Arise Working Masses and the Youth!
Organize and Resist Hike in Fuel Price and Electricity Tariff
For Mass Protest and a 48 Hour General Strike
If we fight we can win
a leaflet produced by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) on September 15, 2020
The price of fuel has been hiked for the third time in the last two months. We have to resist this increase otherwise Buhari’s government will continue to take the masses for a ride. As if this burden is not excruciating enough, Buhari’s government has also afflicted the masses with an increase in electricity tariff, imposition of different taxes and devaluation of the naira. The electricity tariff hike essentially means making the masses to pay for darkness as electricity supply remains poor while most consumers are assaulted with exploitative estimated bills by the DISCOs. It is obvious that these hikes are aimed at guaranteeing huge profit for oil marketers and power companies as well as the privileges and looting of the capitalist ruling elite.
Even before these latest attacks, the cost of living including prices of food items and transportation had become unbearable for the vast majority of the people. Yes, the economy globally has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, the devastating effects of the pandemic in Nigeria are made worse by the anti-poor capitalist policies of Buhari’s government which has shed every pretense that it cares for the poor.
The fact that Buhari’s government has chosen to inflict more pains at a period of the coronavirus pandemic shows that it is callous and inhuman. It is also a government of deceit because while campaigning for the 2015 elections Buhari never promised to increase fuel price and indeed promised a change from old anti-poor policies. He however has been breaking the promises since May 2016, after less than a year in office, with the then hike of petrol price from N97 to N141. It was because there was little or feeble resistance against the assault in May 2016 that the Buhari government has been emboldened to continue to ride roughshod over the working masses and the poor. We must say enough is enough. We have to make a bold statement to Buhari that we are not ready to turn the other cheek by giving him a serious fight back. We should hit the streets in our numbers to demand the reversal of these policies.
Labour should call a 48-hour General Strike and Mass Protest
Already, the masses have demonstrated the readiness to fight back. However, the problem is the leadership of labour who are still tailing the mood. Already pockets of protests have occurred in some cities and towns staged by civil society groups, student bodies and the Socialist Party of Nigeria. We call on the leaderships of the NLC and TUC to start a serious fightback by declaring, as a first step, a 48-hour general strike and nationwide mass protest against the fuel price and electricity tariff hikes and all anti-poor policies of Buhari government. If the NLC and TUC leaders do not act, then individual unions should be prepared to take initiatives to initiate widespread action. Workers and trade unionists from workplaces should mount pressure, with petitions and protests, on their leadership asking them to carry out their responsibility or vacate the position and be replaced by those who will.
No to Deregulation; For Functional Public Refineries
However, we the masses have to ask ourselves a vital question of why, despite being one of world’s biggest producers and exporters of crude oil, we have continued to pay high for fuel prices. The reason is that we do not have functioning local refineries. Another question is why the successive governments, especially since the return to civil rule, have not built new refineries and fixed the problem with the existing ones despite the huge wealth the country has amassed from the sales of crude oil. The country has shamelessly continued to rely heavily on the importation of fuel for its domestic need. A key reason is the subscription to neo-liberal capitalist policies of deregulation and privatization encapsulated in the refrain that the government has no business in business, something which itself is fraudulent and hypocritical as the same government continuously bails out banks and big businesses.
Therefore, we should not just demand the reversal of the fuel price hike, we must also reject the deregulation policy and demand that the government must build new refineries and repair the old ones in order to guarantee adequate local refinery capacity and affordable petrol and other petroleum products. This is a lesson we have to learn from all the previous fuel price hikes and the attendant protests. We must not expect relief or entertain illusion in Dangote’s refinery currently under construction. As experienced with commodities like cement and sugar over which Dangote enjoys a near monopoly, we are going to pay high prices for fuel from his refinery and remain at his mercy as he is in business to make super profits. We must insist that the government has its own functional refineries. And to combat corruption and sabotage that have contributed to the comatose state of the local refineries, we of the DSM call for their democratic management and control by elected representatives of workers subject to recall through their electors. This will ensure that allocations for repair work are not looted, and the required work is carried out.
Return Electricity to Public Ownership with Democratic Control
Similarly, as we have observed, the electricity privatization has proved to be a monumental failure and fraud. The private electricity companies do not invest in facilities like transformers, meters, and other installations. It is communities and consumers who still provide them despite huge bailouts from the government. Yet the supply remains poor while consumers pay high tariffs especially through estimated and crazy bills for services they do not enjoy. Therefore, we should reject this latest increase in tariff and at the same time demand the return of the power sector to public ownership. However, to avert the debacle of the old NEPA and PHCN, we should demand that the public power sector we are canvassing for must be under the open democratic control of elected representatives of workers and consumers. This will ensure the judicious use of allocation and revenue of the company and thereby ensure stable and affordable electricity.
For a Working Peoples’ Alternative
In the 16 years of the PDP in power, fuel prices were increased many times along with other anti-poor policies. The same ruinous trend has continued with the APC government despite the promise of change and the condemnation of the same policies by Buhari when he was in the opposition. The reason is that both APC and PDP together with their smaller clones subscribe to the same capitalist programme and philosophy. This philosophy promotes greed and profit of a few at the expense of the vast majority. It means the use of the collective wealth of the society for the benefit of a few.
We cannot do things the same way and expect a different result. Nigeria has abundant human and material resources. We need an alternative economic programme that will ensure the use of these resources for the benefit of all. This is socialism. It entails among other things public ownership of commanding heights of the economy (oil and gas, banking, etc) under democratic management and control in order to have adequate resources for the provision of quality health care, education, water and infrastructural development like roads, bridges and electricity. It also means the coming to power of a workers and poor peoples’ government whose officials, unlike the current political office holders, will be on the salary and allowance structure of civil services, and all projects and allocations will be under the democratic control of workers and consumers. By and large, it means the basic needs of the people and society will form the basis of governance and economy, not the greed and profit of a few.
The parasitic and primitive ruling elite and their parties cannot support this programme. This they have shown in the last 21 years in power. We the working masses and youth need our own party with a socialist programme. This is why the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) was formed by socialists, trade unionists and community activists. We call on workers, artisans, traders, students and youth as well as trade unions, socialist and left groups and mass organisations to join the party in order to build it as a mass working people party formidable enough to wrest political power from the thieving capitalist ruling elite at all levels. This is with the view of a forming a workers’ and the poor peoples’ government determined to carry out a socialist programme that will defeat capitalism and begin the socialist reconstruction of Nigeria.
What you should do
We call on workers, artisans, traders and youth in communities to set up protest and strike committees that will coordinate and organize independent peaceful protest actions in communities and link up with groups with similar initiatives for joint actions. These committees should also mobilize mass support for a strike whenever one is called by the labour. We can defeat the Buhari government if we fight, and begin a journey to a real and genuine change.
If you agree with us, help circulate this leaflet in your communities and workplaces. For more discussion on how to organize a protest in communities or how to join us, call us on 08053045953 or 07033775517.