Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM


* Demands Must Include Total Reversal of Fuel Price Hike and Deregulation as Well as Immediate actions to Halt Meteoric Rise in Prices of Food and Other Basic Needs

* Knowing Labour Leaders’ Penchant for Last-Minute suspension and compromise, we urge pro-labour civil society and activists to begin to mobilise independently for a national shutdown and mass protests

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcomes the declaration by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for a two-day nationwide protest on the 27 and 28 February 2024 over the debilitating cost of living crisis. This declaration coming on the heels of a 14-day notice for a general strike previously issued to the Federal Government on 8 February 2024 shows that the leadership of the trade union movement, which had initially and publicly scorned the idea of providing leadership for the mass anger of the Nigerian people, has found itself in a situation where it can no more ignore the rising tide of spontaneous mass protest breaking across the country over the past few weeks in response to the deteriorating economic situation. Maintaining its previous stance and attitude could mean to risk mass anger turning against it.

Over the past few weeks, spontaneous protests have broken out in Kano, Niger State, Osun State and more recently, Lagos, Sokoto and Ogun States. Even in places where protests are yet to break out, the livid rage of the working people and youth at the immeasurable suffering they have been plunged into is unmistakable and it is only a matter of time before the dam breaks. No doubt representing a decisive change in the situation, these spontaneous protests are a signal that Nigerians are fed up with the devastating cost of living crisis that has led to increasing impoverishment for many especially the working class, middle classes and the poor masses.

Clearly, the immediate responsibility for the astounding suffering lies at the feet of the Tinubu capitalist administration. Since May 29, 2023 when President Tinubu and the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) was inaugurated following an election which saw the slimmest margin of victory by any Nigerian President since 1979, he has made it clear that he is intent on unleashing on the mass of the population a neo-liberal capitalist economic agenda in the form of fuel subsidy removal/price hike, devaluation of the naira alongside with the intensification of the policies underfunding and commercialization of public services like education and health, privatization and deregulation. At the same time it must not be forgotten that all the main parties’ presidential candidates advocated the removal of the so-called fuel subsidy.

By declaring a two day nationwide mass action, the NLC can help to deploy the organisational and political might of the organised working class to strengthen and give concrete expression to this mass anger thereby ensuring that it wins. But this can only happen if the NLC leadership is serious this time around and not simply repeating what it has always done in previous struggles which is to declare actions only to suspend them at the last minute without any gains being secured, thereby maintaining suffering plus creating confusion and demoralization in the movement. In fact, if the NLC had not suspended its planned general strike over subsidy removal on June 6 last year, there is a possibility that the Tinubu regime would not have had the confidence to carry through with the imposition of the subsequent neo-liberal policies of currency devaluation which have further worsened the situation for the mass of the people. Therefore, should the NLC leadership repeat this tragic approach in the current circumstance, then they could invite unto themselves the justified anger of the angry masses and youth who already view the leadership of the trade union movement with suspicion. It should not be forgotten that the #EndSARS revolt broke out on October 7, 2020 following disappointment and anger over the last minute suspension of a general strike by the Ayuba Wabba-led NLC on September 28, 2020. During the protest, many young people were hostile towards the idea of leadership and towards the labour movement in general because of anger over the betrayals of the labour leadership during previous struggles.

To be forewarned, however, is to be forearmed. The DSM believes that workers and activists should not continue to tolerate but instead organise to challenge this penchant of the trade union leadership to act against the interest of the movement. Therefore to prevent any last minute suspension or betrayal by the leadership of the NLC and the trade unions from having an effect on the movement or demoralizing the fighting spirit of the masses, we propose that pro-labour groups like JAF, ASCAB, CORE, TIB, TPAPM, activists and Socialists, in addition to the need for their own independent actions  and initiative for mass actions, should urgently begin to constitute democratic action committees at workplaces, campuses and the communities to ensure the nationwide protest goes on regardless. Such a network of action committees set up across the country and acting on behalf of the Nigerian masses can quickly step in to declare for the planned action to go through thereby helping to prevent demoralization. Through such action committees, further steps to take the struggle forward beyond February 27 and 28 can also be discussed and agreed.

At the moment, it seems only the NLC is behind next week’s  declared nationwide protest. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) which has often united with the NLC is yet to issue any statement in this regard. For us in the DSM, we believe that the unity of the working class is crucial at this hour. To this extent, we call on the leadership of the TUC as well as activists within the movement to argue for the need for the TUC to key into the date of February 27 and 28.

We also urge the NLC and TUC not to limit the demands of the struggle to palliatives alone. We urge them to also demand the reversal of the fuel price hike and all neo-liberal policies which are the immediate causes of the present crisis. However, while we embrace every concession no matter how minor that can be won for the working people, without the working class ending capitalism and taking over the running of society under a Socialist programme, there is no way any concession whatsoever won can have bring any lasting relief for the long-suffering working people and youth. By and large, we urge labour and working people to fight for the following set of demands:

  • Reversal in the fuel price hike to pre-May 29 levels
  • Reversal all neo-liberal policies
  • Reversal of recent hikes in school fees at tertiary institution and for adequate funding and democratic management of public education at all levels
  • Immediate fixing of public refineries and their democratic ownership and management by the working people
  • A price-cap on all petroleum products from the Dangote refinery in order to ensure affordability
  • For trade-union led actions to ensure price control and prevent price gouging and hoarding of food and other essentials
  • For an increase in the national minimum wage to meet the rate of inflation
  • Immediate cut in the salaries and allowances of political office holders
  • Public ownership of the banks, financial institutions, industries, oil refineries under democratic workers control and management in order to ensure Nigeria’s economy works for the needs of all and not the greed of a few
  • For the building of a genuine mass workers party with Socialist programme

Peluola Adewale

National Organising Secretary