WE CONDEMN POLICE DISRUPTION OF POLITICAL MEMORIAL FOR THE MARTYRS OF THE ANTI-FUEL PRICE HIKE GENERAL STRIKE/MASS PROTEST
(1) Today Saturday 18 February 2012, a combined team of mobile police and men of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) armed with guns and teargas violently disrupted a peaceful procession organised by the Joint Action Front (JAF) and its partners from the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja and Lagos, Nigeria Medical Association (NBA) Lagos state, the Muslim Congress (TMC) and Justice for Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) to mark the 40 days since the brutal killing of over 20 protesters during the 6-day general strike and mass protest against fuel subsidy removal in January.
(2) The procession started from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Secretariat and was planned to end at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Square where prayers would be offered for the martyrs by religious leaders and rally would be held. Leading the procession were Dr. Dipo Fashina, comrade Abiodun Aremu, Mrs Ganiyat Fawehinmi, Mr. Muhammed Fawehinmi, leaders of the Nigeria Bar Association (Lagos State), leaders of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and leaders of pro-masses organisations.
(3) However at Anthony area of Lagos, the procession was violently dispersed by heavily armed policemen shooting live bullets and teargas. Over 20 tear gas canisters were fired at unarmed and peaceful Nigerians who were merely out to mourn the protesters unjustly killed during the anti-fuel subsidy removal protest.
(4) Most particularly worrisome was the brutality meted out to JAF leaders. A most disgusting scene was enacted as Muhammed Fawehinmi (son of late Gani Fawehinmi) was tear-gassed by police on his wheelchair without regard for his condition. Motorists and passersby watched in horror as a defenceless Muhammed Fawehinmi seated on his wheelchair was engulfed in a pall of toxic teargas smoke deliberately shot at him by the Police.
(5) Also about 20 leaders and members of the Joint Action Front (JAF) were arrested at gun point and bundled into a police van before being taken away. They are Dr. Dipo Fashina (JAF Chairman), Mrs Ganiyat Fawehinmi, Tunde Agunbiade, Kazeem Akinrinade, Ayodele Akele, Omotehinse Alex, Abdul-Hakeem Keshinro, Kunle Oladejo, Prophet Moses Adeola, Akin Adedeji, Agbodemu Muscu, Ismail Olawale, Sola Olatunde and Popoola Ajayi (all members of JAF). Iyatse Joshua, a journalist with Cityfm was also arrested. Earlier, some of the protesters that had gathered at Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Square ahead of the procession were also arrested. However, all those arrested have now been released from the state command and Alausa police station where they were held for hours.
(6) JAF condemns the unwarranted violent disruption of the memorial/procession as well as the arrest of JAF leaders and members. We demand a public apology from the police authorities and the federal government. We also demand the immediate removal of ACP Noah Adesoyin, Area F commandant of the Nigerian Police who led the attack and in a most brutal manner ordered his men to spray teargas into the eyes of arrested JAF members and also get their clothes torn.
(7) JAF will like to put it on record that this unwarranted attack by police and deployment of armed battalions to crush peaceful protests is a dangerous omen for our nascent democracy and points to the direction of the rise of incipient military-police dictatorship. It is an attempt to stifle the spirit of solidarity and uprising of the working people, youth and poor of Nigeria against anti-poor policies of the ruling capitalist regime.
(8) This particular attack on a peaceful procession organised to mourn martyrs who were unjustly killed by policemen who are currently being shielded from facing trial for wilful murder is particularly disturbing and is reminiscent of the blood-shedding era of military dictatorship in Nigeria. It shows in action a tyrannical ruling elite completely unrepentant and prepared to continue to use maximum force to repress those fighting against its neo-liberal agenda to enslave the people of Nigeria.
(9) We call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and all pro-people organisations not to watch indifferently as the corrupt capitalist ruling government of President Jonathan drags Nigeria into the morass of military dictatorship and jackboot despotism.
(10) JAF again restates its demand for the immediate prosecution of members of the police who killed Abiodun Ademola in Ogba Lagos, Mustapha Muyideen in Ilorin Kwara State and over 20 others killed across the country in January, and adequate compensation for their families.
(11) JAF restates its demand for the reversal of fuel price to N65 and the nationalisation of the oil sector under the democratic control and management of the working people.
(12) The recent revelation by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that despite economic growth, the number of Nigerians living below 2 dollars a day has increased to 100 million in 2010 again confirms the urgent necessity for the formation of a political party of the working people that can fight to take political power from the capitalist ruling elite who are hell bent on sustaining, at the point of the bayonet, the current income inequality and mass poverty amidst inestimable oil wealth.
(13) JAF believes the uprising of millions of Nigerians across the country in January against fuel price increase and other anti-poor policies is not dead and cannot be crushed in the deadly fumes of tear gas and bullets no matter how much the government tries. Rather, the January uprising is merely the dress rehearsal for many big battles ahead.
(14) Just like in Egypt, Tunisia and across the world, the people will rise again and again until the last vestiges of the criminal capitalist ruling elite represented by President Jonathan’s anti-poor government is chased from power and a new just, egalitarian economic and social order is installed in place of the unjust and pro-rich capitalist status quo.
(15) To this end, JAF remains undaunted in its mission to continue to mobilise Nigerians in mass struggle to defeat all anti-poor policies. Instead of backing off in the face of civilian despotism, JAF will double its work in the weeks and months ahead to build a strong revolutionary movement to fight for system change and enthrone a workers and poor people’s government committed to using Nigeria’s resources in the interest of the masses.
COMRADE ABIODUN AREMU