Tuesday, 3 January 2012

News Release: Rivers State Civil Society Community Call For Indefinite Mass Action Beginning January 9th 2012

 The Rivers State Civil Society Community and the United Action for Democracy [UAD] condemns in the strongest terms the recent decision by the Federal Government to increase the price of petrol from N65 to N141 beginning on the 1st of January 2012.
We consider this policy not only insensitive, ill thought out and absolutely unnecessary, but also provocative and inhumane. Given the fact that 70% of Nigerians live below what is considered the poverty line, and 90% live on less than $2 a day, an increase of this magnitude or whatever magnitude for that matter will spell social and economic doom for the vast majority of Nigerians who are already overburdened by unemployment, poor infrastructure, high cost of living, unaffordable basic social services and dwindling livelihoods. 
As it stands, cost of transport, goods and other services have already tripled in Rivers State and elsewhere. Transport fare from Port Harcourt to Aba that used to be N300, is now N2500. Some families who travelled out of the State for the festivities are already stranded as their budget can no longer ferry them back home.
We and indeed the generality of Nigerians are not convinced by government’s plea that the phantom extra funds to be derived from increasing the price of petrol will be ploughed into building ‘critical infrastructure’ and creating ‘safety nets’ for poor Nigerians. Going by previous similar promises  by the same economic think tank (like the $1billion to be saved annually from Paris Club debt deal and channeled into critical infrastructure), it is clear that this government has neither the will nor the sincerity of purpose to pursue real transformative and poverty alleviating economic reforms. Worse still, government’s failure to tackle the ‘cabal’ which it claims at every instance is responsible for colossal fraud in oil importation, and its failure to revamp the refineries (which by the way if operating at installed capacity can provide both the real and ‘ghost’ local consumption figures), is proof of this.
It is worrying that in a country that is rated as a key exporter of crude oil on the one hand, while its citizens are noted as some of the poorest in the world on the other; government will even contemplate such a debilitating economic policy. In real terms, an increase in the price of petrol will engender an attendant increase in the cost of all products and services, bearing in mind the transport implications of goods and services and the fact that homes and businesses generate their own power/electricity due to the failure of public power supply.
It is even more worrisome that while this regime is hell bent on imposing further hardships on us, it has just shamelessly presented the 2012 budget proposals to the National Assembly, where it is taking public funds [our money] to cover all the expenses of those in power. For example, we will pay 1.3billion naira to fuel the generators in the presidency, and 1 billion naira to feed the first family, while the rest of us are left to the mercy of the cabal to cover the cost of transportation and feeding among other things. This is simply not acceptable!
Based on the above, we call on citizens in Rivers State to rise up with one voice to reject and resist this price increase. Beginning from Monday the 9th of January, 2012, we shall mobilize citizens to begin an indefinite series of mass actions aimed to registering discontent over the suffering this policy has already began to bring about.
We note with indignation the recent statement credited to the Police Commissioner in charge of Rivers State asking citizens not to organize or participate in protests. We wish to remind him that freedom of assembly and the right to express discontent over the policies of government, are fundamental rights of citizens. Let it also be noted that we shall mobilize Nigerian based and International media, as well as relevant domestic and international human right bodies to observe as we nonviolently express our discontent.
We calls on all citizens and citizens organizations to mobilize and take action in defense of their material survival and the survival of the country, as it is now very clear that our destiny is in our hands.
Ken Henshaw, National General Secretary, United Action for Democracy
Patrick Naagbanton, Coordinator, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development
Celestine AkpoBari, Coordinator, Ogoni Solidarity Forum 

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