CRIMINAL HIKE IN PETROL PRICE: Organise and Fight for Reversal
Defend Right to Basic Needs of Life
Resist all Anti-Poor Policies
It is no news that since the pronouncement by Bola Tinubu during his inauguration as Nigeria’s President that the “petrol subsidy is gone” the prices of petrol have been astronomically increased to as high as N577per litre from N185 per litre officially, something which is about 212 percentage increment. This criminal hike has further compounded the pre-existing economic hardship largely created by the anti-poor capitalist policies of the same APC government.
*Text of DSM leaflet for mass circulation
Transportation fares have gone up such that many have to trek to work or other important destination. Prices of food items have also gone up such that many have to go hungry or reduce the quality and quantity of their daily meal. Many households now live in darkness because they can no longer afford to buy petrol to power their generators. The cost of doing business has gone up for small and medium scale business owners like barbers, hairdressers, tailors, computer business centres, vulcanizers, shop owners etc. Many businesses are witnessing low patronage. In other words, this policy will further impoverish the poor, throw more people into poverty and misery, and lead to more job losses. So, we must resist this callous attack on our already poor living conditions and the means of livelihood.
WE MUST FIGHT ON DESPITE LABOUR LEADERSHIP’S BETRAYAL
Unfortunately, the leadership of Labour (NLC and TUC) have capitulated to the anti-poor neo-liberal policy of deregulation. On June 2 the NLC called an “indefinite” general strike to get “the federal Government to revert to the old price”, yet two days later the NLC, and the TUC, top leaders dropped this demand and backed out of the struggle against the hike in fuel price despite the devastating effects it has on ordinary workers as well as other categories of working people and youth. Instead these leaders agreed to talk with the government about palliatives, there was talk of a N200,000 minimum wage. Fine, a N200,000 minimum wage would be great if really implemented, however for nearly all Nigerians the fuel price hike means an immediate, drastic cut in living standards which must be resisted. By accepting the fuel price rise the labour leaders have effectively abandoned tens of millions of Nigerians.
But we must not be demoralized. Rather, we should organize ourselves independently in communities, workplaces and campuses and begin to fight back. Right now, we need to begin to build action committees through which we can democratically discuss and agree to call for actions like public mass meetings, protests and demonstrations. These independent actions can be unified and form a basis for nationwide protests that can defeat the policy.
We also call on the rank-and-file workers and trade union activists to begin the agitation within trade unions against the position of Labour leadership which does not defend workers’ interests for decent living conditions. The agitation must be linked to a campaign for a democratically run trade unions with fighting leaderships at all level.
We support the demand for a new minimum wage. But we don’t accept that it should be traded off for the criminal hike in fuel price. As shown by past experiences, whatever the increase in wages that is achieved by Labour leadership will be eroded by high inflation usually triggered by high cost of energy and devaluation of naira, something Tinubu has also planned to implement. So, workers must fight against hike in fuel price and devaluation of naira, and for a decent minimum wage fully implemented without retrenchments. It is also clear from experiences since 1999 that without mass struggle the new minimum wage after it is eventually agreed will not be fully implemented by all the state governments.
DON’T FALL FOR THEIR LIES
A lot of lies have been told to make us accept this wicked policy. To start with, we must reject the ridiculous lie that this suffering is in our interest. No, it is not. It is like telling a sick person suffering from haemorrhage (loss of blood) that donating blood is for their benefit.
They have said that a huge amount that could have been used for education, health care and infrastructure are spent to subsidize petrol. Don’t believe them. What has happened to the savings from the removal of the subsidy for diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel? The savings are largely looted and used to finance the opulent lifestyle of looters, including top government functionaries, not for the benefit of the masses. The same fate awaits whatever savings are made from the removal of petrol subsidy. Indeed, Tinubu from his manifesto plans to underfund public universities and increase school fees with the introduction of tuition. Students and working people must plan to organize to reject it.
In any case, the amounts claimed to be spent on petrol subsidy are inflated because of the monumental corruption perpetrated by top government officials and their cronies in the major oil businesses. For instance, even the Comptroller General of Customs, Hammed Alli, has described as monumental fraud the subsidy claims of the NNPC. Also, in 2012 following the massive general strike and nationwide revolt many cronies of the government were indicted by the National Assembly’s probe as subsidy thieves. Yet, they have been left to move freely and keep the proceeds of their crime. Worse still, the scale of the fraud increased under the Buhari government.
When the government complains about corruption linked to the subsidy then that is what they should eliminate, not the subsidy itself. The perpetrators of subsidy fraud must be prosecuted and made to forfeit the proceeds of their crime. We should reject the attempt to make the poor masses to pay for their crime with this obnoxious hike in petrol price. The problem is that Tinubu just like his predecessors cannot prosecute the subsidy robbers because they are their cronies, associates and the donors to their election campaign fund. But a mass struggle can force Tinubu to sacrifice them in order to stabilize his own government whose legitimacy is presently in serious question.
We must not accept the attempt to demonize subsidy. Every country including the advanced capitalist countries pay one subsidy or another. The European countries and the US subsidize agriculture in order to reduce the prices of food and prevent a revolt. Petrol is effectively subsidized in the US.
It is hypocritical that it is members of the same capitalist ruling elite, heavily subsidized with our collective wealth, who are against petrol subsidy for the poor. Nigerian banks are bailed out with public funds whenever they are in distress. Between 2009 and 2018, about N4 trillion was spent to bail out private banks (Business Day, October 3, 2018). Between 2013 and 2019, government spent over N1.6 trillion, three times the proceeds of power sector privatization, as bailouts to the privatized power companies (Business Day, September 16, 2019). Yet discos do not only fail to provide regular electricity supply but also super exploit consumers. Big businesses, including Dangote and Honeywell, were granted different waivers amounting to N16.76tn between 2019 and 2022 alone (Punch, September 19, 2022). The government has also granted N5.5tn tax waivers in 2023. (Punch, February 13, 2023). Tinubu, like other present and past governors and presidents, has lived for life on Nigeria’s public funds since 1999. Also, just about 17,474 political office holders officially collect at least a whopping N1.5 trillion while workers are paid poverty wage.
FOR WORKING CLASS PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATICALLY-CONTROLLED PUBLIC REFINERIES
We must also realize that the criminal hike in petrol price under the guise of subsidy removal is also meant to guarantee super profit for Dangote refinery and other big oil businesses. We must reject being placed at the mercy of Dangote and others. Rather, we must insist that the government repair the four public owned refineries and build new ones. However, in order to guarantee the judicious use of resources of the public refineries, functional operation and affordability of their products they have to be placed under democratic control of the working people.
By and large, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) calls on working people, youth and activists to organise and fight the following demands:
1) Reversal of petrol price to N185 per litre!
2) For a N200, 000 National Minimum Wage adjustable to the rate of inflation and without retrenchment.
3) Jail all fuel subsidy thieves and their accomplices and recover their loots by seizing their assets and freezing their accounts.
4) Open the books! For a fresh public probe of the oil subsidy claims since 1999 and the entire corrupt-ridden oil industry by an independent committee made up of elected representatives of trade unions, workers, experts, social movements and civil society.
5) An immediate crash programme to revamp the existing four refineries so that they can work at optimal level and build new ones.
6) For a cap of not more than N185 per liter on the price of petroleum products from Dangote refinery – a private refinery built with our collective wealth!
7) Take the oil and gas industry, including all private oil companies, gas companies, refineries and petrochemicals, into genuine public ownership under the democratic control and management of the working people.
8) No to fee hikes. For proper funding of public education and healthcare.
9) For the nationalization of the commanding heights of Nigeria’s economy under democratic management and control of the working people.
10) For a fighting trade union movement, free from corruption and rotten deals with employers and governments, and that is not afraid to struggle for all working people and poor.
11) Building a mass workers’ party with Socialist programmes to put into power a workers and poor people’s government. Such a government would go ahead to take Nigeria’s wealth, including its oil resources, off the one per cent and put it to use to begin to address dire infrastructural decay, poverty, unemployment and other crying needs of the working class, youth and poor.
If you are dissatisfied with the removal of fuel subsidy and the criminal increase in petrol price and you want to fight back, join the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) today. The DSM is a revolutionary Socialist organization that believes that Nigeria’s enormous wealth if democratically planned and judiciously utilized can be adequate to meet the needs of its entire people. It is capitalism and corruption that have turned Nigeria, a country so endowed, into the poverty capital of the world. But we can change this situation if we fight and also by building a mass workers’ political alternative to smash capitalism and puts in its place a worker and poor peoples’ government armed with Socialist policies. Join us today.
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