The APC regime of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has hit the ground running with a whip of anti-poor policies, aimed at repressing working-class people for capitalists. The first in the series of attacks against the poor masses was launched at his inauguration when he declared an immediate removal of the fuel subsidy, despite the fact that allocation for the said subsidy is included in the 2023 Appropriation Act, until the end of June. He has followed up on this with the first steps towards a full-scale devaluation of the naira, under the guise of unifying the official and black market foreign exchange rates.
The Tinubu administration, whose legitimacy to rule is still questionable, has committed itself to liberalisation of the economy and social services. This means increases in school fees which several tertiary institutions are introducing already, the pricing of quality health services further out of the reach of poor people, and increasing house rents for working people.
The only way that working-class people can save themselves from the agony of this barrage of neoliberal policies and many more to come is with stiff resistance. The Coalition for Revolution (CORE) had thus seen the Nigeria Labour Congress’ call for a strike as an important point of departure for the struggle we must fight.
And we find it indefensible that the NLC called off the strike even before it had begun. It is even more worrisome that the reason given for this was the need to be lawful in the face of attacks from a government and ruling class that chooses to respect only laws that are in its interest, and which in this particular case, acted in violation of the 2023 Appropriation Act, as the NLC itself observed.
The federal government’s argument that the country’s great indebtedness is due to fuel subsidy is a fallacy. And the idea the ruling class is sowing in the minds of Nigerians that fuel subsidy is the problem is false. Governments in Europe and North America provide subsidies for energy, food and other essentials to appease the public..
The capitalists in power in Nigeria have been subsidising rich people at the expense of the poor masses. The last APC government subsidised a few rich people to the tune of N26 trillion as import waivers over the last seven years. It also bailed out 14 banks owned by the capitalists with US$7 billion. Meanwhile, according to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the amount supposedly spent on fuel subsidy between 2005 and 2020 was N13.7 trillion.
And even this amount, while far less than the “dash” they gave to the rich, is questionable. It is a known fact that the “fuel subsidy” is heavily padded. And those in government know the people doing this. But these billionaire rogues walk freely because powerful people in successive governments benefit from this fraud and the massive theft of over 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
We must also not believe that the deregulation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol, will free resources for government spending. Deregulation of diesel and kerosene did not result in any savings of resources, even after some time.
The primary beneficiary of the fuel pump price hike will eventually be Aliko Dangote, who has benefitted from trillions of naira in waiver, and whose refinery was funded significantly with money from the coffers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He will be able to keep charging the price of the landing cost for refined petroleum products, just as when they were imported, when his refinery kicks off operation.
We must not allow ourselves to be deceived. Now, more than ever, working-class people and their organisations need to have a deep reflection on where we are, why this is so, and what is to be done. We need to put forward bold demands, based on strategic planning, aimed at our emancipating ourselves. And we need to take decisive action which can lead to positive changes in our social and economic situation.
Thus, CORE calls for:
- Reversal of the fuel subsidy removal and social dialogue with the organisations of the working people on the way forward, including:
- Identification of the fraudulent component of subsidy payments and the prosecution of every corporation and persons that have benefited from this long-lasting fraudulent appropriation of wealth that should have been used for social development, including the recuperation of such funds.
- Revival of the four state-owned refineries and an inquiry into the disbursement of funds for this purpose which has ended up in the pockets of a few rich people, to the detriment of the Nigerian masses.
- Putting in place cheaper and cleaner sources for fuelling such as the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and probing the use of the N250 billion which was set aside by the Federal Government in 2021 to build a CNG intervention facility.
- Putting social security nets in place for the scores of millions of Nigerians living in poverty, whose situation would be gravely worsened by increase in fuel pump prices associated with removal of fuel subsidy. This should include provision of credit facilities for nano-, micro-, and small-scale operators in the informal economy.
- Provision of decent, affordable, safe and sustainable public transportation systems within and connecting the different states and regions of the country.
- A living wage of not less than N200,000 as the new national minimum wage and the introduction of a sliding scale between the cost of living index and wages, to inform annual review of the minimum wage towards ensuring that workers do always have wages that make their lives sustainable and meaningful.
- Rejection of Nigeria’s slavery to the dictates of the IMF, World Bank, and imperialist countries and in its stead, the establishment of strong relations with other countries such as the BRICS, to chart and fight for a New International Economic Order for the 21st century.
- Exposure of all those “activists”, and publicists of different forms who seem to support the masses and its struggle, but contribute to strengthening the ideas and power of the ruling class in our midst.
- The unity and synergistic struggle of radical and revolutionary forces, including the establishment of a United Front clearing house of coalitions such as the Joint Action Front (JAF), A-SCAB, TPAP-M & the Coalition for Revolution (CORE).
- Rank-and-file workers to demand unambiguous and tenacious commitment of the trade unions and trade union federations to struggle against the neoliberal policies and programmes of the federal and state governments until victory is won.
Baba AYE and Gbenga KOMOLAFE (Co-conveners; Coalition for Revolution, CORE)
9th June 2023