Unmitigated but avoidable hardship over Naira note redesign, fuel scarcity: SPN calls for a 48-hour warning General Strike backed with coordinated mass protests and rallies
*Responses of APC, PDP and LP show they are anti-working people
*President Buhari’s broadcast varying the orders of the Supreme Court smacks of executive recklessness
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) decries the anguish and suffering working people and poor are being subjected to by the Buhari/APC government through the ill-conceived and poorly implemented naira note redesign and cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
We have listened with concern to the broadcast of President Buhari on Thursday 16 February 2023 wherein he announced that only the old 200 naira note would be allowed to circulate concurrently for 60 days till April 10 while the old 500 and 1000 naira notes cease to be legal tenders although they remain redeemable at CBN and designated points pursuant to section 20 (3) of the CBN Act 2007. In our view, by varying the orders of the Supreme Court which explicitly ask that all old naira notes be allowed to circulate concurrently pending the determination of the matter before it, President Buhari is in contempt of court and guilty of executive recklessness. We urge the labour movement, pro-masses’ organisations, NBA, all lawyers of conscience and the Nigerian people to oppose this despotism from a supposedly democratically elected government. Unfortunately, President Buhari’s broadcast does not give any confidence that this crisis of cash scarcity will now go away soonest
We also condemn the police and security agencies that have shot at protesters some of whom have died. We also condemn attacks on bank workers who are not to be blamed for the shortages. We hereby demand a halt to attacks on protesters and arrest and prosecutions of police and members of security agencies responsible for shooting and killing protesting Nigerians. While we deplore violence and riots, we nevertheless recognise that it is the hardship people have been plunged into in the past few weeks by the Buhari government that is fuelling the unrest.
We therefore call on the Buhari government to put an end to the hardship by ensuring that people have unrestricted access to their monies lodged in commercial banks. We also demand arrest and prosecution of those who have reportedly hoarded new notes thereby contributing to the crisis. While we agree with the merit of cashless policy, we do not believe it has to be implemented in such a way that it disrupts and destroys people’s lives and livelihood and more so in the prevailing situation where digital infrastructure to aid cashless transactions are either still largely rudimentary or poorly manned going by the number of failed transactions and collapses bank apps experienced in the past few days. Also we demand an end to the prolonged fuel scarcity and reversal of fuel price.
The naira note redesign and cashless policy, which has meant withdrawal of old 1000, 500 and 200 naira banknotes as legal tender, has led to scarcity of banknotes. This has made it difficult for daily financial transaction for majority of Nigerians and unmitigated hardship, in addition to already existing attacks on the living conditions of the people, especially with the soaring inflation. At the same time as this cash crisis, Nigerians are faced with several months of fuel scarcity and skyrocketing pump prices of fuel. At the moment, petrol sells at over N300 per litre in many fuel stations across the country.
Consequent upon the above, the SPN calls on the labour movement, through the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their affiliate unions, as the vanguard platforms of the working people, to step in to arrest this situation. We call on the trade union centres to declare a forty-eight (48) hour warning general strike backed up with coordinated and peaceful protests and rallies to demand an immediate end to the devastating shortage of banknotes as well as the scarcity and high prices of petrol. We particularly urge the newly-elected NLC President, Joe Ajaero, who upon emergence had given the Federal Government a 7-day ultimatum to resolve the crisis, to convert his words into action by mobilising the labour movement to provide leadership for Nigerian masses in this moment of despair. This is necessary given the prevailing anarchy created by the failure of the currency and cashless policies, coupled with the recalcitrance of the Buhari government and CBN to ameliorate the horrible situation. The only way to stop the Buhari government from this ruinous and anarchistic route is for the labour movement to take action.
More than this, the labour-led intervention will provide leadership and coordination for uncoordinated and sometimes violent protests which are breaking out across the country. Without proper coordination and leadership, these protests, which are in response to the unnecessary and unwarranted hardship imposed by the Buhari government, could lead to anarchy.
The excuse sold by the immediate past president of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, that coordinated mass action led by labour movement will truncate the elections is totally wrong and misplaced. Currently, the ill-fated policy is threatening the elections, and may be exploited by the anti-democratic forces to truncate civil rule. Already, Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, has hinted of the threat that lack of banknotes and fuel scarcity poses to the conduct of elections. Only an intervention of the labour movement through mass action can defeat both the Buhari government, his policies and the anti-democratic forces. A 48-hour warning strike, backed with coordinated mass actions, will send an immediate signal to the Buhari government that the working people are prepared to take their destiny in their hands. It can also help to serve notice on the new government that will emerge from the elections of the preparedness of working people to challenge any anti-poor policies it has in store.
Finally, the responses of the bourgeois parties, All Progressives Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the misnamed Labour Party (LP) show that these parties are anti-working people. The PDP, in order to gain from the political fallout of the current hardship on the fortune of the APC and its candidates, is supporting the Buhari government on these policies. Likewise the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in the face of existential hardship, only asked the people to be patient and support the CBN.
The ruling APC, on the other hand, could not even hold a single position on the policy. While the APC-led Buhari government is behind the hardship, the party’s presidential candidate, Mr. Bola Tinubu, has become an opposition within his own party and against the Buhari government, not because he cares for the suffering working people and the poor, but because he fears the situation will narrow his chances in the election. The same Tinubu has been a major pillar of support for the Buhari government in the last eight years, despite the degeneration in living standards of the people arising from implementation of similar anti-poor policies.
All these show that these capitalist parties are one and the same in terms of policy, principle and ideology. This is why the working people, youth and the poor should prepare to take the road of struggle against the anti-poor policies to be unleashed on them if any of these parties emerge and at the same time build a mass workers political alternative armed with socialist programmes to end capitalism and enthrone a Socialist Nigeria.
SPN Acting National Chairperson
SPN National Secretary