I came here scared; I cannot tell you I came confidently
I came scared of my life, but I came because I want to see a New Nigeria
I grew up seeing Nigeria without light
I grew up seeing Nigeria without water
I grew up seeing people on the street
Sometimes, I’m almost close to tears when I see children roaming about
It is sad
Our governments have failed us
Our parents have failed us because they have not spoken
It’s time for us to speak; look around you, Nigerians are tired
It is beyond Fuel Subsidy
They used touts; they used people
Look around, they are all here today
They are here to speak
They are also tired of being used as mercenaries for the government
We just want the government to stand up and be responsible
If they cannot be responsible, they should resign
It’s only in Nigeria that people do not resign
Why? Because they are selfish
My parents stopped me today but I damned the consequences
If I die, I die but Nigeria has to move
- A young female lawyer at Ojota
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, the fourth estate of the realm, colleagues and comrades from civil society, the labour movement, and citizens of our dear country Nigeria, we welcome you to this auspicious press briefing on the first anniversary of the January Uprising of 2012, also known as OccupyNigeria.
On January 1st 2012, as a new year gift of hardship and increased exploitation to Nigerians from their government, the price of fuel was arbitrarily increased; effectively locking a majority of citizens who live in poverty in their state of poverty, while also threatening to wipe out the middle class and drag it into poverty as the prices of goods and services automatically skyrocketed in indirect proportions with the same earning power.
Thus it was that from January 2nd, we all rose up as one people and achieved in the subsequent 11 days of glorious nationwide mass action and general strike, for ourselves and our country, a landmark action that has changed the status of government/citizen relationship and redefined citizen reaction to inept, incompetent, light fingered, treasury looting, selfish and greedy ruling class types.
Our response to the obvious injustice of that unconscionable act was our collective resistance. In the January Protests, we stamped our feet on the ground, we drew a redline in the sand, and we stood our ground insisting that ‘Enough Is Enough’! And inspite of the abrupt manner by which our evolving revolution was truncated through the use of military forces, we have very literally remained at the barricades ever since.
While the removal of the subsidy was the trigger, most Nigerians were clear that our concerns were around the cost of governance and unbridled waste and corruption which has led us down the path where our refineries have become moribund – some of them operating at 0% capacity utilization in some months for an average of 22% utilization from January to August 2012 according to NNPC. In the process, we have turned the 6thlargest oil producer in the world, with the 3rd largest installed refinery capacity in Africa, into one that depends exclusively on importation of refined products to meet its domestic needs! We are the only member nation of OPEC that is in such a sorry state!
We dared to struggle against the systemic corruption and impunity that has become the defining character of governance, and impoverished 70% of our population, ensuring that the richest 10% of Nigerians [perpetrators and beneficiaries of treasury looting] owned 41% of national wealth, while 20% of the poorest Nigerians barely own 4.1% of national wealth.
Thus as we enter into the period of the first anniversary of our collective fury, with all the issues that have since emerged; with the revelations about the actual scale and scope of the corruption and rot in the system, and precious little having been done in the last year with regards to taking concrete steps to clean the Augean stable of corruption, grand theft, and impunity; it behoves on us, Nigerian citizens, the victims of this grand theft and treasury looting to remind our ruling elite that it will not be business as usual.
We have no doubt in our minds that this unprecedented and mind boggling scale and scope of treasury looting amounting to the loss of close to 17 trillion naira [$100bn] to extra budgetary theft alone [and in just the petroleum sector] over the last decade -that is on average the size of 4 annual federal budgets; combined with the looting on a scale of nearly half of appropriated funds in annual budgets; is what is responsible for the inability of governments at all levels to meet the basic constitutional requirement of governance, which is to ‘ensure the security and wellbeing of all citizens’. To put this in a different perspective, according to the findings of The Punch Newspaper in the period between June 2010 and July 2012, a period of 2 years, this nation has lost in reported cases of corruption just about N5trn, which by the way is the size of the 2013 federal appropriation bill recently passed by the National Assembly.
As we reflect on the events of January 2012 and the weeks and months that followed, we choose to mark this anniversary for four key reasons:
1. To remember and honor those who died during the protests.
We remember Muyideen Opobiyi, Ademola Aderinde and others who lost their lives to state brutality and we call on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other human rights groups to urgently take up these cases to ensure that justice is secured for the victims and compensation paid to their families as required by law.
2. Honor Nigerians who came out in the thousands to publicly display their discontent against bad governance.
In Akure, Ibadan, Osogbo, Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and Kano, where women came out to protest for the first time in history, Nigerians stood with one voice, even before the labour movement formally joined the protest movement to denounce the continued abuse and insincerity of our ruling elite.
3. Remind government of its failed promise of public ‘service’.
There have been numerous probes and reports, yet no indicted persons or institutions as the judiciary continues to play games with the law. It is inconceivable that such a massive scale of proven corruption undertaken by private and public sector players continues unabated. How can a sitting minister be judge and jury over her own case? How can any nation survive the scale and scope of treasury pilfering that we have endured thus far?
4. Remind Government and citizens of their responsibilities and obligations.
The N97 per liter price of PMS, was a major [even if partial gain of the January Uprising]; yet this price is virtually being observed in the breach. In the overwhelming majority of outlets across the country PMS is being sold at more than N120 per liter or in even more exorbitantly in black-markets supplied by oil marketers. In the face of the manifest inability and unwillingness of the government to enforce its own decision, we urge all Nigerians to take collective citizen action to enforce the N97 per liter price and prevent hoarding of the product by marketers.
The clarion call sounded in January 2012 and it continues to reverberate around the country. We remind all public officials at all levels of government that we are watching and will continue to demand better governance by any means necessary.
In the coming days different organisations across the country will host various events to mark this anniversary. A tentative schedule of planned events is provided as an appendix.
Thank you all for responding to our invitation.
1. Rev David Ugolor for END IMPUNITY NOW [EIN] CAMPAIGN
2. Yemi Adamolekun for ENOUGH IS ENOUGH NIGERIA (EiE)
3. Jasper Azatalum for MOVEMENT FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
4. Jaye Gaskia for UNITED ACTION FOR DEMOCRACY [UAD]