MOBILISE AND FIGHT AGAINST PETROL PRICE INCREASE
Nationally organised demos and a one-day warning strike is necessary now!
There is a planned onslaught on the working people, youth and the poor in Nigeria. It is the astronomical increase in pump price of petrol, otherwise called subsidy removal. If implemented, this policy will worsen, on a grand scale, the current suffering faced by the working people through sky-rocketing inflation, high cost of living and increased poverty. Yet, there is a consensus among various strata of Nigeria’s capitalist political class, big businesses, their strategists and global finance capital, to launch this anti-poor policy.
By Kola Ibrahim
The labour movement, especially the leading labour centres, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), must drop their rotten compromise of support for fuel deregulation, under any guise and begin the mobilisation of working and poor people for mass actions against this policy. Instead of investing any illusion that deregulation can work, labour should demand immediate repair of all public refineries, building of new ones and nationalisation of the oil and gas sector under democratic workers control and management as the only viable solution to the crisis of fuel price hike and perennial scarcity.
The trade unions must reject those within the Labour Party who support the subsidy removal or who, like Dennis Aikoriogie who wants to be the LP governorship candidate in Edo state, argue that in 2012 Jonathan should have “been allowed to remove fuel subsidy”, in other words opposing the strike and protests that stopped the Federal Government then. Instead, the NLC and TUC must work towards building a mass movement like in 2012 by organising now a series of mass demos along with a one-day warning national strike across the country to send a strong signal to the capitalist government of Nigeria and imperialism, of the readiness of working people of Nigeria to fight this policy. This should be backed up with conscious mobilisation of workers, youth, the poor, market men and women, and the oppressed in general.
The Buhari government may make this deadly poison its odious parting gift to the long-suffering Nigerians. Even if it does not, the new administration of Bola Tinubu has made no pretensions about its commitment to this evil policy. Tinubu, in one of the campaign fora during the 2023 elections, pointedly noted that he would remove subsidy (a euphemism for astronomical increase in petrol price), no matter the protests. This shows the thick skin the political class has developed for the suffering of Nigerians, who have had to bear the brunt of the failure of capitalist policies.
Currently, inflation is running at a 17-year high of 22.04 percent, while food inflation is at a 24.46 percent (Premium Times, 15/04/2023). This has led to a rise in poverty rate, which has led to 133 million Nigerians (62.9 percent) being categorised as being ‘multidimensionally poor’ in December, 2022, against 95 million (45 percent) previously identified by World Bank in its projection in January, 2022 (Punch, 26/12/2022). No doubt, the cost of energy is prominent in the rise in poverty rate. For instance, kerosene price, a staple fuel for millions of households, rose by 145.9 percent from N423. 42 in 2021 to N1, 104 in December, 2022 (Premium Times, 29 November, 2022).
Petrol price rose by 54.7 percent from N170 to N263 between February 2022 and February 2023, according to National Bureau of Statistics (Guardian, 21/3/2023). This is after the government quietly but criminally increased the pump price of petrol from N165 to N185 in January, 2023, in the thick of a serious month-long fuel scarcity (Guardian 19/1/2023). Interestingly, the Nigerian government has not stopped the criminal increase in petrol price, which now sells in most places as much as N73 above the government’s fraudulently approved price of N185. All of these show that the Nigeria’s capitalist class is not interested in any policy that will provide succour for long-suffering Nigerians, so far their interests are assured. Worse still, other sources of energy, especially renewable such as solar power system, wind energy, etc. have not received serious attention of government or are priced out of the reach of Nigerians.
While it is true that fuel subsidy has become a grand fraud being used to compensate unproductive capitalist class in Nigeria, it is also a fact that this situation was deliberately promoted by the successive capitalist government to enrich capitalists in big business and politics. For more than two decades, Nigeria’s state owned crude oil refineries have been deliberately left to rot away.
Yet, the same government that cares no hoot about the suffering of poor Nigerians, was quick to hand over $2.5 billion liquidity to cash-strapped privately-owned Dangote refineries, to bail it out, but the state-owned refineries have received no such quick attention. Interestingly, the Dangote refineries will not end hike in fuel price or subsidy payment, safe for a marginal reduction in import cost. Rather, it will only transfer the beneficiary of subsidy or hike in fuel from foreign refiners to Dangote business, its local and international business partners and investors, and fuel marketers. But if the Dangote refinery fails, the Nigerian state, and its people will bear the cost, as Nigeria government provided the sovereign insurance for the Dangote refineries and its loans.
Consequent on the above, the Nigerian government does not have the moral right to offload new economic burden on working people, youth and the poor. The fraud in the subsidy removal is better understood by the number of times the Nigerian government, at various times, had claimed to have removed subsidy, only for the subsidy payment to increase in manifolds. Definitely, the latest increase in fuel price will generate a new round of subsidy payment in subsequent months. In fact the demands from within the capitalist class for an end to the subsidy are part of the ongoing struggle between different gangs of looters on how to rob the country.
Conclusively, behind the continuous and constant increase in fuel price is the failure of neo-colonial market capitalism in Nigeria, which is worsened by the kleptomaniac character of Nigeria’s backward capitalist class. The global finance capital, and its strategic institutions such as IMF, World Bank, UN, WTO, etc. are only latching on this to further milk the country dry, impoverish its people and keep it underdeveloped. It is not an accident that increase in crude oil price in the international market, which should translate to better living conditions for Nigerians, only serves as harbinger of more suffering through hike in fuel price.
This, therefore, underscores the need to end the fraudulent capitalist system and its kleptomaniac political and business classes, and enthrone a socialist planned socio-economic system that will ensure democratic control and management of the natural and monetary resources of Nigeria by the working people. It is on this basis that the huge wealth of Nigeria can be used to benefit majority of Nigerians, and serve as a tool for planned, holistic, and environmentally sustainable development.