Nigerian masses face extreme hardship due to President Bola Tinubu’s policies

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) applauds all Nigerian workers, women, students, youth and the poor masses who have been protesting over the past weeks against the mounting hardship and elevating cost of living crisis that President Bola Tinubu and his corrupt and rotten cabinet have plunged all of us. We urge the working people and youth not to relent but continue to fight until all demands are won. These demands should include reversal of fuel price hike, reversal of tuition fee hike and end to all anti-poor policies, payment of a living wage to workers and the slash in the humongous salaries and allowances of political office holders. As well as this, we call for the nationalization of the key sectors of Nigeria’s economy under democratic workers’ ownership, control, and management.

While protests and demonstrations are good to show our anger at the situation, they need to be seen as the starting point of a long-term mass struggle to win change. Very urgently, we need to quickly begin to mobilize for a two-day general strike as the next step. This is with a view to ensure more far-reaching concessions are won that can bring real relief for the long-suffering working class, the youth, and the poor masses. Remember that this is not the first time we have fought against these brutal anti-poor policies. But due to a combination of factors including the lack of a coherent fighting programme and the habitual betrayal by the leadership of the trade union movement who usually suspends actions without winning concrete gains, it looks as if we have only been moving in circles without making any real progress.

Therefore, to prevent another suspension of actions before they win or agreement to a rotten compromise, we urge that the initiative of the struggle should not be simply left to the trade union leaders. To this extent, we urge all working people and radical youth and their organizations to begin to organize themselves in their workplaces, communities, and campuses into democratically constituted action committees.

These committees, if linked together across local government areas, states and nationally, can become the real power behind the mass movement and ensure that no bad compromise is possible. This can help to create a turning point in the situation by posing before the Tinubu regime the option of either conceding to the mass movement or allowing itself to be swept away. At mass meetings of the action committees, democratic discussion can be held from time to time about what strategies are needed not just to fight to sustain and win the present struggle but also what needs to be done to prevent hijack of the struggle or other forces like the military from stepping into the vacuum. This would be alongside vital questions of how to put an end to the capitalist system of exploitation, oppression and inequality which is the real root of the crises we face.


After about nine months in power, almost everybody, including the less than nine million who voted for him during the 2023 general elections, agrees that President Tinubu’s All Progressive Congress (APC) regime is an absolute disaster.

Just within the short space of time, Tinubu has ruled the country, headline inflation has jumped from about 22.04% percent in March 2023 to about 29.9 percent as of January 2024 leading to over 50% loss in the value of wages and income for vast majority of the population. Also, fuel price has increased from N167 per litre to about N600 to N700 per litre. The exchange rate which as of April last year was less than N500 to a dollar is now N1,825 to a dollar leading to sharp rise in the cost of all imported goods and services.

Consequently, many workers and artisans now trek to work because they cannot afford bus fares while many poor families now eat just once a day. Food inflation is far higher at about 32% according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Usually, a typical meal in many workers home is one of the most basic kinds, lacking any real nutrition because staple food like rice, beans, bread, meat, fish and dairy products have been priced beyond the reach of workers and lower sections of the middle class. Pictures and videos of men and women bursting into tears with some even fainting in front of market stalls because the money they brought with them for shopping suddenly became inadequate due to daily price increases are viral on social media highlighting the extent of the crises. According to a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) post-financing assessment of Nigeria, no fewer than 25 million (13 percent of the population) is food insecure.

As usual in a situation of deprivation and generalized want, children and the young have been hard hit by the unfolding crisis. University, polytechnics, and college of education students for instance have seen their tuition fee skyrocket alongside living cost. In one instance, tuition fee was increased from N140, 000 to N840, 000 a session at the OAUTHC, Ile Ife College of Nursing! Consequently, prostitution and crime have grown on campuses and students’ residential areas as many struggles to survive day by day. Several students are also on the brink of dropping out. In the communities, young people have resorted to increased drug use as the poorest of the poor are pushed even further down the cesspit of misery and destitution. It is hardly a coincidence that barbaric crimes like kidnapping, ritual killings, murder, domestic violence, as well as suicide, have increased exponentially within the same period almost in lockstep with the pace of the economic deprivation. This in a way again highlights the point socialists have always argued which is that the fate of Nigeria lies between either ‘socialism or barbarism’.


Without doubt, President Tinubu is immediately responsible for the current crisis. His choice of harsh neo-liberal, anti-poor and pro-capitalist policies are the reasons we are in this mess today. Where Buhari hesitated Tinubu jumped in the deep end. However, despite the hesitation, staying within the confines of capitalism means that Buhari himself proved to be a monumental failure.

The first step taken by Tinubu which set the country on this disastrous path was the announcement of removal of fuel subsidy on 29 May 2023. Crude oil is central to Nigeria’s economy both as the principal source of foreign exchange rate and government revenue as well as the main source of energy for powering homes, offices, industries, and movement from one place to another. Yet Nigeria at present has little or no capacity to refine crude oil for domestic use due to mismanagement of the four existing public refineries, while Dangote’s refinery isn’t really functioning at least now. By removing the subsidy, it meant that Nigerians now must start paying the full value of what it cost to ship crude oil halfway around the world to be refined and brought back for use in Nigeria. This is why petrol price reacted quickly by rising astronomically. Of course, we can’t also rule out price gouging by the petrol marketers and even the NNPC but the fundamental reason for the crisis was the removal of the subsidy.

The second step taken by President Tinubu which has plunged us into this mess was the devaluation of the naira in a vain attempt to unify the exchange rates at the official and the black markets. As a result of this policy, the naira has been falling in value every week and right now there is the possibility it could exchange for N3000 to one dollar by the end of the year.

The implication of this for a country with limited production capacity and where almost all items for daily needs including food, oil, electronics, cloths etc. are imported has been devastating. Prices of goods and services have skyrocketed ever since. The agricultural sector, which had already been devastated by flooding and insecurity, has been particularly hit due to farmers’ reliance on imported inputs like fertilizers, herbicides, and equipment thus provoking a further sharp rise in food prices. Farmers also must use commercial vehicles to move their produce from the farms to the cities for sale the result of which is that rising energy cost further feeds into rising food prices.

The above outline is perhaps the simplest way to describe the explosive crisis that we are now faced with but the situation is far more complex. Indeed, what has happened is that a President elected by the smallest margin of vote in Nigeria’s history decided to carry out one of the harshest neo-liberal reforms ever without any democratic discussion or agreement with the Nigerian people. By ending fuel subsidy and devaluing the currency at the same time, President Tinubu sent the economy into a chaotic situation and consequently a tailspin that would take years to recover from. In the intervening period, many lives will be ruined unless the unfolding mass struggle is able to stop President Tinubu in his track.

To be clear, not since the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) carried out by former military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, in 1986, have we seen this level of economic devastation misnamed as economic reform. So bad is the situation right now that several industries, both locally owned and multinational firms, have closed within the period under review leading to further job losses. This is a bitter irony considering that one of the reasons the capitalist elite who back President Tinubu’s on these disastrous policies have advanced is that this reform although painful is needed to attract foreign investment into the country.

The inflation is unprecedented by virtue of its scale and speed at which price changes. In fact, prices of goods and services are changing daily, and sometimes within hours. To stay ahead of the situation, shop keepers have now devised a strategy of first putting a call through to their suppliers to find out about the prevailing price before allowing a customer to complete a purchase. Now the IMF is now warning that headline inflation may increase this year to about 44 percent!


Despite the mass suffering we all face, the Bretton Woods institutions of global capitalism – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the World Bank – have hailed President Tinubu while urging him to go further. In a recent assessment of Nigeria, the IMF which is based in Washington DC observed the following: “The new administration has made a strong start, tackling deep-rooted structural issues in challenging circumstances. Immediately, it adopted two policy reforms that its predecessors had shied away from: fuel subsidy removal and the unification of the official exchange rates” (Cable, February 12, 2024). Prominent mouthpieces of world capitalism like the Financial Times, which issued a blistering editorial (Nigeria’s badly flawed election: March 1, 2023) that described Tinubu’s victory in the last elections as an electoral robbery, have also joined the orchestra transforming overnight into cheerleaders of the regime.

This reflects how all punditry about democracy and integrity of elections are only sound bites for imperialism. They will support any regime including that of a former drug baron or even a dictator once it serves the fundamental interest of imperialism which is to have in the neo-colonial world economies that are subservient to the world market. To achieve this, these global institutions utilize loan and other economic weapons to persuade plaint government and the capitalist elite in the neocolonial world to do their bidding in exchange for turning a blind eye to their rapacious looting. So, it is not a coincidence that in the same assessment report, the IMF noted that “staff assesses that Nigeria’s capacity to repay the Fund is adequate under the baseline”. According to data from the Debt Management Office, Nigeria owes the IMF the sum of $3.3 billion out of the huge sum of $20.8 billion it owes the consortium of international lenders which includes the World Bank Group and the African Development Bank Group. What the IMF is otherwise saying in the above-quoted statement is that even though many Nigerians including children are hungry, Nigeria is expected to continue to service the debt owed to it even when these loans were simply stolen by the country’s corrupt ruling elite to the knowledge of IMF and the World Bank!

In many ways, the aim of the current neo-liberal economic programme which President Tinubu is implementing on behalf of the IMF and World Bank echoes those advanced for SAP in 1986 which was to “reform” Nigeria’s foreign exchange system, trade policies, business, and agricultural regulations. The SAP strategy was based on the specious assumption that external financing will permit Nigeria to run current account deficits and thereby to achieve higher import levels and growth rates than would otherwise be possible. And as was the case in 1986 when SAP led to the destruction of Nigeria’s locally grown industrial base leading to the massive de-industrialization of the 1990s, the current economic reforms are already achieving the same purpose with enormous social and political repercussion for Nigeria and the region.


To be clear, none of the neo-liberal policies being imposed by Tinubu are new or personal to him. They have been on the agenda of Nigeria’s capitalist elite and their imperialist masters, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, for decades now but previous capitalist regimes have either been afraid to attempt it while those who did like Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan were forced by mass struggles to retreat. Obasanjo who ruled for eight years from 1999 to 2007 and is now one of the critics of the current regime, was confronted by some of the biggest general strikes in Nigeria’s history. Workers and the poor masses rose in nothing less than 10 general strikes and mass protests within a period of eight years against the Obasanjo regime for imposing similar neo-liberal economic programme. In fact, President Goodluck Jonathan was nearly ousted when a mass revolt quickly developed against him in January 2012 following an attempt to remove fuel subsidy. It was not a coincidence that former Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 general elections – his electoral defeat had become inevitable since the entire country turned against him during the mass revolt.

It was this fear of the anger of the Nigerian working masses and his embrace of a statist approach to capitalist reforms that made President Buhari despite all entreaties by the IMF and World Bank to refuse to fully remove fuel subsidy and completely float the currency, although that did not stop him from increasing fuel prices on several occasions. In fact, under President Buhari, the NNPC embarked on what is called under-recovery which it described as a home-grown version of the international programme of subsidy removal. Furthermore, all the three leading presidential candidates in the last election had subsidy removal in their campaign manifestoes. Atiku and to make matters worse, Peter Obi who claimed to be different, both promised to remove fuel subsidy, devalue the naira, and further privatise the economy amidst other pro-capitalist programmes.

Therefore, if either Atiku or Peter Obi had won the election instead of Tinubu, there is no doubt that not only would they have sought to go down the road of implementing the same pro-capitalist blueprint, but they would also have plunged the country into the kind of mess it is in today. This is why the working masses and angry youth cannot begin to exercise illusion in any section of the capitalist elite. What this crisis fully demonstrates is that no section of the capitalist elite has a real and genuine solution to the crisis plaguing Nigeria. While mass opposition can force temporary concessions, such small steps will not provide a lasting solution. Indeed, this crisis shows that any reform or programme aimed at solving Nigeria’s economic problems that does not go beyond the confines of capitalism will inevitably produce further contradictions while plunging the working people and poor masses further into misery.

This is especially the case due to the fact that the economic crisis in Nigeria reflects the international situation wherein the world economy is yet to fully recover from the collapsed growth suffered following 2007/2008 recessions while new crisis like the supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19 Pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and fluctuations in commodity prices caused by the ongoing war in Gaza have created further instability and the potential of another global recession.


Therefore, the only way out is to replace the rotten capitalist system with a socialist economic and political alternative. No doubt, the struggle to end suffering amid plenty in Nigeria has come a long way.

The only reason why we are facing the same problems today is that while our struggles in the past were so strong that they shut down the country, the fact that we left the capitalist system intact meant subsequent capitalist regimes that came into power simply went ahead to implement fundamentally the same ruinous programme once they felt confident enough to do so. The lesson to learn from this is that it is not enough to just fight for bread, we also must fight to take over the running of the bakery. The Nigerian working people and youth must fight both to win immediate concessions but also to begin to make the necessary political and organizational preparations to take over political power from the capitalist vampires, who have demonstrated their bankruptcy over and over again, and begin to run Nigeria in the interest of the mass majority. This would include forming and building a genuine mass workers’ party different from the present Labour Party which only has labour in name but instead acts in favour of the rich and corrupt capitalist politicians.

How such a new democratic and equitable Nigeria would be achieved, and run must be democratically discussed by the mass movement but what we socialists propose as a first step is that the key sectors of Nigeria’s economy like the banks and financial institutions, large industries and farms, oil refineries and mineral procession plants have to be placed under public ownership and democratic workers’ control and management. This is with a view to ensure that the country’s wealth which is often cornered by the capitalist elite, just one percent of the population, is made available to begin to fund the provision of free and democratically managed public education and healthcare as well as decent housing, living wage and a decent life for the mass majority of the working class and oppressed masses.

There is urgency in the situation in Nigeria that should not be ignored. Alongside the economic crisis that we face is the worsening crisis of insecurity and deepening of ethnic and religious divisions across the country. If the struggle of the working people fails to fundamentally transform Nigeria, there is a real possibility that the country can become enmeshed in violence with the possibility of state collapse and the country splintering into different parts. No section of the corrupt capitalist elite and not even the army no matter what they say has a genuine programme that can unite the country. The capitalist elite and the top hierarchies of the army are so corrupt as they are both guilty of jointly pillaging Nigeria’s wealth thereby creating conditions for its permanent crises and instability.

Therefore, we must look no further than ourselves to salvage Nigeria. Only a workers and poor peoples’ government armed with socialist programme can truly salvage Nigeria and ensure that a programme of economic, social, and national justice is implemented that can transform the country into a democratic and equitable entity where the interests of the mass majority become the object of governance. The coming to power of such a worker’s regime in Nigeria would act as a powerful example for the working masses and youth across the continent thus laying the basis for a Socialist confederation of African States which in turn will act as a powerful lever for the world socialist revolution to be birthed.


Reversal in the fuel price hike to pre-May 29 levels.

Reversal of all anti-poor and neo-liberal policies.

Reversal of recent hikes in school fees at tertiary institutions and for adequate funding and democratic management of public education at all levels.

Immediate fixing of public refineries and their democratic ownership and management by the working people.

A price-cap on all petroleum products from the Dangote refinery to ensure affordability.

For trade union-led actions to ensure price control and prevent price gouging and hoarding of food and other essentials.

For an increase in the national minimum wage to meet the rate of inflation.

Immediate cut in the salaries and allowances of political office holders.

Public ownership of the banks, financial institutions, industries, oil refineries under democratic workers control and management to ensure Nigeria’s economy works for the needs of all and not the greed of a few.

For the building of a genuine mass workers’ party with socialist programme


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February 2024