Protests Begin against Hike in Fuel Price and Electricity Tariff
A storm is gathering over the intensification of capitalist attacks unleashed on the working masses and the poor by the Buhari government. The masses are poised to fight back if provided a platform. This is what has been revealed by a few pockets of struggles and activities that have already been held against fuel price hike and electricity tariff, some of which members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) have participated in or initiated. These increases, including imposition of different taxes, have worsened the economic crisis which is already compounded by the adverse effects of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Our comrades in Osun joined a protest organized by National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D in Osogbo on Tuesday September 8. On Monday September 7, we were part of a coalition of activists who picketed the national secretariat of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abuja to demand labour leaders respond with a general strike. In Ibadan on September 9 we were part of a press conference held by Joint Action Front, Oyo State Chapter, which was attended by about 40 journalists.
Independently, on Tuesday September 8, comrades in Ajegunle, Lagos, organized a sensitization protest action which took them to a main market in their local government area. While two days later the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) held a protest march in Lagos over fuel and electricity issues as well as INEC’s continued deregistration of the party in disobedience of a Court of Appeal judgement.
DSM members campaigning in Ajegunle
In these activities, hundreds of leaflets were circulated and some copies of the Socialist Democracy (SD) were sold.
The growing mass anger underscores the need of a massive channel, like such that could be provided by the labour movement, for an effective mass action against the anti-poor policies of the Buhari government. Unfortunately, beyond issuing a few critical press statements, the labour leaders do not appear to care a hoot about the hardship the policies have engendered. This could be because they do not have alternative programme to the neo-liberal capitalist policies of deregulation and privatization which are the basis for the increases in electricity tariff and fuel price. So, we call on workers, trade unionists and pro-masses’ organisations to continuously mount pressure on the NLC and TUC leaders with a view of forcing them to declare a 48-hour general strike and mass protest, as a first step.
However, the masses cannot wait until the labour leaders are ready before concretely expressing anger and resisting the anti-poor policies. We call on pro-masses’ organisations, campaign groups, youths and community organisations as well as individual trade unions to join forces with JAF which plans to commence the mobilisation for a mass action as from Wednesday September 16.
Below are reports of DSM protest in Ajegunle and SPN protest in Yaba, both in Lagos.
DSM AJEGUNLE PROTEST FUEL AND ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE
By Moshood Osunfurewa
*Demand reversal of fuel and electricity hike
*Call on the NLC and TUC to mobilize, organize for general strike and
*Fight for a socialist change
On Tuesday 8th September 2020, eight (8) comrades of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) Ajeromi-Ifelodun set the pace by organising a local protest action against the Buhari led APC government’s insensitive and mindless imposed hike of fuel and electricity tariff on the working masses and the poor.
Comrades were received with an enthusiasm by the masses at the popular Boundary Roundabout in Ajegunle. Commuters, passers-by, motorcycle riders and market women and men, workers happily collected DSM leaflets circulated and some took time to go through our Socialist Democracy (SD) paper at our stall.
In an enthusiastic mood some youth took pictures and video of comrades protesting, posted it on their social media wall with comments such as “Ajegunle Reject Hike”, “No to fuel Hike”, “We support you”, etc.
Comrades took time to address Okada riders, market women and men. It was inspiring particularly hearing from masses who are directly affected by the anti-people policies of the government that they were prepared to fight back. Slogans inscribed on our placards met the yearnings and demands of the ordinary people. One of the market women lamented the way and manner they pay heavily on electricity tariff not supplied or used.
It was a first experience for seven (7) comrades out of eight (8) that participated in the protest and all recounted a good experience after review in a brief meeting of the protest.
SPN HOLDS PROTEST IN LAGOS
The Lagos and Ogun State Chapters of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) organized a protest march on September 10, 2020 in Lagos against petrol price hike, electricity tariff hike, and INEC’s disobedience of a subsisting Court of Appeal Judgement to reregister SPN and 21 other political parties.
At the protest march, hundreds of copies of SPN and DSM leaflets were distributed. SPN banners and placards with our demands and slogans were displayed. However the protest letter to INEC was not submitted due to the police arresting protesters. Likewise the disruption of the protest march by the police hindered the sale of the DSM’s newspaper, Socialist Democracy.
The protest kicked off at NLC Labour House at Yaba at about 10:30 am after the initial take-off point, the Tai Solarin Statue at Yaba, was militarizsd by the police on the orders of the Buhari-led regime. The procession started after Chinedu Bosah (SPN National Secretary) and Rufus Olusesan (SPN Lagos State Chairperson) addressed the crowd and media.
When the procession got to Ojuelegba, say about 200 meters from the take-off point, a contingent of unruly policemen stopped the protest. They violently arrested Chinedu Bosah (SPN National Secretary), Hassan Taiwo Soweto (SPN National Youth leader), Moshood Osunfurewa (Secretary, SPN Lagos State Chapter), all members of the DSM, as well as Dagga Tolar (SPN NEC Member) and 10 other protesters including four journalists. Two of those arrested had spontaneously joined the protest march and one is now considering joining the party.
The arrested protesters and journalists were first taken to the Lagos Police Command, Ikeja, and after several hours of detention, the journalists were released while the 14 protesters were taken to Lagos State Task Force office at Oshodi where they were arraigned at the Mobile Court on one count charge of “conduct likely to cause breach of public peace.” The pressure from media and solidarity from organisations, civil liberty lawyers, trade unions (especially in Britain) and Socialist organizations internationally forced the government to withdraw the charges and hence the subsequent discharge of the arrested protesters.
The Buhari-led repressive regime is jittery and desperate to maintain power and is doing everything possible in curtailing genuine opposition in the face of attacks. Police attack on SPN protest also has helped popularize the party as it hit the news wave. Aside from two protesters who joined during the protest, more persons have contacted us through email and social media with the intention of joining the party. The task now is to sustain this profile with more actions and popularization of ideas and programme of the party.