ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

My name is David Habba and I Occupied Nigeria!

As a young person growing up in Nigeria, I have had to endure pain and hardship. I have gone to bed hungry, not because I am fasting but simply because I did not have food.

I have spent more years of my life in darkness because my government has failed to provide me electricity. At school, I can barely find a seat in class just as the university library is close to empty, in dire need of books. As I write this blog post, all public universities are closed as the Academic Staff Union of Universities is on industrial action.

In the court of life, I am a witness to the case of poverty and pain at its peak yet Nigeria my country, is abundantly blessed with both human and natural resources.

Getting angry at the Nigerian situation is a daily routine for me. This explains why when the opportunity came for me to use my constitutionally recognized rights and vent that anger at the government in the name of “fuel subsidy removal”, I eagerly accepted it.

Nigerians woke up on the first day of January 2012 to face the decision of the Federal Government to withdraw subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit.  What a terrible gift to receive from one’s government on the first day of a new year. Almost immediately, there was an over 300% increase on transport and other commodities and services including food. There had been speculations of this move but the government had said it was still consulting and would remove the subsidy in April, 3 months earlier than the time it actually. I and many others see this is a betrayal of trust and a breach of the social contract between the government and the Nigeria people.

In the coming days after the removal of fuel subsidy, Nigeria would witness series of protest and strike actions which completely shut down the country, me and other Activista Nigeria volunteers across the nation actively involved in mobilizing young people and educating people on why the time to act is now. This is “the people’s fight” and as I like to point out, only cowards or traitors will sit or sleep during this revolutionary period. Anthony Etim, a core volunteer opined on his motivation for participating in the protest: “It is very motivating to see the Nigerian people united to fight corruption. This is bigger than any person or organisation. I am motivated by this new spirit of unity, “  

For a country where an average citizen earns learns less than two dollar a day, a country where over 20 million youths of its 167 million population are without jobs, a country where the state of critical infrastructure is in the lowest of standards, This is more than a quest for economic rights, it a quest for justice. This is not about fuel subsidy; it is about the ruling class’ war on ordinary Nigerians.

In justifying the removal of the petrol subsidy, the government brought forward many arguments the ordinary citizens proved lame.   The country is broke and if subsidy on petrol is maintain, we would head into an economic crisis we may never recover from yet President Jonathan and his friends will eat N1 billion worth of food in 2012, while fuelling their cars for N1.7 billion. This amount will build at least, 50 good health care centres, The President of the Senate’s annual income is N600 million, over 10 times more than the salary of the President of the United States and enough money to set up at least 100 schools. N200 million was budgeted to water the gardens of the president in 2011. This is enough to educate 200 Nigerians through university education.  These and more does not portray the picture of a broke nation. Nigeria’s entire budget is more of salaries and allowances yet the only place to save money and to invest in critical infrastructure is fuel subsidy. This same lame story of investing in critical infrastructure was sold to Nigerian’s some years ago by the same Minister of Finance when she moved huge funds to clear debts owned by the country to the Paris Club. “Savings on debts servicing will be channeled to critical infrastructure” she said. It’s been over five years, yet there has been no improvement instead the situation of our critical infrastructure such as roads, power installations has only worsened.

The labour unions have called of the strike action after the Nigerian Government reduced the petrol price from 141 naira to 97 naira. Some extent of normalcy has returned to the country yet this is not the position of the vast Nigerian majority. Many people considered the action of labour a huge betrayal. Our demand is clear, “Revert to status quo, N65 or nothing”.  More also, the legislature began investigations into the oil sector. The investigations have revealed corruption, illegality and other forms of sharp practices at its peak. These and more only add credence to the agitations of Nigerians.

The streets protest have been called off and the Labour Unions returned to work but I am sure there is still more Nigerian drama to watch out for. In Benue, Activista Volunteers and other civil society organisation are still organising and mobilising.

The fuel subsidy removal exposed the wickedness and greed of our government and has united Nigerians, a country highly divided along ethnic and religious lines. It has provides us the opportunity to right the wrongs in the lifetime of our nation. This is our chance we must run with it.