Nigeria: Oppose the hike in fuel prices

Press statement of Lagos NCP

This week the Obasanjo government has pushed through a further 50% plus increase in fuel prices, bringing the price for a litre of petrol to around N74 (about 55 US cents) compared with N22 when it first came into office in 1999. Members of the CWI in Nigeria in the Democratic Socialist Movement, the CWI in Nigeria, are active in the National Conscience Party (NCP) and on 25th August the Lagos State Chapter of the NCP issued the following statement opposing the latest increase.

Oppose the hike in fuel prices

Labour, civil society organizations and pro-masses political parties must mobilize against the proposed fuel hike, and for regime and system change

The latest proposed hike in the prices of the petroleum products by Obasanjo’s regime despite the soaring incomes from crude oil sales shows the utter insensitivity of this regime towards the plight of the poor working masses and the economy. If at all it could be debated that the government meant well with its neo-liberal policies, this singular action shows that it does not.

Let no one be deceived, this increment, like others, is bound to wreck incalculable havoc on the economy and the living standard of the poor working people. Like all previous ones, this increment will instantly hike up the cost of goods and services without corresponding increment in incomes of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians. This pro-capitalist and counter-productive policy will, as usual, only yield a harvest of mass retrenchment, high waves of crimes, prostitution, etc. We consequently call on the working masses, organised labour (NLC, TUC, CFTU), Civil Society Organisations and pro-masses political parties like NCP to immediately come together with a view to work out a joint programme of action to fight this increment.

However, for this struggle to be successful, the neo-liberal policy of incessant fuel hike must not be treated as an isolated or incidental occurrence but rather, as a manifestation of the overall pro-rich, and anti-poor agenda of the Obasanjo capitalist government. This, we must stress, has once again underlined the necessity for the working masses to struggle for regime and system change in order to end the prevailing mass poverty in the midst of super abundance.

For this reason, it would therefore be necessary for those opposed and willing to fight these policies to equally come up with a coherent, pro-masses alternative economic and political policies. In other words, for every neo-liberal, anti-poor policy of the ruling parties at central and state levels, there must be a coherent and alternative economic policy and proposals that fully reflect the needs of the working people. Simultaneously too, there is the necessity, while fighting the day-to-day anti-poor policies of the government to equally develop practical and strategic measures that will enable the masses to put in place a government of the people that will replace the current self-serving capitalist politicians at all levels of power.

Labour opposition

The opposition of the labour leaders to the proposed increment is encouraging. Regrettably however, their tones still reveal a fundamental lack of understanding and/or refusal to face the bitter reality that this government and the system it defends can not be “reformed” to implement policies in the interest of the working masses, and the fact that only a determined mass revolutionary struggle which is aimed at removing from power capitalist politicians and their replacement with a working peoples’ government can bring to an end the unjust system which condemns the vast majority of people to deeper poverty in the face of stupendous income and wealth.

Therefore, for the current agitation against this increase to have full enthusiastic support of the working people support across the country, labour leaders need to give assurance of their preparedness to prosecute this struggle to the most logical conclusion without reaching any rotten compromise with the state. That they would not demobilize the movement like they did last November when a planned general strike against fuel price hike was called off at the last minute ostensibly in obedience to court order. Up till now, the demoralising consequence of that “call off” is still very deep among the vast majority of the working masses and in fact must have been a factor emboldening the ruling class and oil cartels to come up with this provocative increase, banking on a labour leadership not prepared to fight to challenge the status quo. However, this particular increment, against the background of the devastating effects which previous increases had on the economy and people’s living standard plus the fact that the country has been making unprecedented incomes from crude oil sales has provoked widespread objections and condemnation across the country.

Here, we note that many pro-establishment institutions and personalities like the National Assembly, manufacturers, industrialists, clerics, sections of mass media, etc. have condemned the proposed increment. However, as key beneficiaries of the rotten unjust capitalist system, these elements cannot be relied on to provide a reliable support and consistent opposition needed for the struggles that must be waged to defeat this provocative anti-poor policy

We in the NCP therefore advocate the immediate formation of Struggle/Action Committees in work places, communities and among the students professional bodies etc with a view to carry out mass mobilisation, enlightenment and coordination needed for a successful and protracted mass action.

If the labour movement conducts a focused and determined mass actions, not only that this regime can be forced to back out of this increment, in fact, the struggle could go a long way to lay a basis for the immediate termination of this regime tenure as well as putting an end to its perennial pro-imperialist anti-poor policies.

Dare to fight, dare to win.

CWI note: Segun Sango is also General Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement)

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August 2005