Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

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13 May 2016

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HIKE IN FUEL PRICE TO N145 IS THE HEIGHT OF INSENSITIVITY AND CRUELTY

SPN DEMANDS IMMEDIATE REVERSAL TO N86.50

FOR A 72-HOUR GENERAL STRIKE

NLC, TUC AND PRO-LABOUR GROUPS MUST RESIST DEREGULATION OF THE OIL INDUSTRY

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns in strong terms the 67% hike in the price of fuel to N145 and hereby demands an immediate and unconditional reversal to the original price of N86.50k.

SPN rejects in totality the reasons and excuses giving for the unjustified increment which in the final analysis would only favour the rich – particularly the small cabal – that runs the oil industry for their selfish profit motive and further pauperize the poor working masses. In particular, the suggestion by Minister of State for Petroleum that the price is being jacked up so that the prices could come down later is a lie as previous deregulations had never led to a reduction or return to old prices. In addition Vice President Osinbajo's recent hints of another naira devaluation would, if carried out, mean further price rises under the Buhari's government's "price modulation" method of setting fuel prices.

Also ridiculous is the suggestion that it is the relative low price of the fuel in Nigeria that is encouraging smuggling of the petroleum products to neighbouring countries. If this is true, then it means Nigerians must be prepared for further increases anytime any of these countries, which by the way are non-oil producing like Nigeria, increase their fuel price.

This hike, therefore, has clearly shown that, despite cosmetics, the fundamentals of the Buhari government's policies are as anti-people/masses as the previous governments that followed the same infamous path of price increases in the name of privatization and deregulation. It has now turned out that this government lied to the people when some months back it claimed that it was going to end scarcity in April, then later in May 2016, without hiking the pump price except through minor adjustment of "price modulation". The opposite is what has manifested and it would seem as if the scarcity was induced also as part of the game plan to force the people to buy fuel at an exorbitant rate for a period only to increase the pump price through a regime of deregulation.

It should be recalled that this same government had in February 2014 increased the electricity tariff by at least 45% despite the overwhelming blackout across the federation. That decision and the current one show that the parasitic ruling class is not in any way affected by these anti-policies and attacks because they have shielded themselves through various privileged means (looting, jumbo allowance/salaries, inflated contracts etc.) and will not bother about the poor condition of the masses.

This government, just like the previous ones, has refused to build refineries and failed to turn around the existing refineries because it does not want to undermine the profit interest of the private marketers and their privileged public collaborators/officials. Hence, the Buhari government who rode to power on the 'change' mantra has begun to demonstrate what it truly stands for – the sustenance of the anti-poor status quo.

The anti-poor policies being churned out by the Buhari government is not only a betrayal of the expectations of many Nigerians who voted for this government, it is also gross insensitivity considering the fact that the working masses can hardly meet basic needs due of the rising cost of living and overwhelming poverty. This increment is indeed coming at a time when the minimum wage remains a paltry N18, 000; when workers' salaries are not being paid regularly or not paid at all in most states of the federation and when pensioners are languishing in penury due to unpaid pensions.

One year into the life of the administration, there has been no visible infrastructural development especially roads. Some universities have recently been shut down following students' protests over collapsing facilities and absence of power supply. Small and medium scale industries continue to operate at losses due to high energy costs.

It is in the above regard that the philosophy that the continuous existence of the people can only be tied to the profit being made by a privileged few must be challenged and defeated by the labour movement and its allies. In other words, it is unacceptable that the Nigerian society should be turned into a business empire that a few must profit from at the expense of the basic needs of the vast majority.

The capitalist ruling elite has deliberately refused to build additional public refineries as well as turn around the existing 4 refineries to work optimally because doing the contrary will conflict with the private interest they serve. And it is not as if the resource is not there to do this. For instance, 18,000 political office holders at all levels of government is costing the entire economy N1.4 trillion annually and twice this amount can build a big refinery.

The Buhari government is simply showing itself as a government of private profiteers by continuing to unleash anti-peoples' policies (privatization, deregulation etc.) that were responsible for the current economic crises being experienced by the vast majority.

The only way out of this predicament is the nationalization of the oil industry as well as other commanding heights of the economy, plan the economy to meet the needs of the people, introduce democratic control and management by workers and consumers to instill efficiency, discipline and undermine corruption. This is the only way to free the economy from the present rapacious, greedy and parasitic few whose role in society is not only self-serving but also retrogressive.

In view of all this, labour movement should lead workers and masses not only to call for the reversal of the fuel price increase but also rejection of policy of deregulation and building of refineries by the government. The demands must also include reversal of electricity tariff increase and payment of salaries and pension arrears.

We therefore propose that NLC and TUC should to commence immediate mobilization of workers and the masses for a 72 hour general strike in the first instance together with a series of mass actions around the above demands. This would be the first step which, if the government does not back down, would have to be quickly escalated. We agree with the NLC's May 11 call on its "affiliates, state councils and civil society allies … to commence mobilization immediately." This is vital if a serious campaign is going to be launched. Concretely this should include the rapid forming of democratic strike/action committees of workers and community people as well as other social groups at all levels whose responsibility is to plan, mobilise and sensitize the masses. There should be mass production of sensitization materials to mobilise the masses; mass meetings of workers and the poor should be convoked at different levels to plan the fight back. More than ever before, the unity of the trade unions centres and affiliates are needed to fight this cause.

In making this call however, SPN will like to point out that all decisions on the duration; call-off etc. of the proposed strike action must be democratically taken with the full participation of the unions and other working class allies. This is to avoid a situation where the strike would be called off without consultation at the point of victory as it happened in January 2012 during the nationwide protest over increase in fuel prices by the Jonathan government.

For us at the SPN, the most important lesson of this latest attack by Buhari government for workers and masses is that Buhari cannot bring about real change. It also shows that, at root, there is no fundamental difference between APC and PDP. Therefore, there is urgent need for labour movement to begin the process of forming and building of a mass working peoples party on socialist program. We call on workers and masses to join us to struggle for this demand and also in building the SPN to provide striking example of a working people alternative in the absence of a mass party.

Segun Sango
National Chairperson
Chinedu Bosah
National Secretary