Nigeria: General strike against fuel price rises

For the third time in just over four years the Obasanjo regime has again increased the pump price of petroleum products from N26 per litre for petrol to N40 per litre, while kerosene and diesel are to sell for N38 per litre each. This current increment marks the fourth time when an Obasanjo government will be arbitrarily increasing the pump price of petroleum products. The first being on October 1, 1978, the second, June1, 2000, the third January1, 2002 and the present one announced on 20th June, 2003.

Today, June 30, a general strike, called by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) began in protest at the massive 54% increase in fuel oil prices. This was decreed by the newly re-elected President Obasanjo on June 20.
Early reports are that the strike is solid. Below is a report, written in Lagos on June 29, from the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) on the run-up to the general strike and the text of a leaflet issued on June 27 by the newly formed Joint Action Council Against Hike In Fuel Price (JACAHFP).
The JACAHFP was initiated by DSM members and involves the National Conscience Party (NCP), Committee For Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Moshood Abiola Vanguard For Democracy (MAVD), National Voice of Democrats (NVD), Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D, Centre For Free Speech (CFS), Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU), Persons with Disabilities Network (PEDANET), Code Red Foundation (CRF), Democracy Volunteers (DV).
Last week the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) paid for the printing of large numbers of the JACAHFP posters and leaflets. Further reports will be regularly posted on the DSM’s website www.socialistnigeria.org, with the text of the July edition of "Socialist Democracy" the DSM’s paper. The first print run of this 12 page edition was completely sold out by midday today.
The DSM website also has the text of the DSM’s 21 June statement on the fuel price increase.
Donations to assist in the work of the DSM can also be made on its website.
CWI Online

General strike against fuel price rise

Opposition rises to fuel price hike

On 20th June, 2003, the Obasanjo administration in Nigeria had once again increased, by about 54%, the prices of petroleum products consumed locally. The price of petrol was raised from N26 to N40 per litre, diesel from N26 to N38 and kerosene from N24 to N38. This is the third time that the regime has increased the prices of these products since it came to power in May 1999 at the end of military rule. At that time petrol was being sold at N20 per litre.

As usual, the increase has resulted in rise of transport costs, with fares increasing by between 50-100%. The prices of other goods and services would similarly rise in the coming weeks and months leading to further deterioration in the living standards of the working people. The increase was announced 23 days into the second term of President Obasanjo who was supposedly re-elected in a presidential election held on 19th April that was characterised by massive rigging. It is a foretaste of the further suffering awaiting the working masses in the remaining years of the Obasanjo presidency.

The excuse given by the government for this callous increment is that there is need to remove government "subsidy" on the products. It claims this so-called subsidy is about $250 million annually and the money saved from its removal will be used to improve education, health, roads and social services and infrastructures. The government also argue that the increases will encourage private investments in the petroleum industry and thus eliminate the incessant fuel shortage which the country experiences.

But these are the same reasons that has been given for every fuel price hike since 1986 when the General Babangida junta raised fuel prices as part of the regime’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). So, in reality, the recent hike is the continuation of the neo-liberal capitalist attacks on poor masses by the Obasanjo administration, the capitalist ruling class and imperialism.

The major reason for the fuel shortage is the collapse of the country’s four oil refineries. Though the government claims that it has spent a whooping sum of $700m (N89.6 billion) on their repairs in the last four years, yet the country still relies mainly on importation of refined fuel. In fact, a cartel has developed in the ruling class which makes millions of dollars of profit from fuel importation.

The fuel price hike has met widespread condemnation form every part of the country, particularly from among the working people. There have been street protests by transport workers in Kano and by students in Abeokuta (Obasanjo’s home town), Lagos and Benin.

On Tuesday, 24th June, the National Executive Committee of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) met and resolved to reject the increase. It also decided that workers should commence an indefinite nation-wide strike by Monday, 30th June, if the government fails to revert back to the old prices. But because of the unprincipled and half-hearted manner the NLC leadership has fought past increases (in June 2000 and January 2002) and its lack of serious fight back against other attacks on the working people, there is a lot of skepticism about their determination to decisively fight the latest increase. In June 2000, they called off the strike when it was at its peak and when more concession could have been won. There was very poor mobilisation for the January 2002 "indefinite" strike. After just two days, a court order against the strike was used as a face-saving measure by the NLC leadership to suspend the strike which could have collapsed, despite massive support on its first day, because of poor preparation and lack of serious determination to fight on the part of the labour leaders. No concession was won by that strike.

DSM Activity

While pressuring the NLC to organise decisive resistance against the latest increase, using our influence in the Lagos State chapter of the National Conscience Party (NCP), we have also initiated a united platform of ourselves, NCP, National Association of Nigerian Students, and human rights and pro-democracy groups to organise mass resistance. This body is called Joint Action Council Against Hike In Fuel Price (JACAHFP). It has held a press conference and produced posters and leaflets to mobilise the working people. It has called for a mass rally and protests in Lagos on Monday, 30th June, 2003. Segun Sango, who is the general secretary of DSM as well as chairman of NCP in Lagos State, is the coordinator of JACAHFP. In the past few days, he has been interviewed by newspapers and spoken many times on television. In the morning of Monday 30th June, he will be interviewed in a live programme by another TV station in Lagos.

Before this the DSM had issued a statement condemning the increase and explaining the way for the working people to fight it. This was reported in one of the country’s leading national newspaper, The Guardian, on 22nd June. In addition, we have just produced a new edition of our paper, Socialist Democracy, and prominence is given to the issue of the fuel price increase. Remarkably, 347 copies of the edition have been sold in Lagos within 48 hours of its publication during the mobilisation for the protests.


Text of a leaflet issued on June 27 by the newly formed Joint Action Council Against Hike In Fuel Price (JACAHFP). CWI online.

Fight the hike in fuel price

The traditional excuse for all these increases has always been the need to remove the ever present government "subsidy" on petroleum products and make petroleum products available. An excuse which has been shown over time to be patently false.

While the prices of petroleum products have been increased on about thirteen occasions between 1974 and 2002 from 84/5 kobo to N26 per litre (representing a percentage increase of 29,445.46%) the minimum wage of the very few Nigerians lucky to be in employment have been increased on only four occasions (representing a mere 9,666.67%) thereby further leaving the vast majority of working masses in hunger, poverty, penury, ignorance, disease and impoverishment.

Whereas Nigerians have been continuously made to pay more for fuel year in year out, the trend in most advanced countries of the world has been the exact opposite with consumers having to pay comparatively lower prices over the years in these countries. For example, in the United State of America (USA) in 1981 a litre of petrol sold for 35 cents a litre while the same litre of petrol sold for 31 cents in January, 2002. In Canada a litre of petrol in 1990 sold for 47 cents while same was sold for 35 cents in 1998, in Japan in 1990 a litre of petrol was 79 cents while in 1998 it sold for 71 cents, the same thing for Taiwan where a litre of petrol sold was 62 cents in 1990 and 48 cents in 1998. In Nigeria on the other hand, a litre of fuel which stood at 151/3 kobo as at 1981 had, by 1990, gone up to 60 kobo and by 1999 become N20 per litre.

Instead of repairing the nation’s four refineries on which Obasanjo claimed to have spent a whooping $900 million dollars on, the government have been importing fuel into the country through their friends, families, multinational corporations and making millions of dollars in profit at the expense of the Nigerian masses.

Obasanjo must not be allowed to get away with this crime. Nigerians must arise to reject the increase because:

  • The reasons given for the increase is the same perennial, recycled and false reasons that have been adduced for previous increases by the Obasanjo regime and past governments.
  • Contrary to the rosy pictures of expected gains being painted by government over this counter-productive and World Bank/IMF inspired policy, the increment as usual will lead to further economic depression with its attendant widespread poverty amongst the people. The current increment will surely worsen the unemployment situation and this with the attendant escalation of crimes of all sorts. Already, price of transportation has gone up by as much as 100% in many places. The prices of other goods and services will certainly go up.
  • The logic behind the increase appears to be to inflict further pains on the Nigerian masses, make life more miserable for them and make more money available for looting and stealing by those in government and oil merchants
  • If Obasanjo gets away with this crime, he will be further emboldened to implement other anti-poor and anti-masses policies like commercialization of education, privatisation of NEPA, NITEL, scrapping of local governments etc.

The Joint Action Council Against Hike In Fuel Price (JACAHFP), calls on the masses – workers, market women, okada riders, commercial vehicle operators, students, artisans and all the oppressed masses to come out en masse on Monday, 30th June, 2003 and say a categorical no to the increment in the prices of petroleum products.

We call on the Nigerian people to demand and call for-

  • Total and immediate cancellation of the increment.
  • Immediate and full reactivation of the nation’s refineries.
  • Immediate and genuine war on corruption in the petroleum and other sectors of the economy.
  • Immediate mass resistance against the callous and unjustifiable increment.
  • Immediate resignation of Obasanjo and Atiku, all state governors and recycled public officers who support the present hike in prices of petroleum products.
  • The immediate convocation of a genuinely democratically elected Sovereign National Conference (SNC).

WHAT TO DO

  1. Participate and take active part in the protests in your street/neighbourhood by ensuring the enforcement of the peaceful protest
  2. Put in place an Action committee in your street/neighbourhood.
  3. Ensure that the protests do not degenerate into violence or hijacked by hoodlums.
  4. Educate people and spread the message of the protest action in your neighbourhood.
  5. In case of any arrest or police brutality in your area, get in touch with the Joint Action Council Against Hike In Fuel Price (JACAHFP) through the following phone numbers- 08023133045, 08023180522, 08033080526, 08034723625, 08033219272, 08033044617, 080232246233, 08033147440, 08033044618, 08034046272

Read, reproduce and pass on to others

 

Joint Action Council Against Hike In Fuel Price (JACAHFP)

Sponsored by – National Conscience Party (NCP), Committee For Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Moshood Abiola Vanguard For Democracy (MAVD), National Voice of Democrats (NVD), Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D, Centre For Free Speech (CFS), Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU), Persons with Disabilities Network (PEDANET), Code Red Foundation (CRF), Democracy Volunteers (DV)

Lagos 27th June 2003

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