On August 5, 2020 and October 1, 2020 Protests
FIWON members all over the country were part of protests against terrible economic hardships imposed on working people as a direct consequence of public economic policies. Nigerian government increased petrol prices progressively for three straight months, rising from slightly over 121 naira ($0.32) per liter in June to over 143 naira ($0.38) in July, 150 naira ($0.39) in August, and 162 naira ($0.43) in September.
Increasing the pricing of these important energy sources at a time inclement weather and relentless terrorism and banditry in the agriculture producing areas of the country had resulted in low crop yield and increased food insecurity had devastating effects. The diminishing value of the naira, all led to an across board increase in the pricing of basic consumer goods produced by local firms heavily dependent on imported inputs. Also, funds ostensibly borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 were being disbursed in an opaque process that excluded the working poor. At the same time, VAT rates and bank charges were increased.
A few days after the October 1 protests, a group of young people started a protest against alleged police killing in the Niger Delta town of Ughelli and a new massive protest movement started. Informal workers all over the country joined the protests which lasted the next 14 days before it was brutally suppressed by the military through cold blooded killing of peaceful protesters on October 20, 2020. The protests which drew global attention, has prompted the government to scrap a number of rogue police units and start a process of reforms of the police towards more civil policing that respect the fundamental rights of citizens especially the poor, a long – standing demand of FIWON.
The brutal suppression of the peaceful October protests the military led to an explosion of spontaneous mass anger on the streets joined by violent youth gangs historically used by politicians to harass voters during elections with massive destruction of public property especially police stations and the courts. Also, warehouses where food items donated by local and international corporate and aid organizations, were hoarded were attacked and looted resulting in a terrible moral faux pas for the politicians, even as these palliative food and materials were also found in politicians’ homes. Particularly in Lagos and other major cities in Nigeria, the extent of destruction of public buildings was quite massive. The Lagos Discussion Group, a broad network of Lagos based civil society organisations of which FIWON is a member issued a well – publicized statement demanding ‘a participatory and inclusive process of rebuilding Lagos’. (See https://thenationonlineng.net/group-seeks-better-ways-to-rebuild-lagos/?fbclid=IwAR1v5CHI0E1bbXbzK2cleFYH8_6wu-0Dqx3iiuIqwdyeNhdh3pF7a2inc4U)