Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

NATIONWIDE FUEL SCARCITY: Get Set to Fight Impending Fuel Price Hike!

NATIONWIDE FUEL SCARCITY: Get Set to Fight Impending Fuel Price Hike!

For a 2-Day Warning General Strike Now!

By Ayo Ademiluyi

Widespread fuel shortages across different parts of the country have resulted into long queues at petrol stations with prices rocketing between N110, N120 and N130. Yet the Department of Petroleum Resources, which has vowed that it would close down any filling station selling above the current official rate of N97 has failed to do so. According to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the root of the fuel scarcity is traceable to the breakdown of System 2B located at Arepo, Ogun State, which is also the distribution channel for the Southwest states, due to vandalisation.

The question then is why has repairs not been made to ensure adequate supply of fuel? According to Fidel Pepple, the Acting Group General Manger of the NNPC, armed fuel thieves shot three of the NNPC workers who had gone to make repairs. Therefore, the repairs would not continue until the safety of workers was guaranteed. However, another poser which remains unanswered by NNPC is that what is responsible for the fuel shortage in other parts of the country including Warri, Kaduna, Kano, etc? According to the report of the Senate Committee on fuel scarcity, the failure of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to pay over N200 billion subsidy claims for oil marketers is responsible for the fuel shortage.

In short, oil marketers have embarked on a “bosses’ strike” in order to force government to pay their subsidy claims-which is nothing but brazen robbery of public funds. According to the Finance Minister, Okonjo Iweala, government said it needs an additional $4 billion to continue to finance its so-called fuel subsidy scheme in 2012 after it had already spent more than half of this year’s allocated budget to settle the areas of the 2011 claims by the oil marketers. Out of the N881 billion naira ($5.54billion) budgeted for fuel subsidy in 2012, Nigeria has so far spent N451 billion naira ($2.84 billion) paying off arrears for 2011 as of May 2012. In January, the major reason for the fuel price hike from N97 to N140 is the claim of the PPRA that a whopping sum of N3.7 trillion was spent between 2006 and 2011 on “subsidy” payments.

What would strike one’s mind is that what is the justification for this disbursement of public funds to private sharks? The subsidy payments are as a result of the failure on the part of the government to make local refineries functional and working. Hence, fuel has to be imported to meet domestic consumption. Yet the disparity in the exact volume of fuel consumed domestically in relation to the subsidy payments even expose further the mega-fraud behind the scheme. PPRA claims that 35 million litres of fuel were consumed daily throughout 2011 but government paid subsidy on 59 million litres per day in the same year.

In short, the entire subsidy regime is about some people collecting and stuffing into their pockets the extra monies for the unused 24 million litres per day. It was not surprising that the “subsidy” payments increased outrageously by 150% in 2011 without any increase in local demand for petrol. Based on the House Committee reports on subsidy payments 35 firms that collected allocations are not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, while petroleum products worth N1.1 trillion were never supplied. Furthermore, NNPC collected N295.098 billion above the recommendation of PPRA. Going by this revelation of fictitious subsidy payments it reinforces the fact that, without corruption, a litre of fuel should in fact sell for less than N65.00k, which was the old rate. Thus the fuel price hike was callous and a double robbery of the working people.

The nationwide scarcity is therefore a connivance of petroleum marketers with top government officials to short change the masses. It is mainly to provide the basis for another official fuel price hike. According to the National Bureau of Statistics outlook for 2012-2015, total removal of the so-called subsidy is scheduled for the end of the year! The crippling scarcity across the country is the typical approach of the capitalist ruling elite to force the masses into accepting higher prices in order to “guarantee” availability of products. Meanwhile it is the utter failure of government to repair refineries and build more to ensure local refining of crude oil for domestic use that has given room for perpetual importation of petroleum products, thereby enriching few private merchants at the expense of the poor working masses.

There is the urgent necessity for a mass fightback. The entire strength of the trade union movement must be mobilized against another fuel price hike. Fortunate enough, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) is equally opposed to another fuel price hike on the basis of the current artificial fuel scarcity. However, with the resultant paralysis of the entire country based on the unavailability of fuel products with the exorbitant prices, there is need for the trade union centres to begin to mobilize by calling a 48 hour warning general strike against the artificial scarcity and the impending fuel price hike. Demands must be laid on government to repair existing refineries, build additional ones, link pipelines across the federation and provide other basic facilities that will guarantee supply of petroleum products at all times. This has to be linked with demands for nationalization of the oil industry under workers democratic control and management as the most effective way to dislodge the cabals from the oil industry.

The glaring reality that a cabal consisting of a few oil marketers and importers could hold an entire country to ransom in connivance with the capitalist ruling elite in power shows the completely undemocratic and unjust nature of the profit system of capitalism. The labour movement and the working masses in general have to understand that to fully rid Nigeria of a situation where a few determines the destiny of a majority, it is not only enough to defeat the impending fuel price hike, it is also necessary to break completely with capitalism.

Perhaps nothing better than the current situation best prove the fact that the ultimate solution to defeating the entire anti-people and exploitative system is to take political power from all the ruling elite and put in power a revolutionary working people’s government armed with socialist policies and programs. By putting the oil industry and other commanding heights of the economy under democratic working class control and management, such working peoples’ government can begin to build a new Nigeria where oil is not a curse but a blessing.