Women and youths in their hundreds, yesterday morning, trooped to the major highways in Minna, Niger State capital, to protest the hardship, and the continued rise in the prices of food stuffs in the market, saying the situation was no longer bearable.
They also said the growing level of insecurity in the state and the county in general has made lives miserable for the ordinary Nigerians, adding that farmers can no longer go to their farms, and children forced out of school by bandits, who have made the highways unsafe.
All the major highways leading to and from Minna were completely blocked by the protesters, bringing vehicular movement to a standstill. Students and civil servants struggling to get to their schools and offices, including other business owners, were turned back by the protesters, who blocked the highways with heavy stones, empty drums and woods, chanting, “we no go gree for anybody.”
The protest started by mostly women and their children, who occupied the highways as early as 7am, was later taken over by the youths in their numbers.
The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions, some of which read: “We are dying of hunger,” “Food stuffs are no longer affordable for the common man,” “APC government has brought hardship to Nigerians,” and “Bandits have taken over Nigeria,” among others, asked every passerby to join them rather than going to their place of business.
Some of the protesters vowed that the protest would continue everyday until the hardship is addressed by government.
“Enough is enough. This is just the beginning of the protest, and we will not stop until the government does something about this hardship. We are tired, people are hungry and are dying everyday.
“The continued rise in food prices is no longer bearable. There is hardship everywhere in the country. Ordinary Nigerians can no longer afford three square meals, and the government does not care about what is happening.
“The leaders are only stealing the money in order to cope with the current situation, not that they have solutions to it.
“Apart from the hardship, insecurity has assumed a different dimension. The bandits have chased farmers out of their farms; they have taken over Nigeria. People are being kidnapped from their houses in the night, and the roads are not safe.”
An attempt by the anti-riot policemen deployed to disperse the protesters was resisted by the angry and determined youths who engaged the police in a fierce battle, forcing the security agents to beat a retreat.
Several gunshots were fired into the air by the anti-riot policemen in an attempt to scare the protesters, but that, however, could not change the situation as the protesters remained adamant.
Governor Mohammed Bago, however, disagreed with the protesters on the motives behind the mass protest.
The governor, while reacting to the protest at a media briefing at the Government House shortly after the weekly state Executive Council meeting, said the protesting women and youths, had laid siege to the highway with the intention to loot a trailer suspected to be conveying food stuff from the south.
“They were told that a trailer loaded with some essentials was heading towards Minna. They had planned to loot the items, hence, their decision to block the roads.”
He disclosed that a number of arrests have been made in connection with the protest, stressing that the government was equally looking at various ways to address the current hardship, and the rise in the price of food stuffs in the market.
He, nonetheless, attributed the rise in the price of food stuffs to the activities of middlemen, who according to him, go to the village markets to buy, hoard the food stuffs, and possibly take them out to neighboring countries.
But, the protesters debunked the governor’s claims, insisting that their action was to register their frustration over the current hardship, and the continued rise in the price of food stuffs in the market because the situation was no longer bearable.
They also said the growing level of insecurity in the state and the county in general which has made lives miserable for the ordinary Nigerians, also informed their decision to defy the cold harmattan weather to draw the attention of the government to the plight of the common man on the street.
According to them, farmers can no longer go to their farms, children are forced out of school by bandits and the highways are no longer safe.