and in Benin, Edo State.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, many frustrated residents who found it difficult to get cash from their bank accounts took to the streets and major roads to express their anger.
From Mokola to Iwo Road to the Dugbe axis of the city, residents protested, shouting “enough is enough.” Chants of “there will be trouble”; “Give us our money”; “We are tired of queuing”; “The government is wicked” rang out as the protesters blocked roads and made bonfires to show their displeasure at the scarcity of new naira notes and fuel.
As passers-by and onlookers went about their businesses, some held leaves while others attached them to the wipers of their cars, tricycles and to motorcycles to show their solidarity with the cause. Some of them attempted to make their way into the governor’s office at the Agodi Gate area of the city.
Speaking to Saturday Tribune, some of the protesters lamented the hardship being faced by Nigerians.
One of the protesters said: “People are hungry. I have not been able to eat well because I do not have cash. After queuing for hours in the hot sun, I ended up withdrawing N1000 and sometimes, I don’t get any because the ATMs are loaded with inadequate sums.
“We see videos of people spraying these new notes at parties and the ordinary man can’t have access to them. Where did they get them from? Do they want to kill us? We are tired of the hardship. We said we wanted a change, we wanted good governance from the present administration but from the look of things, they are bent on frustrating and killing us before they vacate the seat of power,” she fumed.
A passer-by expressed anger at the government. He said: “With the way things are going, I do not see this election happening this month. People are suffering. The little money we have in the banks, we can’t spend. After taking everything from us, is the next thing on the agenda killing us?
“The POS operators are behaving like gods, how can we pay money to receive money? Does it make any sense? The election cannot hold with the current situation of things.”
Another angry youth told Saturday Tribune that: “Nobody should go to work; this country has to be shut down before they hear us out. We are tired.
“This protest should have started long before now. My children are at home, they cannot go to school because we are trying to ration and there is no money to live on. I tried to withdraw some money from a POS point yesterday and I was charged N1,000 for N5,000. I had to spend the last money I had on me to buy some food.”
The protesters also stormed the Oyo State Secretariat, Ibadan, destroying properties in sight and visiting violence on any human being attempting to obstruct their march.
Wielding sticks, woods and other dangerous weapons, the protesters forced open the two main gates of the secretariat with security operatives taking cover.
It was a chaotic scene at the state secretariat with civil servants and people within the secretariat scrambling for safety.
The rampaging protesters subsequently made their way to the governor’s office where they attempted to force the gate open.
While the protest lasted, the demonstrators made bonfires around the state secretariat.
Meeting stiff resistance from the security operatives on duty who fired shots into the air, the protesters resorted to throwing stones and other objects into the governor’s office.
A police officer attached to the governor’s office was injured in an attack by protesters.
The officer had attempted to calm the protesters but he was stoned and injured.
A reinforcement of an Operation Burst/police team saved the situation that would have degenerated into a major crisis.
The protesters were loud in stating that the protest was against the hardship faced as a result of scarcity of cash and fuel.
Speaking after the protest, the Executive Assistant on Security to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr Sunday Odukoya, bemoaned the violent turn that the protest took and called for calm.
Makinde suspends campaign
In the wake of Friday’s protests in Ibadan, Governor Seyi Makinde announced the indefinite suspension of his re-election campaign.
The governor, who made the announcement after flagging off the 10-kilometer Omi Adio-Ido road in Ido Local Government Area, said he could not be campaigning as the people were faced with undue hardship.
The governor was due to campaign in Ido Local Government Area on Friday while the campaign train was to move to Oluyole Local Government Area today.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, on behalf of the media committee of the governor’s re-election campaign council, quoted him as saying: “I appreciate all the leaders and stakeholders who are ready for the campaign activities for today and I thank you for coming to meet us here today.
“But unfortunately, I will have no choice but to suspend our campaign. So, after this flag-off, I will return home, because there are protests in town and there is a lot of hardship with this issue of the scarcity of the new naira notes.
“A lot of our people have money in banks but they are not able to get their money. Some of us campaigning are not able to access funds. Maybe they do not want us to campaign.
“But I promise the people of Oyo State that I will continue to work for them till the last minute of the last day of my tenure. I am working for them and what this means is that if there is hardship and people are protesting, I should not be on the campaign trail. I should go there and look after their interests.
“I have told the powers that be that if we don’t leave politics aside and face governance squarely, with the scarcity of naira notes and the growing frustration, EndSARS will be a child’s play. I pray that the leadership in this country will come together.
“I am also part of the leadership and I will take part of the blame on what is currently going on, because I am also occupying a very high position in the country today.”
The statement also quoted the Director-General of the Seyi Makinde Campaign Organisation, Chief Bayo Lawal, as saying that Governor Makinde’s decision to suspend the campaign was not only commendable but in tune with the current realities.
“It is clear that we are all victims of the new naira policy of the Federal Government. His Excellency has shown leadership by suspending the campaign until we are sure sanity is prevailing,” Lawal said.
Angry women block major roads in Warri
Aggrieved market women in Warri, Delta State, stormed major roads and banks on Friday to protest the lack of the new naira notes to do their businesses.
Expressing frustration in accessing the new bills, having been made to deposit their old notes, the women also lamented the scarcity of petrol, the price of which now ranges between N500 and N700 at filling stations.
The women barricaded the popular Warri-Sapele Road and the NPA Expressway with some laying siege to an old generation bank near Ogbe-Ijoh Market in Warri South Local Government Area.
The women pulled down canopies of the said bank which were meant for customers to queue under.
One of the protesters, a fresh fish seller, who identified herself as Laiye from Odimodi, said she had suffered untold hardship due to cash scarcity.
The fish seller, who wore a net mask on her face, lamented that she had not made any sale since the acute scarcity of the naira notes began.
Meanwhile, a commercial bank in the Warri Garage area reportedly allowed only its staff members access to its automated teller machines (ATMs) to withdraw cash while allegedly denying customers access to the machines.
The protesters barricaded the Warri-Sapele Road with tyres, wooden tables and other items to ventilate their displeasure.
Another set of placards-carrying women traders from Iron Market and Main Market blocked the NPA Expressway to press home their demands.
They threatened to boycott the coming general election if their plight is not addressed quickly.
The protesters, who sang solidarity songs to condemn their inability to access their money in banks, disrupted traffic.
The women from the various market groups lamented that hike in transport fares, scarcity of cash and prohibitive Point of Sales (POS) service charge were crippling their business.
Some of the traders, while speaking to newsmen, revealed that they now battled fake alerts and pay up to N2,000 to get N10,000 worth of banknotes.
They called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other relevant authorities to address the situation.
Protesters storm streets in Benin
In Benin City, Edo State, residents on Friday blocked the busy King’s Square (Ring Road) in protest against lack of access to their money in banks.
The protesters, who were mainly youths and bank customers, chanted solidarity songs to vent their anger.
Vehicular movement was halted for several hours and motorists were forced to use alternative routes to their destinations.
This was even as the protesters played football in the middle of the road.
They resisted pleas from a detachment from the state police command and men of the state traffic management agency who were on hand to control the traffic.
One of the protesters who identified herself as Itohan Omo, said: “I was at the bank on Thursday but they said there was no money, and they were giving people N2,000, which did not get to my turn.
“I came to collect money to stock my home with food but they said no money. At the end of the day, I could not get even N1,000.
“I was in the bank all through yesterday but I got nothing. I didn’t even have money to buy water. I had to go to UBA because I also have an account there. That was where I was able to drink water.
“I came here today (Friday) but the situation persists. Everybody is angry and because no bank official is attending or listening to us, we decided to block the road and play football in order to attract the attention of the government to our plight.
“I am a woman. I need to go to the market but I can’t get my money. My money is with this bank.”
On his part, Osagiede Osagie said he came to the bank and was told that there was no money.
“I came to the bank and was told that there was no money. No money, no light, no fuel. We don’t have light but we were buying fuel. All of a sudden, they said that there was no fuel again and they are selling it for N600 per liter. I am a business person. I just came to get money to do my business but I can’t do anything now.
“Government is not giving us any money. Why would they cajole us to bring all our money to the bank and all of a sudden, you can’t get one naira from your money again? This is a terrible situation and God will judge them,” he lamented.