Fuel Prices Hike: Working People Must Resist This Onslaught
Like a raging bird in a cage, the Yar’Adua’s government, after its perambulation about rule of law, due process and undue populism, has been forced to come back to the almighty ruinous policy of its predecessor. Finding no other way out within market ideology, the new government was forced to bow before the ultimate neo-liberalism with its poisonous pills of deregulation, privatization and commercialization. For those still having illusion in the new Yar’Adua’s government, which is indeed an old wine in a new bottle, the new vexatious attempt to hike fuel prices again will reveal that there is no hiding place for it. According to newspapers report, there is a new attempt to introduce fuel price increase by July this year.
This hike if implemented will make live more miserable for the already impoverished Nigerians constituting about 60 percent of the nation’s population. Transport fare will increase, basic food prices will sky-rocket, cost of services retrenchment and unemployment will rise as many low and medium scale companies – which rely on fuel for power generation thanks to the epileptic PHCN will either fold up or “rationalise” (another euphemism for cost cut and retrenchment), in short, working and toiling pollution of Nigeria will be worse for it. But a few clique will be better off – the rapacious oil marketers, (mostly politicians and their acolytes), the oil majors, the rent-seeking politician and the political office holders, who will ask their financial advisors to invest in the lucrative business, and the unproductive banking sector which provide the financial backbone for this exploitative and parasitic arrangement that will suck the poor dry. Already, over N17 billion has been budgeted for this rapacious marketers by Yar’Adua government. Also, billions of naira has been budgeted for big business in the name of revampaing the electricity sub-sector while workers are expected to pay extra cost for power in a couple of years. The same government that cannot properly fund free and qualitative education (despite the fact that millions of youth had no access to functional education) and healthcare is committing billions of naira for parasitic capitalist who will only suck the nation dry and provide no light. Was it not the same private sector, in connivance with the corrupt capitalist political class that looted over $16 billion budgeted by the corrupt Obasanjo government for power revamping. These are the people who invested in the emergence of the Yar’Adua’s through the unprecedented rigging spree called April 2007 general election. On the political plain, politicians can now smile to heaven thanks to the benevolence of the anti-poor Yar’Adua government. Members of the national assembly are now collecting over N30 million monthly, yet the same government claim not to have have money to provide fuel at the current rate (which is even unbearable for the working poor).
The traditional excuse of the ruling class is the increase in the global prices of crude oil but the same government fail to tell Nigerians what has been done to huge wealth accruing to the nation’s purse since. Electricity is still virtually non-existent despite billions of dollars spent on new power plants and electrification, education and effective health care is unavailable to millions of poor Nigerians, while any request for salary increase is met with stiff opposition from government. Our roads, have become mish-mash of archaic and semi-modern civilization while rail and water transportation have become an el Dorado. Gone are the days when cheap, efficient and safe public transport provided transportation to millions of poor Nigerians. What then is the government using Nigerian’s huge oil wealth to do? What has happened to the huge billions of Naira accruing from the wind fall on crude oil sale for the past three months of Yar’Adua’s government? Why is government planning to continue Obasanjo’s borrowing spree while billions are lying fallow in Nigeria’s coffer?
As against the claim by government that the amount being spent on subsidy is increasing, the Yar’Adua’s government is only looking for excuse to loot the nation’s wealth while working and poor Nigeria that claim not to have money to subsidise is the one that will use the same argument to underfund the presidency while national assembly members are made instant millionaires. Despite spending over three months in office, nothing tangible could be shown as improvement in the refineries they still work less than 60 percent of refining capacity, while Nigerians as a whole have not faired better. The last billions being spent on turn around maintenance has not been probed.
Contrary to the believe of some commentators that it is too early to judge the government, but aside the fact that Nigerians cannot wait until basic living is taken from them; the new government, save for the rhetories on rule of law and due process, has not left anybody in doubt that it is ready to continue the ruinous neo-liberal policies of the past government-privatization of public utilities, commercialization of social service such as education and health care and trade liberalization. The reversal of the refinery privatization is just media stunt has the company is being prepared for re-privatization possibly to the previous buyers under new consortia-as against re-nationalization. This refinery privatization will surely lead to further fuel prices increases through continued deregulation, under-utilization because no multinational is ready to sacrifice short-term profit for long-term investment in this period of global financial and investment instability. Then, we will be back in square one collapse of industries and under-utilization, inflation, retrenchment and unemployment etc.
The Yar’Adua’s capitalist government cannot move the country forward because it is committed to ensuring unhindered and unchecked mega-profit for the big money bags, multinationals out and banking corruption, etc. Who put him in office; at the expense of the teeming working masses of Nigeria who really create the wealth. This is being done through cut in social services spending, privatization of public resources, built at huge cost at token (most time fraught with huge corruption), and award of huge contracts while killing works department. Unless the workers’ movement NLC, TUC, etc. mobilise its forces, the so-called agreement with the federal government will in the next few weeks become a mere paper.
Also, the labour movement must build a political alternative to the current rotten capitalist political system through formation of a radical, mass workers’ party with a socialist orientation. The current struggle, if labour decide to fight will be the ninth and yet the capitalist class and its ruling class are prepared to go to any length to insure their wealth despite the obvious poverty this is causing; the question then is why should labour not build a political alternative to the current set of corrupt capitalist class whose interests is diametrically opposite to that of the working masses. Is the labour movement afraid or is it part o the current arrangement. Unless labour build this alternative, which will wrestle political and economic power from the hands of the capitalist ruling class and create a working poor alternative, the misery facing the poor will never stop. Such a party will fight for nationalization of the commanding height of the economy including the huge oil sector and for working and poor people’s democratic management of the economy and the state structure. The party will also fight for basic social infrastructures – free and qualitative education, healthcare, massive job provision for all citizens with adequate living wages, pension and old age pay, massive funding of cheap, efficient and environmentally-friendly transport, agriculture, power and communication system, among other. With the participation in daily struggles of the oppressed people, this party will, in little time acquire power democratically, and if the capitalist struggle refuse, through mass movement. This is the task before a serious labour leadership, in Nigeria (and indeed Africa).