SPN REJECTS PLANNED HIKE IN FUEL PRICE AND ELECTRICITY TARIFF
CALLS ON LABOUR TO BEGIN MASS MOBILISATION TO DEFEAT NEO-LIBERAL ATTACKS
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) rejects the planned fuel price hike by the Buhari-led federal government. The planned fuel price hike is based on advice by the World Bank which in its latest Nigeria Development Update (NDU) titled “Time for Business Unusual” asked Nigeria to remove fuel subsidy. According to the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari, petrol price could be increased to N340 per litre from February 2022. This increment will inevitably increase the cost of living and further worsen the living conditions of the vast majority. Most Nigerians earn poverty wage or low incomes while the N30,000 minimum wage, when paid, has been largely eroded by inflation and the ever-rising cost of living. We are also opposed to the planned hike in electricity tariff.
The Federal Government claims that there is a subsidy on the fuel price and wants to do away with it. Capitalist government after government has always stressed the need for subsidy removal because of the corruption associated with subsidy and also because, according to them, it only benefits the rich and middle classes while the poor are left out. However, the real motivation for subsidy removal however is the desire to increase the profit of big oil companies and conniving members of the bourgeois ruling elite and limiting state expenditure no matter what effect that has on the majority of Nigerians. But it is not an accident that the subsidy removal is planned for next year to coincide with when Dangote’s crude oil refinery and the petrochemical plant is to become operational in order to give him maximum latitude to sell his refined fuel products at international rates to domestic consumers.
While we do not deny the fact that there is massive corruption associated with fuel subsidy, what cannot also be glossed over is the fact that had there not been subsidy over the past two decades, perhaps the price of fuel products would have gone up to nearly N1000 per litre considering the volatility of crude oil price in the world market over the years. For us, therefore, the best way to tackle the massive corruption associated with is by a crash public works programme to make existing public refineries function at an optimal level and also build new ones in order to end importation, and put them all under democratic control of the working people.
As a major oil producer, there is no justification whatsoever to import petroleum products and force Nigerians to buy exorbitantly when as a country we can publicly and effectively refine and distribute these petroleum products at affordable prices.
The reason for the lack of functional public refineries in Nigeria is the implementation of capitalist neo-liberal agenda of privatization, deregulation and commercialization by the successive governments especially since the introduction of SAP in 1986. So there is no end in sight for exploitation and robbery of our collective resources by a rich few at the expense of the needs of the vast majority.
Now the Buhari-led government through the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed announced the government’s plan to disburse N5,000 to 40 million poor Nigerians. This interventionist palliative measure is not new, it is a ruse packaged to deceive Nigerians. We, therefore, call on the working masses not to be deceived; all anti-poor policies including the planned further hike in fuel price and electricity tariff must be resisted. The masses should also demand and fight for free and quality education and health care, decent jobs, decent mass housing and unemployment benefits while also defending democratic rights and opposing state repression.
Labour leadership have rejected the planned price increase and have stated that it will mobilize against it. The SPN welcomes this reaction by labour leaders but we hope it is not another hot air given the past horrid experiences especially the last minute calling off of a planned general strike and mass protest in September 2020. Not only was the strike called off but the labour leaders endorsed deregulation.
To prevent another act of betrayal, we call on workers and genuine trade union activists to begin agitation and campaigns within workplaces and unions for a general strike and mass protest against anti-poor policies of the Buhari government and a call on the labour leaders who are not ready for the struggle to resign and make way for those who are prepared for serious action.
So, we challenge labour leaders to be prepared to lead a more determined and well-mobilized resistance against this planned fuel price hike and all anti-poor capitalist attacks. Labour leaders must end their characteristic weak response which always ends in negotiating a reduction instead of reversal of an anti-people policy. We call on them to end their strategic partnership with the self-serving bourgeois ruling elite and withdraw their support for privatization and deregulation. It is fallacious for labour leaders to support deregulation provided there is adequate local production. This is because in actual fact deregulation in any form defends the interest of a privileged few against the vast majority. For instance, cement is produced locally by Dangote but the price has skyrocketed in the last 2 years. Similarly, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas NLNG has the capacity to produce and supply the domestic need of cooking gas but an average Nigerian cannot afford gas as 12.5kg cylinder of gas which presently sells for about N9, 000. The only way out is the nationalization (public ownership) of the oil and gas sector alongside other commanding heights of the economy and placed under democratic management and control of workers and consumers.
By and large, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) calls on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to begin mass mobilization against the planned hike in the price of petrol and electricity tariff. The mobilization should entail mass meetings in communities and workplaces, sensitization rallies, press conferences, production and circulation of mobilization materials (flyers, posters etc.,) as a means of resisting the attacks and preparing the working masses for a long-drawn struggle. At the same time, we call on activists to take initiatives to build support for action and to challenge any attempt by leaders to retreat or accept a rotten compromise.
Alongside this, the trade union movement must vigorously pursue a political alternative and build a pan Nigeria mass working people’s political party armed with Socialist policies to challenge the capitalist political parties for power and rescue Nigeria from this ever-growing socio-economic and political crisis of decadent capitalism.
Acting National Chairperson