On 3 January, protests against the Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidy, which raised the price of petrol by over 100 per cent overnight, spread through several cities of the country, claiming a first casualty in Ilorin, Kwara State.
In Lagos, the protesters were addressed by leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at the labour union’s secretariat in Yaba. Thereafter, led by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana and labour officials, they marched through some major streets, carrying unprintable placards against the Federal Government.
The protest disrupted traffic for several hours, especially along the multi-lane Ikorodu Road, a main drag into the metropolis. The march was however disrupted after policemen had tear-gassed protesters. Commercial drivers, fearing their vehicles would be damaged, withdrew their services from the streets, leaving commuters trekking to their destinations.
In Ilorin, protesters set up bonfires in several areas, including those around the Emir’s Palace, Oniyangi, the Taiwo Road -Niger Road junction, Alore, Sango, and the Oloje Ipata market. The spokesman of the Kwara State police command, Mr Ezekiel Daboh, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said the protesters attacked two petrol filling stations around the Post Office area, destroyed their fuel pumps, and also damaged two vehicles they found inside the premises of the filling stations as well as a bullion van.
Daboh confirmed that a protester was killed around the railway station, but he said the wound on the man was not inflicted by a police bullet, and so he might have been stabbed by his colleagues. But the NLC insisted the protester was shot dead by the police, and said it was holding President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration responsible for the death. Some of the protesters were arrested by security agents.
In Lokoja, Kogi State, protesters blocked vehicular movements along the ever-busy Lokoja-Abuja highway, creating a massive traffic gridlock. The protests also disrupted economic activities in Lokoja town, as petrol stations, banks and even government offices remained closed all day. Some sources report that one protester was shot while several others suffered other injuries, as policemen battled to disperse them and re-open the highway.
In Kano State, students from universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the state marched peacefully through the city. They started from the gate of Bayero University, Kano, and ended up at the Silver Jubilee Square. Their leader, Comrade Mohammed Hamisu Sheriiffa, said they were protesting the increase in fuel prices as well as the month-long strike by university lecturers nationwide. Nine protesters were arrested by security agents, but later released.
In Kaduna State, mostly youthful protesters, under the umbrella civil society movement, Occupy Nigeria, converged at the Murtala Muhammed Square, where a register was opened for people to indicate their opposition to the government’s removal of fuel subsidy. Policemen, who barricaded the gate to the Square, barred the protesters from gaining access inside. The register was later made available at the gate, where an unknown number of protesters signed against the government’s policy.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, protesting youths led by the University of Ibadan students’ union president, Mr Tokunbo Salako, marched through the areas around Agodi, Agbowo, Gate, Dugbe and Challenge and the Governor’s Office. The march paralyzed businesses as banks and many other commercial houses remained shut. However security agencies, deployed to protect public assets and control motor traffic, were able to maintain peace, in spite of the generally chaotic situation.
The protesters demanded the immediate resignation of President Jonathan, Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Information, Labaran Maku; and Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Dieziani Allison-Madueke. They also demanded that members of the National Assembly immediately call off their recess and reconvene to resist the increase in fuel price.
At the office of Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the students submitted a formal letter of protest. The Governor assured them of his understanding and urged them to press their demands peacefully. “What you are doing today is part of democracy”, he said. “Whatever message you have brought will be delivered accordingly”.
BY NNAMDI OBASI
The flood disaster in Ibadan, Nigeria, which has now claimed over 100 lives, has been described as “one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s recent history”. Unfortunately, it occurred while Nigerians were still in shock, following the bombing of the United Nations House in Abuja – and it didn’t come with a bang. It has therefore been under-reported in the media.
With the flood waters gradually receding, the worst days of the nightmare may have passed; yet major challenges remain. This document presents some basic facts about the disaster, the response so far and the pressing needs.
What happened and where?
Between Friday 27 and Sunday 29 August, massive rainfall produced flash floods in and around the city of Ibadan, in southwest Nigeria.
The city, located about 150km (90 miles) north of Nigeria’s former capital, Lagos, is a mighty metropolis with an estimated population of seven million. One of Nigeria’s largest cities, it is also overcrowded, with its predominantly low-income residents living mostly in haphazardly constructed slums.
After a massive tropical rain had pounded the city for several hours, the Odo Ona River overflowed its banks and the Eleyele dam apparently collapsed. Water from the swollen river and dam swept settlements, leaving many dead or displaced from their homes, and a lot of property destroyed. The areas most affected are Elebu, Oluyole, Apete, Apata, Odo-ona, Odo-ona Elewe, Ologun-eru, Challenge-Orita and Yemetu Alawada.
How many people were killed?
On 31 August, the Nigerian Red Cross reported at least 102 people dead since the rains and floods started. Many of the victims were washed away by the floods; others trapped in collapsed buildings. Most were children; in one case, seven of them from the same family all died!
However, officials cautioned that the reported 102 may not be the final figure. They said a final figure will require more time, as the rains were continuing in some areas, water levels remained high in some neighbourhoods and some victims may still be trapped in collapsed buildings whose rubble were yet to be cleared. They said more victims may also be found in remote areas that rescue teams had not yet reached.
How many people were displaced?
The earliest media reports had estimated about 1,500 residents displaced, but this was soon found to be a gross under-estimate and the figure has been revised as the full scale of the tragedy became evident. On 28 August, an official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said an accurate head count of the displaced many not be possible but that it was “definitely in the thousands”. More recent estimates report about 15,000 people may have been displaced.
How much of infrastructure and property was destroyed?
The floods swept off fixed structures including three bridges, houses and electric poles, as well as mobile assets like cars and motorcycles. Many vehicles were submerged. Many residents, who were away from their homes when the flooding started, returned later to find such homes turned into lagoons. At the University of Ibadan, the nation’s premier university, some lecture halls were overtaken by water. One source reports over 200 houses.
Why was the damage so severe or extensive?
The rains have been unusually heavy this year. Although flooding is common in Nigeria during the rainy season, meteorologists say this year’s rains have been well above the average.
The settlements surrounding the city were developed largely informally. The Nigerian poet J. P Clarke once described the city and its settlements as a “running splash of rust and gold, flung and scattered among seven hills, like broken china in the sun”. Like in most other cities across the country, Ibadan had grown, over the years, with scant regard for town planning regulations. Zoning laws were rarely heeded or enforced, and there had been inadequate considerations for drainage, flood management and public safety.
Many homes, built by low-income residents, were poorly constructed: they were so feeble that they were easily washed away when the water rushed through.
The flooding was exacerbated by rubbish and debris clogging drains, in a city where drainage systems are often poorly maintained.
How else has the disaster affected lives in the city?
The collapse of bridges has created difficulties for human and vehicular movements in some parts of the city. In such areas, people now have to walk long distances while trying to get from their homes to other places. As some roads are presently out of use, there are serious traffic gridlocks on some of the usable roads, with workers facing greater challenges in getting to work and back. Fallen electricity poles, submerged transformers and flooded offices have prevented the restoration of electricity to many neighbourhoods.
Was there any early warning ahead of the disaster?
It was generally known that flooding could occur in any part of the country, as it sometimes does during the rainy season typically running from May to September. Last year, an estimated 500,000 people were displaced by several flooding incidents in various parts of the country.
For this year in particular, NEMA had warned that rains will be heavier than last year. The agency had alerted state and local governments that floods were particularly likely in areas with inadequate drainage and improperly disposed trash. But many governments did little or nothing in response to those warnings.
What has been the response?
Various governments and agencies have responded to the disaster, with the Oyo State government and NEMA – a federal government agency – on the frontline.
The Oyo State governor, Chief Abiola Ajimobi (1) procured the services of a helicopter for rapid assessment of the affected areas, rescue of trapped victims and distribution of relief materials; (2) ordered immediate establishment of two camps at the Apete and Odo Ona areas of the city to shelter displaced persons; (3) ordered immediate procurement of blankets, mattresses, drugs and food for affected persons; (4) enlisted the support of the GOC, 2nd Mechanised Division, in providing bailey bridges across the two rivers whose bridges were swept off.
Alarmed by reports of the flooding, in addition to the Abuja bomb blast, NEMA’s Director General, Mohammed Sidi (1) cut short his annual leave in Saudi Arabia and flew home to coordinate the response to both incidents; and (2) ordered all staff of the agency’s Ibadan zone office that had been on annual leave back to work immediately, and (3) drafted Search and Rescue officers in Lagos to Ibadan, to complement the efforts of the zonal office.
Furthermore, NEMA, in collaboration with the Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Red Cross and other voluntary organizations conducted assessments of the flooded ares and the number of dead, displaced and at risk persons.
The agency, along with its state counterpart (the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA) and the Red Cross, has also been involved in providing relief materials to about 1,500 displaced persons being sheltered in centres established by the state government. Relief materials being provided include emergency food rations, mattresses, blankets and rubber mats.
What needs to be done now?
The materials which the Oyo State government and NEMA are providing, in efforts to stabilize the conditions of injured and displaced persons, are not enough. Th quantities of these materials being provided need to be sharply increased to meet the crying needs.
Beyond the most pressing needs, there are also longer term requirements for the resources which impacted communities need to ward off health risks and which displaced persons need to rebuild homes and livelihoods.
The Deputy Governor, Chief Moses Adeyemo, has said the state needs federal government help to resettle displaced persons, and to rebuild the bridges and water channels that were destroyed by the flooding.
NEMA is urging the Oyo State government, as well as the local governments, to strengthen and enforce regulations on waste disposal, particularly stopping the indiscriminate dumping of refuse, in order to forestall a recurrence of the flood.
Is there any risk of further flooding?
NEMA warns there could still be more flooding in Ibadan and other urban areas before the end of the rainy season, particularly if drains remain blocked by un-cleared waste.
Sources said gunmen invaded her residence on Ondo road in the Old Bodija area of the city, overpowered the securitymen at the compound, before they got into the house and killed her. The gunmen made away with her car.
The Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Mr. Moses Oniteri, who confirmed the assassination to some newsmen, said the command was investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing. He said it was “a case of murder”.
Justice Oyetunde was appointed acting Chief Judge by former Governor Rasheed Ladoja in 2005, to succeed Justice Isaac Olukanmi. She served for three months, but her appointment was not renewed thereafter.
Soremi was attacked in Olodo village in Ogun State, along the Abeokuta/Ibadan road, on his way to Ibadan, around 8.30 pm. The gunmen shot and killed his driver, Mr Kunle Onigbinde.
The driver was said to have been shot while trying to make a quick U-turn and escape, after the gunmen had blocked him and his boss. The attackers made away with the vehicle – a Lexus SUV – as well as Soremi’s cell phones, cash and other valuables.
The Acting Secretary of the PDP in the state, Mr. Semiu Sodipo, said the attack was a case of armed robbery and ruled out any political motives.
However, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Nicholas Nkemdeme, said the police was still investigating the incident. He said he could not yet say categorically, whether the attack had political undertones or not.
On 11 July, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Azubuike Ihejirika said lack of information was the foremost challenge which security agencies were facing, in their efforts to secure citizens from attacks by the militant Islamist group, generally known as Boko Haram.
Opening of a three-day workshop on civil-military relations at the headquarters of 2 Division, Nigerian Army, Ibadan, the Army chief observed that citizens had not been forthcoming in volunteering hard information that could lead to the arrest of members of the group.
Gen Ihejirika, represented by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 2 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj Gen Muhammad Abubakar, acknowledged that citizens’ reluctance to offer information about the sect may have been informed by the fear of attracting reprisals. He conceded that there had been some instances in the past, in which some citizens who volunteered information that led to the arrest of suspected criminals, were later traced to their own homes and killed.
But he said the military and other security agencies had developed to a higher degree of professionalism. He gave the assurance that any information offered by members of the public, in the present circumstances, would be treated with utmost confidentiality.
The Army chief however said in spite of the present drawbacks and difficulties, the army was up to the task of securing the country and that the Boko Haram challenge would soon be overcome.
Gen Ihejirika said it had become imperative for the military to improve on the level of professionalism which it had developed over the years. He said a major emphasis in this regard would be on creating an environment that would ensure more cordial relationship between the civil and military sectors, on a sustained basis. He said the military needs a complete re-orientation to enhance its interface with civil society, as both groups are mutually inter-dependent.
The Army chief said it was in furtherance of this re-orientation that the establishment of a Department of Civil-Military Affairs was conceived by the Army Headquarters. He said: “The establishment of this department is to ensure that the personnel of the Nigerian Army are fully sensitised on this concept. This is aimed at transforming the Nigerian Army to meet the challenges of the 21st century”.
President of Nigerian medical students, Auwal Shanono, killed in transport workers’ fight in Ibadan, Oyo State
On 5 June, the national president of the Nigerian Medical Students’ Association (NIMSA), Mr. Auwal Bala Shanono, was killed in a fight between factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Auwal was a 500 Level medical student at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He met his tragic death on his way back from Ile-Ife, Osun State, where he had attended a national conference on preventing maternal mortality in Nigeria (UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children Report 2009 says “one out of nine global maternal deaths occurs in Nigeria”).
Innocent students caught in a senseless fight
Reports say Auwal, along with four other students, had stopped over at Iwo Road, Ibadan, to board a night bus to Kaduna. On getting there, they were caught in an ambush laid by one of the NURTW factions which had been locked in a vicious struggle for control of public motor parks in the city. Reports say Auwal was shot dead and burnt beyond recognition. The other four students escaped death by the whiskers.
His remains were laid to rest on 8 June, at the Unguwar Kanawa Muslim cemetery in Kaduna. The burial was attended by hundreds of tearful family members, relations, neighbours, friends and course mates.
Griefing Family Seeks Justice
His immediate elder brother, Haruna Bala Shanono, who spoke for the family, lamented that Auwal was their future, “our last hope on this earth”. The grief-stricken Haruna said the late Auwal “was the first person to study Medicine in our whole family, including the extended one consisting of over 500 people. He was everything to us”. He pleaded with President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the killers are brought to book.
The National Association of Kogi State Students has also called on the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, to arrest and prosecute all those involved in the killing. The association’s president, Mr. Dare Zacheus, who made the call in Lokoja on 8 June, further urged the Oyo State government to inaugurate a high-powered panel to investigate the incident and compensate innocent victims.
On 27 May, 26 people were burnt to death in a huge inferno resulting from a motor accident in Ibadan, Oyo State. About 25 vehicles and other equipment worth several millions of naira also perished in the tragedy.
The accident occurred around 10.30 a.m. in front of the popular Yaoland Fuel Station along the intra-city Iwo Road-Ojoo route in Ibadan. Local sources said it involved a petrol tanker which, in trying to avoid collision with an 18-seater bus, ran into an electric pole. As the tanker was loaded with petroleum products, its contents spilled and then it burst into flames.
All 18 passengers in the bus were burnt to death. A nursing mother, who was selling engine oil by the roadside, died while trying to save her baby trapped in the burning wreckage. Witnesses said about eight roadside mechanics also died in the inferno, while many others were seriously injured and rushed to various hospitals. The fire, which spread up to about 100 metres, also affected about seven buildings in the vicinity, including a church.
For hours, officers of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Nigeria Police Force battled the chaotic traffic situation created by numerous motorists who were frantically trying to get past the obstruction caused by the accident. However, the Sector Commander of the FRSC in Oyo State, Mr Godwin Ogagaoghene, later said his men had brought the situation under control.
On 6 April, men of the State Security Service (SSS) arrested a man for printing ballot papers illegally in Ibadan, Oyo State. At the time of his arrest, the man had printed 7,000 copies of the ballots.
According to security sources, the man was nabbed at his printing press in the Mokola area of the city around 4:30pm. He was immediately taken to Mokola Police Station for interrogation, and later moved to the State Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Police Command for further questioning. It is not clear who he was printing the ballot papers for.
The new Commissioner of Police (CP) for the State, Mr Saliu Hashimu, confirmed the arrest to newsmen. He said he had instructed his deputy to handle the matter and to brief him properly on Thursday 7 April.
On 22 March, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, President of Women Arise, a non-governmental organisation, called on Nigerians to prevail on members of the National Assembly to pass the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill 2010 into law. The bill is currently awaiting third reading in the House of Representatives.
Okei-Odumakin, a leading human rights activist, made the call in Ibadan, Oyo State, at a lecture titled ‘100 years of International Women’s Day: What situation for Nigeria?”. The lecture was organised by the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Oyo State chapter, to mark the 2011 International Women’s Day.
Explaining the background to the bill, Okei-Odumakin observed that despite the fact that Nigeria was not at war, its citizens suffer a high level of physical, sexual and psychological violence. She noted that women and young girls were disproportionately victims of such violence. She also argued that equal access to education, training, science and technology, as a pathway to decent work for women, could only be achieved in an environment free of violence and discrimination.
She explained that the bill now before the National Assembly seeks to eliminate all forms of violence in both public and private life; prohibit physical, sexual and psychological violence and harmful traditional practices among others. She recalled that a public hearing on the bill, which was supported by relevant committees in the National Assembly and non-governmental organisations, took place on 17 February 2011. She therefore urged the law-makers to expedite their deliberations and pass the bill into law.
The organisation, Women Arise, works for women, helping them to break the culture of silence, to express themselves in the social, political and economic relations in Nigeria, and to stand together in resisting misuse and abuse by the male-dominated society.