Labour Must Resist Fuel Price Hike and All Anti-Poor Policies
DSM WELCOMES LABOUR MARCH 10 NATIONAL PROTEST TO DEFEND THE MINIMUM WAGE AGAINST ATTACKS
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcomes the March 2nd decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to mobilize for a “national protest action” starting from March 10, 2021 against (1) the ploy by the capitalist elite to undermine the national minimum wage by removing it from the Executive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List of the 1999 constitution (As Amended) via a bill sponsored by Honourable Garba Datti Mohammed in the House of Representatives (2) Ploy to establish State Judicial Councils and (3) Hoarding and Scarcity of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
We also welcome the decision of the NLC to work together with the TUC to prosecute the struggle.
We urge that March 10 should be a first step. We cannot have a repeat of last September’s retreat. Right from March 10, a new date for continuation of the struggle must be picked and mobilizations commenced until all anti-poor attacks launched by the Buhari government and state governors on the working people are defeated.
Despite the pedigree of the labour leadership, especially the fact that many cannot trust it to match words with actions, we of the DSM urge all working people and youth to participate in the March 10 national protest action en masse. This is because the issues for which this protest action has been called are very crucial for the wellbeing of the working class and oppressed masses. For us, the issues of the minimum wage and the hoarding of PMS are the most important disputes out of all three listed disputes from the point of view of the class interest of the working people.
RESIST NEW ATTACKS
For instance, the ploy to move the national minimum wage to the concurrent list is meant to give anti-poor state governors the legal authority to refuse to pay workers their due by hiding under the specious argument of difference in the revenues accruing to the states in the federation. As we all know, these difference in federal allocation and internal revenue is only cited when it comes to workers as the political office holders all enjoy outrageous salaries and emoluments regardless of the size of the state coffers. Placing the power to decide what amount to pay as minimum wage to workers in the hands of Governors who while the national minimum wage is still on the Exclusive list do not even bother to implement minimum wage law will result in the further weakening of the collective bargaining powers of Nigerian workers and their subjection to slave conditions. At the moment, at least 18 states are cited by the NLC to have refused to implement the N30, 000 minimum wage even though it was signed into law nearly 2 year ago. Therefore, the March 10 must also be the beginning of a serious struggle for the implementation of the minimum wage by all state governments and private sector
Secondly, the hoarding and scarcity of PMS represents another disaster waiting to befall the working people already burdened by collapsed purchasing power, downward spiral of the naira, rising inflation and high cost of living. Unfortunately, the NLC NEC refused to hit the nail on the head by recognizing that this hoarding and scarcity is a preparation for a new round of increases in fuel price as a result of Buhari government’s capitalist policy of deregulation. This is not surprising. The NLC leadership knows it would be held guilty as much as the Buhari government should there be any new round of fuel price hike due to its submission to deregulation on September 28 2020. This explains why instead of saying the March 10 action is against any plan for a new hike in fuel price, it directs the action against “hoarding” and “scarcity”. The DSM rejects this attempt to blur the issue and demand that March 10 planned national protest should boldly reject any attempt to increase fuel price, demand reversal of fuel price to below N100 and an end to deregulation of the oil and gas sector. We also call on rank and file workers, trade union activists and pro-labour organisations to prevail on the leadership of the NLC and TUC to withdraw its acceptance of the deregulation policy. Rather, labour must demand adequate and functional publicly owned and democratically run refineries which mean that the old refineries are repaired and new ones built in order to guarantee adequate fuel consumption without being at the mercy of Dangote who is in business for super profits.
By and large, it is for the reason of the above cited disputes which are crucial to the wellbeing of the working people that we urge for support to be given to the planned action of March 10 by trade union activists, the rank and file workers and pro-masses organizations as well as the youth and oppressed masses.
DON’T LEAVE INITIATIVE OF STRUGGLE IN THE HANDS OF BUREAUCRATS
To avoid a situation where the planned March 10 protest becomes another example of labour blowing hot air without any real action taking place, the DSM urge that activists, Socialists and the working masses should not just be ready to support the March 10 action, they also should be prepared to take ownership of the struggle by building democratic action committees at workplaces and communities to deepen mobilization and the struggle against all anti-poor policies.
Right from now, workers activists should begin to meet to discuss March 10 and how to mobilize for it. Without the rank and file activists getting involved in the plans and mobilization, March 10 could end up as a token action with just a few handpicked labour bureaucrats mobilized in air conditioned vehicles to hold placards for a few hours to submit petitions to national and state assemblies after which everyone returns home without concrete achievement to point to. But beyond the practical measures to mobilise for the action, there is also the question of how to broaden the struggle and its demands after March 10. Given the successive barrage of withering anti-poor attacks already sustained by the working class, a national protest action of the labour movement which only marches to the national and state assemblies to fulminate against a bill to amend the minimum wage law, setting up of state judiciary and hoarding and scarcity of fuel will sound like a bad joke. Moreso, it would be rightly viewed as an insult by the already battered working class some of whom have had the value of their wages shrunken due to collapsed value of naira, some are being owed several months of backlog of salaries and pensions, some are being paid a fraction of their salaries, thousands have lost their jobs while in many states many have not even started to enjoy the N30, 000 minimum wage since it has been signed.
To avoid this kind of situation, the DSM urge activists and workers to discuss and put to votes at meetings called to mobilize for March 10 additional set of demands to call and campaign for. We would advocate they should be based around: (1) Implementation of N30, 000 minimum wage in all states and private organizations qualified according to the law (2) Payment of all backlog of salaries and pensions owed in any states (3) Increase in the minimum wage to at least N100, 000 (4) Reduction in the salaries and allowances of political office holders, end to security vote (5) For a N100, 000 monthly unemployment benefit payable to all those out of job and a crash public-funded programme to create decent jobs (6) No to any new hike in fuel price, end deregulation, for the nationalization of the oil and gas sector under workers democratic control and management (7) No to hike in electricity tariff (8) Re-nationalize the power sector under workers and consumers democratic control and management (9)Halt repression, withdraw charges against all activists under trial, release all activists, journalists and critics in detention (10) For the formation and building of a mass workers party to struggle for power to replace the entire anti-poor capitalist government at all levels with a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist programmes.
We believe that if the March 10 protest is pursued in the above-outlined manner, it can be the starting point of a serious mass struggle against anti-poor capitalist policies and provide an opportunity for labour to begin to rebuild its strength and repair its image already battered in the eyes of the working class and oppressed masses by the betrayal of the labour leadership.
But this is about more than wages and prices. Nigeria is descending into deeper crisis. If Labour does not give a fighting lead and strives to transform the country, then the likelihood is not just suffering and pain, but also an increase in insecurity as desperation breeds further criminality and ethnic tension. This is why this new opportunity must not be thrown away.
From the March-April 2021 edition of ‘Socialist Democracy’, newspaper of the DSM