Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

Committee for a Workers' International logo

Committee for a Workers' International

 

Home
Join DSM
Contact DSM
About us
Our Manifesto
Statements

Socialist Democracy

Newspaper of the DSM


Campaigns
NCP
Trade Unions
Students
Women
International

Downloads

email

Socialist Democracy Aug - Sept 2005

 

PROPOSED FUEL PRICE HIKE

Mobilise For Regime And System Change!

Like a leopard that cannot change its spot, the Obasanjo's government is much set to unleash another crushing attack on the living conditions of Nigerian working people, urban and rural masses, with the planned increase in the prices of petroleum products. Already, more and more Nigerians are finding it extremely difficult to get meals on their table as the prices of foodstuffs and other basic necessities are prohibitive. Under the proposed increment, a litre of petrol is expected to sell between N71 and N75, representing about 250% increase since the inception of the regime. The labour, pro-people political parties, civil society groups, students, poor peasants and Nigerian working people must reject and protest this attempt to worsen the already excruciating suffering of Nigerians in the midst of inexhaustible abundance.

The argument for the planned hike is the same old clich�: the government's subsidy on petroleum products for domestic consumption is becoming unbearable, it has to be removed. They claim that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, at present, is subsidising every liter of petrol for instance, with N15. This is because the price of the crude oil in the international market has been consistently going up, selling for at least $65 in the recent time, thus leading to high landing cost of imported fuel. It is a cruel irony that the Obasanjo�s PDP government has kept advancing the continued rise in the price of crude oil in the international market, which has made Nigeria to amass immense fortune, as the main reason why Nigerians must pay through their noses for fuel at home. As at June 2005, the excess crude oil revenue above the budget benchmark of $33 was about $9billion while the foreign reserve has hit $24 billion. Why, with all this fortune, should Obasanjo's government add to the sufferings of Nigerian poor masses?

The fabulous windfall the country has been enjoying since the inception of Obasanjo's administration has not translated into improvement in the standard of living of an average Nigerian or marked infrastructure development. It has only provided more resources for looting by the ruling governments at all levels. For instance, about $2.5 billion out of $5.9 billion excess crude oil revenue realized last year was distributed among tiers of government, in addition to the budgetary allocation, even without appropriation by the national assembly. Yet, there is nothing to show for this in terms of education, health, food, infrastructure, etc. Last year, Nigeria's commitment to funding of education was only above that of Somalia, while it was rated 187th out of 191 countries in the WHO's ranking of countries' health indicators, only above war ravaged countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone.

Instead of repairing or improving on the existing refineries and building more to adequately take care of the domestic need for fuel, the government opts for importation of refined products. In fact, a study has revealed that with the installed capacity of the nation's four refineries, they could produce a total of 445, 000 barrels per day. Therefore, if the refineries are made fully operational, Nigeria can adequately take care of its domestic consumption put at 300 million liters of petrol daily and still has extra for export. But importation has become another avenue for the politicians and business people in the corridor of power to make quick and cool money at the gross expense of the people's need. It is no surprise that the so-called 18 private investors have only kept under their pillow, the official license that has been issued to them since 2001 to build private refineries. Moreover, the Obasanjo's government claimed in 2003 that it had spent over $700 million (about N100 billion) on the turn around maintenance of the nation refineries, but this has only gone down the drain, as there is nothing to show for the money. Yet, nobody has been arraigned for misappropriating this resource, despite the much-advertised anti-corruption stance of the government.

LABOUR MUST MOBILISE RESISTANCE

In his reaction to the planned increase in the fuel price, Adams Oshiomhole, President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) stated, "Nigerians will never be tired of confronting these agents of IMF and World Bank who seize the excuse of higher international prices for a commodity which we produced and earn lots of money from, to inflict penury, hardship and impoverishment on the masses" Nigerian Tribune, August 13, 2005. But how far can the leadership of NLC translate this rhetoric to a reality in defence of working masses is a moot question. Before the last general struggle and protest in October 2004 arbitrarily called off by the labour leadership, PM News September 29 reported Adams to have said, 'We have learnt our lessons from previous nationwide strikes and this time around, we will ensure that all our goals achieved before we call off the strike". Yet, the labour leadership went ahead to make a rotten compromise even before the struggle commenced let alone achieving the goals despite the massive support of the people to the struggle. In Lagos for instance, major roads were deserted until late afternoon the general strike was to commence despite the fact that labour leadership had called it off.

Even right now, there is no serious indication that the NLC leadership properly understands why there will always be incessant fuel price hike and accordingly, why an all encompassing struggles will have to be waged against the government and system which only breed mass poverty in the midst of plenty. Hear Adams, "the Central Working Committee of the NLC at its last emergency session on August 4, 2005 resolved to make a strong case to Mr. President to prevail on the NNPC not to contemplate any increase on the already high cost of fuel products" New Age August 12, 2005. Frankly speaking, this is nothing but sheer self-deception. As known by every honest analyst, President Obasanjo is the greatest driving force behind the implementation of neo-liberal policies of which incessant fuel price hike is a key component. It is therefore escapist appealing to Obasanjo to call NNPC and PPPRA to order.

Moreover, considering the recently promulgated neo-fascist labour law that outlaws strikes and protests against anti-poor policies of government, this imminent attack is a test case to the Nigerian labour movement. Labour leaders must disregard this anti-people law. Any legislation that empowers impoverishment of Nigeria and denies Nigerians enjoyment of collective wealth must be thrown into its rightful place, dust-bin of history.

We therefore call on all the three labour centres, NLC, TUC and CFTU, civil society organisations, student and youth groups, pro-people political parties and organisation, to commence various activities to drum loudly the people's objection and be prepared for popular resistance that will include strikes, demonstrations, rallies, etc.

However, as the experience of the last six years has shown, the working masses and their organisations must be prepared to get rid of this capitalist and pro-imperialist government with its anti-poor policies, including incessant increase in fuel price, astronomical rise in price of foodstuff, retrenchment of workers, privatisation, etc.

We, thus reiterate our long held call on the labour leaders, pro-people organisations and parties, change seeking individuals and socialists should, at communities, factories and workplaces, local, state and national levels as soon as practicable, convene conferences to discuss and fashion out a coherent economic and political alternatives to the prevailing unjust capitalist order. To that effect, those conferences should be geared towards the formation of a genuine working peoples party with rounded socialist programmes. The most correct and scientific lesson that can be drawn from the general strikes and protests that have been held so far in reaction to the policy of incessant hike in the fuel price is that the ultimate goal of the struggle should be the overthrow of capitalism represented by Obasanjo, the PDP and other pro-capitalist parties and its replacement by a workers and peasant government which only can potentially carry out pro-masses policies of affordable housing, free and qualitative education, healthcare, constant electricity, portable water, functional transport system amongst others.

Socialist Democracy Aug - Sept 2005