Commercial activity was halted in many regions of the country yesterday as demonstrators went to the streets, barricading roadways in protest of the suffering caused by cash shortages and high Premium Motor Spirit prices (PMS).
Residents in Benin, the Edo State capital, barricaded the ever-busy Ugbowo-Lagos motorway and other key roads to protest the lack of fresh naira notes.
The incident comes only weeks after a similar protest in the city, where locals marched against gasoline scarcity and price hikes, prompting the Edo State government to form a special Petrol Monitoring Committee.
The demonstration yesterday caused gridlock in the Ugbowo area near the University of Benin, Kingsquare, also known as Ring Road, and other connection roads, stranding motorists and other road users for several hours.
Commuters using the Ugbowo-Lagos expressway, a major Federal road connecting Benin City to the South-South and South-East routes, also had a difficult time getting to their destinations.
Customers and irate protestors attacked commercial banks on Ring Road and the adjoining streets of Akpakpava, Mission Road, and Forestry, destroying facilities and demanding money.
Schoolchildren were confused as parents rushed to fetch them up from schools for fear of being harmed.
Some residents who talked to The Guardian expressed their dissatisfaction, claiming they had gone to banks for cash withdrawals but were unable to access their funds.
Protesters who complained about the hardship said they were irritated when commercial banks refused to accept outdated naira notes as deposits.
The demonstrators marched to the popular Akpapava Road, which houses the majority of commercial banks’ headquarters, and damaged the banks.
The protesting youths and traders built road barriers and bonfires on major routes, assaulted Point of Sale (POS) centers, destroying their cubicles and disrupting business activity in the state.
Three individuals were feared dead in the demonstration, but the Edo State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, has not to confirm the number of casualties at press time.
Meanwhile, irate customers set fire to Access Bank in Warri, Delta State, yesterday to express their dissatisfaction with cash shortages and Commercial Banks’ unwillingness to accept old notes.
In the early hours of Tuesday, furious customers, largely adolescents, in the town’s Udu road axis also touched some automobiles, impeded vehicular movements, and destroyed costly items.
The protesting youngsters said that the continued paucity of new notes was causing hardship, and that their money was being taken at banks.
However, Governor of Delta State and Vice-Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has reacted fast, and asked to furious consumers and other Nigerians in the state to keep calm.
Mr. Charles Aniagwu, the state Commissioner for Information, issued a statement in Asaba with the governor’s plea.
He appealed on the people to remain calm while also asking to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the monetary authorities to increase the money supply in the system.
Yesterday, youngsters in Ilorin marched to the streets, barricading strategic motorways in the historic town.
The University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) gate, Old Jebba Way, Ogidi-Oloje, Oloje, and Tanke were the hardest impacted regions.
Attempts to stage blockades in the Maraba and Offa Garage districts were foiled by armed police officers monitoring the locations.
To fend off the demonstrators, men from the Nigeria Army’s 32nd armoured brigade, Sobi, were deployed to the UITH. Sporadic gunfire were heard in the neighborhood, and several protesters took to their heels, fleeing for safety.
The Maraba neighborhood, a commercial hub of activity, had been deserted, leaving only a few privately driven automobiles and commercial tricycles on the road.
Many pedestrians were left stranded, while others had to walk many kilometers to and from their destinations.
Kwara State Police Commissioner, Paul Odama, blamed the incident on the actions of some angry politicians.
He did, however, urge parents to summon their children to order. Five people have already been arrested in connection with the incident.
According to Odama, in a chat with reporters yesterday, “Kwara State Police Command awoke this morning to an unlawful burning of disused tires on some major roads in the Ilorin Metropolitan Area, despite the Command’s earlier warning against such unwholesome behavior by hoodlums in the aftermath of the Naira note swap.”
He advised parents and guardians to warn their children or wards against being used as canon-folders by disgruntled political activists, as anyone arrested in the process of committing any crime, whether as a result of the fuel or Naira challenges, would be forced to face the consequences on their own.
“Once again, the good people of Kwara State are asked to go about their lawful everyday activities. There are sufficient security procedures in place across Kwara State to safeguard the safety and security of law-abiding individuals and residents.
“The five suspects who were already apprehended during the disturbances this morning would be charged in court.”
Residents in Ibadan had to journey long distances to get to their destinations because protesters had obstructed major highways at several strategic spots throughout the city.
Iwo Road Roundabouts, Iyana-Church, Agodi-Gate, Idi-Ape, Mokola Roundabouts, Queen Cinema, Ekotedo, Dugbe, Sango, Ojoo, Eleyele, and Agbowo are among the locations.
Many stores did not open, and some restaurants just provided skeletal services.
Some parents hurried to their children’s schools to pick them up. Those who were unable to reach their children’s schools demanded that students be allowed to remain on school grounds until the evening since demonstrators would not attack schools.
“We are demonstrating because we are dying,” one of the Eleyele demonstrators remarked. We don’t have any money. We don’t have any cash. The network is not suitable for transferring data. If I want to buy something in N350 and transfer it. The merchant will advise me to place N200 on top. Who is perplexed?
“We are registering our unhappiness against the government that the new naira policy is anti-masses. Nothing has been observed by the government. This only scratches the surface. When the moment comes, we will all demonstrate together, even security agencies. The security agents are having the same agonizing experience with the new naira notes. We’re all in this together. And we shall fight it together.
Some fish merchants in Ibadan, also, invaded the premises of Agidigbo 88.7FM along Iwo Road-Ojoo highway, to protest the rejection of outdated Naira notes by cold room operators.
They claimed that they collected old notes from their customers on Tuesday, but when they arrived at Bodija Market on Wednesday morning to refill their seafood, the cold room operators refused to accept the old notes.
They lamented that they would lose if the old notes are not accepted ultimately.
Mrs. Olayemi Adebayo, a protester spokesman, said the old notes were rejected when they arrived at the market on Wednesday morning.
“We came here to protest,” Adebayo explained. We went to Bodija Market this morning to buy fish, but they did not collect our old notes. That is why we are here today.
“We want the administration to give us an extension. Our sales are being impacted by the change. The notes we have gathered are old. Each of us has roughly N30,000 of the old bills”.
DEPOSITORS of old naira notes scurried for safety at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) premises along Banking Layout, Udo Udoma Avenue in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, as anti-riot policemen fired tear gas at them as they went to deposit their old notes, which traders, market women, transporters, and others in the state are rejecting.
Some people who talked to The Guardian said they couldn’t even eat since new notes were scarce and old ones were rejected.
Citizens awoke this morning to find that old notes were being refused as a form of payment in the state.
According to one Mfon who contacted with The Guardian, he has not eaten and has been unable to secure transportation to visit his expectant wife and children due to the rejection of old notes.
Disgusted by the news, persons in possession of the old notes flocked to the Central Bank of Nigeria to deposit them.
According to reports, the number of depositors became so large that the police officers on duty were forced to use tear gas to prevent chaos at the apex bank.
However, prior to the incident, many gas stations and businesses refused to accept the old bills.
Commuters in Uyo city, especially public sector workers, were stranded along the metropolis’ key routes as buses and taxis, including tricycle operators, refused to accept the old notes.
The denial comes amid a rising scarcity of fresh naira notes, as people continue to barricade banks in search of the new notes.
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