…Says it Further Burdens the Poor …Unemployment Rose by 12.5% to 55.7% in Less than two Years …N50 Billion Support for Informal Sector Insufficient …Deregulation and Privatisation of Public Utilities is Anti-People Three frontline groups, the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), Socialist Workers and Youth League and Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), have slammed the administration
…Says it Further Burdens the Poor
…Unemployment Rose by 12.5% to 55.7% in Less than two Years
…N50 Billion Support for Informal Sector Insufficient
…Deregulation and Privatisation of Public Utilities is Anti-People
Three frontline groups, the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), Socialist Workers and Youth League and Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), have slammed the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari over the recent fuel price hike, calling for mass action to resist the move which they argue is a continuation of economic hardship on the people. But the government has hinged the price hike to the Covid-19 vaccine recently produced by Pfyzer.
In a statement signed by its Co-conveners, Mr Baba Aye and Mr Gbenga Komolafe, CORE condemns what it calls “the wicked increase of fuel pump price for the third time this year,” saying that, “It goes to confirm the fact that the APC-led regime does not have the good interest of the poor masses at heart.”
The organisation which spearheaded last year’s #RevolutionNow Protest, says this a hard pill for the people already groaning from economic hardship.
“Working-class people are facing a barrage of economic attacks. The composite unemployment rate rose by 12.5% in less than two years to 55.7% in the second quarter of 2020. And tens of thousands of those who still have jobs have faced wage cuts.
“Many small and medium-scale operators in the informal economy have been ruined. Credit facilities have dried up along with their stocks of goods and capital. The N50bn support for the informal economy is both insufficient and not accessible for the bulk of working people in the sector,” it argues
Core maintains that despite all these, state governments have also further burdened the poor. “Several states have been illegally making deductions of up to 20% from the salaries of public sector workers, for some nebulous COVID-19 funds.
“The Kaduna state government, which is one of those guilty of this anti-poor crime has taken a step further by introducing a N1,000 annual levy on all residents. And the Kogi state government was forced to reverse a levy on loaves of bread only because of the mass outcry it received,” it claims.
Wallowing in Poverty
CORE says, “This situation cannot be allowed to go on. We cannot be made to keep wallowing in poverty while a few rich elites keep getting richer. Just three billionaires in the country have as much wealth as half of the population, according to Oxfam, while 105 million people live in abject poverty.”
It argues that, “The policies of deregulation and liberalisation of the economy serves the interest of these rich elites and the international financial institutions. It is no secret for example, that Aliko Dangote stands to benefit from the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry,” adding that, “The federal government had also assured IMF that it would strictly uphold neoliberal policies of deregulation when it secured loan facility from the international financial institution in March.”
“We, the poor masses, must not allow ourselves to be sacrificed on the altar of the profit-seeking dictates of imperialist forces and the local ruling elites. We can stop these only through struggle. The EndSARS movement showed that when we stand up together, we are powerful. It also show how more powerful workers and youth united to fight could be.
“A general strike along with the mass protests would have brought the dictatorial regime to its knees, undermining its capacity for repression which it brought to bear on the protesting youths as a massacre,” CORE observes
Trade Union Bureaucracy
While noting that, “The working-class is the backbone of poor people’s power,” it regretted that, “the trade union bureaucracy has put a brake on this power that is greater than the hoarded gold of the bosses. Rank and file workers must put pressure on union leaders to fight. It is bad enough that NLC and TUC called off the strike earlier fixed for 28 September without any significant concessions and to the disappointment of workers and the poor masses.”
It warns that, “Failure to act now to protest the latest hike in fuel price and increasing economic hardships would be betrayal of historic proportions,” urging that, “Rank and file workers, local branch and state council union leaders have to speak out now and call for a general strike and mass protests without delay.”
“If we don’t fight now, the regime and the elite class it represents would be further emboldened to make our lives even nastier and more brutish. Our fate lies in our hands! The people united and determined cannot be defeated!!,” the organisation says.
Show of Insensitivity
Speaking in the same vein, the Socialist Workers and Youth League in a statement titled, “Resist the Fuel Price Hike: A Call for Mass Action,” and signed by its National Chair, Mr Frances Akinjole and National Secretary, Mr Lai Brown, says, the hike in fuel price by the Pipeline and Petroleum Marketing Company (PPMC) is “a show of insensitivity”.
“The current increment brings fuel price to N170 per litre. That is coming barely 10 weeks after the last increment which was introduced in September. Basically, in the last 5 months the price of fuel has been changed 5 times.
“The incessant hikes in fuel price further inflicts and unnecessary hardships on working-class people. Meanwhile, in the last 10 months alone the Maj. Gen. (Rted) Buhari-led government has launched a series of political and economic attacks on the masses. The Value Added Tax (VAT) was increased just some weeks into the year which spiked the inflation rate. Meanwhile purchasing power of the working-class people has dropped. Workers are still not paid the legislated N30,000 minimum wage in not less than 11 States,” it notes .
“And all of these are coming in the period when COVID-19 crisis has aggravated the socioeconomic hardships working people are confronted with. A lot of workers both in the informal and formal sectors are being faced with serious hunger crisis, that some literally died of hunger. Yet the bosses in government hid COVID-19 relief materials away from the masses.
“The incessant fuel hike has ripple effects on the economy particularly as it concerns the poor and working-class people. We have seen how the increment in the last 4 months has resulted in hikes in food prices and unstable transportation cost.
Disputing the idea of market forces determining prices, the Socialist League says, “Obviously, the idea that market forces control the price under neoliberal capitalism is a total gimmick. Apparently, a few bosses control the prices and distribution. In the context of the fuel economy in Nigeria the few bosses are big business people in the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and their allies in government.
“We must recall that the hike done in September which brought the fuel price to N151.6 per litre came about a day after the chair of IPMAN, Adetunji Oyebanji mentioned that fuel price should be N155 per litre. Similarly, immediately the PPMC announced the increase of ex-depot price from N147.67 to N155.17 per litre on Thursday, IPMAN equally declared a new fuel price between N168 to N170 per litre. Evidently the market forces in this context are the bosses.”
The league contends that, “Clearly the elites in government and in business in Nigeria are resolved on making living unbearable for the workers, youth, artisans and unemployed. They are ready to put their profits over us and our basic needs.
“But if there is just one thing the #EndSARS revolt demonstrated to us, it is that the power to change the status quo is in our hands. Also, that we must fight to win our total liberation and break from the grip of these oppressors and the system of capitalism,” the organisation quips.
“That place both historical and moral responsibility before the leadership of the labour centers and the various labour unions to provide leadership to the yearning of the working-class people. After all current realities have shown the social dialogue approach to have huge limitations and not enough.
NLC & TUC
“It is against that backdrop that we urge the NLC, TUC and all trade unions to work with other radical groups within the labour movement to embark on national strike to resist the fuel price hike and other socioeconomic attacks on the people.
“And to that end we call on the workers, students, unemployed youth, artisans and traders to unite and fight alongside each other to get rid of the oppressive regime and change the exploitative system for one that put the working-class people first,” it says..
Also asking workers, youth and the poor masses to resist deregulation and privatisation, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), in a statement by its Acting National Chairperson, Mr Abiodun Bamigboye and National Secretary, Mr Chinedu Bosah, condemns the increase in petrol price from N162 to N170 per litre.
“We also condemn the electricity tariff hike by over 100%. These hikes are increasingly unaffordable and rising living conditions are unbearable for the vast majority. We call on the working people and youth to resist these attacks which are bound to continue unabatedly as long as capitalist neo-liberal policies are implemented,” it says.
SPN says, it “demands a reversal of petrol price to N87 per litre, electricity tariff to N13 kWh and an end to privatization and deregulation policies. We demand the building of new refineries, fixing of the existing refineries, provision of basic infrastructure in the power sector and other sectors of the economy “
It posits that, “The Buhari-led capitalist government adopted, just like its predecessors, the anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist policies, which are responsible for the perennial criminal hikes because it protects the profit interest of the privileged big business at the expense of the vast majority. It is the implementation of these capitalist policies that have created mass poverty, mass unemployment and mass misery and simultaneously created a handful billionaires.”
On the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic, SPN is of the view that the conditions of millions of workers have been calamitously affected through mass sack, redundancy and cuts in salaries. “Cost of living is skyrocketing, for instance, the price of a bag of 50kg rice is about N30,000, the value of the minimum wage that is yet to be implemented by many states.
“The Buhari-led government has failed to develop the economy despite its promises, infrastructure remains in a terrible state including the failure to fix existing refineries and build new ones. The power sector infrastructure remains comatose and many communities plunged into deeper darkness despite spending over $20 billion in the last 13 years.
“The government lack the capacity to develop the economy because it pursues the ambition and interest of a few local and international profiteers at the expense of the vast majority. The working masses are being forced to pay for the failure of the capitalist ruling elite.
“The rotten deal/agreement entered into by the Ayuba Wabba-led Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows clearly that the rightwing labour leaders have openly taken side with the oppressive Buhari regime against workers and the poor masses,” the party explains..
While condemning the acceptance of the neo-liberal policies of deregulation and privatization by the national leadership of both NLC and TUC, the SPN says,.”This explained why they shamelessly called off the last planned September 2020 general strike against the hikes in fuel price electricity tariff and have been silent over the latest increases.”
It calls on individual trade unions and workers to reject “the reactionary action and position of the central leadership, call for its reversal and fight for a democratically run trade unions as well as NLC and TUC with a fighting leadership that defends the interests of workers and the poor masses. Workers should in the meantime consistently mount pressure on labour leaders to declare a general strike against the current hikes in fuel prices and electricity tariff and other anti-poor policies of the Buhari government.”
“Therefore, we call on workers, youth and the poor masses to begin to organize in communities and workplaces in order to resist the growing attacks on our living and working conditions, resist petrol and electricity price hikes as well as poor power supply and exploitative crazy billing.
NEPA & PHCN
“The struggle on electricity in communities has to be linked to a demand for the return of power sector to the public given the monumental failure of electricity privatization. However, to avert the debacle of the old NEPA and PHCH, a new renationalized power company has to be put under democratic control of workers and consumers and thereby guarantee the judicious use of resources and a regular power supply
“By and large, for the economy to achieve sustainable development, the commanding heights of the economy (banks, steel, aviation, maritime, oil and gas etc) have to be nationalized under democratic control and management of workers and consumers.
“We, therefore, call on trade unions, working people and youth to join the SPN in order to build it as a mass working peoples’ political party on a socialist programme to wrest political power from the thieving capitalist ruling elite, build a mass movement to defeat capitalism and use the human and material resources of Nigeria for the benefit of the vast majority,” the organisation admonishes..
Minister of State for Petroleum Resource, Mr Timipre Sylva has attributed hike in pump price of petrol to breakthrough in COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer.
He said the announcement of the breakthrough led to slight increase of the product at the international level, which led to the adjustment of fuel price in Nigeria.
Sylva, who spoke in Abuja shortly after a meeting with President Buhari, said what happened recently was because of the announcement of a vaccine for COVID-19 by Pfizer.
He said with that, crude oil prices went up a little bit, which necessitated adjustment.
Sylva stated that “if you have been following crude oil prices, you would have seen that crude oil prices went up a little bit as a result of this announcement.
“So, when crude oil prices go up a little bit, then you will see that (it will) instantly reflect on the price of petrol, which is a derivative of crude oil.”
He explained that the price of crude oil is determined by the force of demand and supply at the international level.
Sylva, also a former Bayelsa State Governor, said since the nation had deregulated the downstream sector, the international prices of crude oil now determined how much the product would be sold locally in Nigeria.
“When the price of crude oil goes up, then it means that the price of the fixed stock has gone higher; it will also affect the price of the refined product and that is why you see that product prices are usually not static, it depends on the price of crude oil which goes up and down.
“That is why we say, deregulate so that as the price goes up or down, you begin to go up and down as well at the pump. Before now, we fixed it – which was not optimal for us as a country,” he explained.