United Action for Democracy, the pan-Nigerian coalition of radical civic organisations which SWL is affiliated to responds to the draconian hike in the price of fuel pump price on May 11. Below is the text of its media briefing at the National Action Centre, Wuse II, Abuja, on May 12.
United Action for Democracy unequivocally condemns the 67.6% hike in fuel pump price announced yesterday by Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum. It is the height of recent attacks on poor working class-people by a government that was elected on the platform of “change”, which evoked hope for many, that the lives of the immense majority of the population would be improved.
UAD salutes the consistency of the Nigeria Labour Congress in rejecting the increment, despite the Federal Government’s shameless and deceitful attempt to make it appear that the trade union centres support this heinous act. We welcome the avalanche of denunciations of the increment by civic organisations.
We must now match our stance with mass action to resist this pump price hike, which is one pump price hike, too many, for many reasons.
- Since 1986, when the military junta led by General Ibrahim Babangida increased the price of fuel from 20kobo to 39.5kobo, as part of the nefarious IMF and World Bank-inspired Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), different governments manning the Nigerian state have hiked the pump price of petroleum products, to the detriment of poor Nigerians. They have proffered seemingly diverse reasons from “appropriate pricing” to “removal of fuel subsidy”;
- Time and again, organised labour and progressive intellectuals have argued with facts and figures that what all of these have amounted to is the further pauperisation of poor working class-people, on the basis of faulty ideologically-driven “economic” justifications;
- More importantly, the working masses and youth have always taken their destiny in their hands, winning limited victories with partial reversals of the increments. The January 2012 mass protests was the most significant of these. In their millions, Nigerian workers, urban poor, farmers, women and youth participated in a general strike and mass demonstrations across the length and breadth of the country, forcing the then government to concede some ground;
- The coterie of strange bedfellows that today constitute the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) opportunistically joined the ranks of Nigerian masses on the streets. They not only condemned the Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP government for such an insensitive action, they would later ride on the crest of the mass anger from the January Uprising moment to power, with a mantra of “change”;
- It is now obvious that the “change” they represent is not unlike that of Rehoboam. Where we were chastised with whips and resisted, the APC government of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) chooses to chastise us with scorpions. And in its utter buffoonery, it assumes we will keep mute. In less than a year in government at the federal level and with 24 out of the 36 states in the federation under its control, the APC has;
(a) increased electricity tariffs, with a further 45% in February, despite mass outcry against this;
(b) failed woefully in several states to pay workers’ salaries, despite the ostentatious lifestyles of its governments’ functionaries. The bailout funds for salaries misappropriation by almost all the states’ governments that drew from it shows that the problem is simply that, the plight of poor working class-people is not anywhere near the top of the APC governments’ priorities;
(c) made it clear that it is against an upward review of the national minimum wage, through a statement by Governor Abdul’aziz Yari of Zamfara state calling for a downward review, on behalf of the National Governors’ Forum, which got the tacit endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari during his media briefing on December 30, 2015;
- It is woeful enough that the APC has failed to live up to any of its campaign promises, a quarter of the road into its mandate. It is however even more despicable that it presents the concerns of poor Nigerians with blood in our veins as mere statistics, as if of inanimate beings. Real wages have fallen by over 52%. Inflation at 12.8% is at a 4-year high. And costs of living keep skyrocketing. How then does the APC government expect poor working class-people to pick up the rising bills it is foisting on us? Does this avalanche of cut-throat pricing not undermine its much vaunted commitment to tackling the menace of corruption?
- The particularly burning issue of pump price increment announced on Wednesday is as ludicrous as it is ruthless. Contrary to what has been reported in some quarters, the issue at stake is not one of the removal of fuel subsidy. The federal government announced at the turn of the year that it had removed fuel subsidy. With the price of crude oil at rock bottom, it considered that a strategically apt time to take that step of a backdoor removal of subsidy, questionable enough as that position might be;
- The reason adduced for this blatantly reprehensible increase is the cost of sourcing foreign exchange in the black market, by importers of petroleum products. The professed justification for this wobbly argument is that it will put paid to the intractable fuel scarcity that has now come to assume a perennial status. But a closer look at this Machiavellian rationalisation shows that the APC is basically serving the interests of local bosses and transnational corporations by using the means of contrived hardships for the people, to arrive at the ends of making us to pay for the crises of the ruling elites and their system;
(a) In April, Mr Kachikwu, on his facebook page claimed that: “I have been able to convince the upstream companies to provide some FX buffer over the next one year for those who are bringing in products”. What happened in a space of barely a month?
(b) the “upstream companies” he referred to are transnational oil corporations such as Total and Shell that have siphoned billions of dollars from Nigeria over the years, as “profit” as well as in the form of illicit financial flows. Is it a big deal as Mr. Kachikwu made it seem, that the forex buffer gotten from these companies when he stressed the fact that this was being done “for the first time in this country”?
(c) Why did the NNPC withhold $4.2 billion, being 66 percent-of the value of the oil sold in the last six months of 2016 from the federation account (14% more than was the case in the first six months) and what has happened to this?
In the light of the foregoing, United Action for Democracy, finds no justifiable reason for the pump price increment. We consider this act as a brutal affront against poor Nigerians who are basically being called upon to bear the brunt for big business.
We equally note that, this is characteristic of the neoliberal regime of capitalism with its heartless commitment to: privatisation, cuts in social spending and deregulation. The global economic crisis which Nigeria is embroiled in as well shows the unsustainability of this system. This is why the UAD has always called for SYSTEM CHANGE. We cannot get out of the crisis using the same methods that have led to it and are indeed inherent to its logic of development.
This odious attack, which has a common spirit with the spread of austerity measures being pursued by the ruling elites in different countries represents an attempt to make poor working class-people pay the cost of the crisis of the bosses. The only response to stop it in its tracks is STIFF RESISTANCE.
Thus, UAD categorically demands:
- The immediate and unconditional reversal of PMS (petrol) to N86.50 with immediate effect;
- A public audit of the NNPC’s cash flow, involving trade unions, professional associations and civic organisations;
- Nationalisation of the petroleum industry and its democratic management and control by, and for working class-people;
- An end to the wave of anti-poor people neoliberal policies of privatisation and deregulation. Putting people before profit;
- Enactment of a N56,000 national minimum wage act
The battle ahead is one that requires the unity and tenacious struggle of working class-people across the country. UAD shall work assiduously with the NLC, TUC and their affiliates in mounting mass protests in support of an indefinite general strike, which must be considered apt at this juncture. We equally call on all other progressive forces for us to join forces to rollback this insidious act and defeat the systemic marginalisation, exploitation and oppression of the working masses.
United Action for Democracy affiliates and State Chapters across the country will commence sensitization rallies and processions, towards effecting our demands, as we call for the deepening of resistance.
WE ARE MANY! THEY ARE FEW!!
The People United, cannot be Defeated!!!
United Action for Democracy