LABOUR AND THE STRUGGLE AGAINST PERRENIAL INCREASE IN THE PUMP PRICE OF PETROL
The policy of perennial increase in the pump price of petrol under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has added to the economic burden of the masses. Within a year, the price of petrol has been increased five times, regardless of the mass opposition to such policy. Meanwhile, any increase in the price of petrol has always had multiplier effects on the prices of other commodities, including food items that are transported from the farm to the cities. Consequently, the cost of living for the working masses has astronomically skyrocketed making life completely unbearable even for ordinary workers, who earn slave wages, not to now speak of the informal workers or the millions of unemployed youths.
The constant increase in the price of petrol reflects all that is wrong with capitalism when the butcher’s family can only afford bones instead of meat. Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, but the country has been importing its local consumption of fuel from refineries abroad. The four refineries of the country refined nothing in 2019 and have kept up the record through the years. They have rather become a drain on the government’s purse, with billions of naira released to them for “Turn Around Maintenance (TAM)”; but if they have turned around at all, they did for the worse.
The liberalization policy of the downstream sector, providing for the incorporation of the private oil investors, whose sole interest is principally the maximization of profits at the expense of the poverty-stricken masses, has added to the criminal demand for the deregulation of the sector which no doubt will compound the suffering of the masses.
Apparently, with the consistent crisis in this sector, as regards the economic attack on the people over the years, arguments have ensued within the populace on the factor that contributes to this persistent increase. On the 11th of March, 2021, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) announced an additional increase in the price of PMS to N212.61 after few months of an earlier increase, with the ridiculous justification pinned on market forces
The Buhari regime was forced to make an immediate U-turn following widespread reaction from the working masses indicating their readiness to organise and resist the new increase. The FG later responded that the announced increase was a mixed-up, and it should be disregarded and the template for the increase earlier provided by the PPPRA deleted from its website, meaning that the so-called need to meet with the dictates of a Market-Based Pricing Regime” is a ruse. The same applies to the bogey of subsidy which the Buhari regime before coming to power decried as a conduit pipe for members of the ruling elites to loot the treasury of the country, and had increased in the price of fuel in the past insisting that it wanted to end the regime of subsidy to be able to end corruption. The fact however that must be pointed out is that logic and operating mechanism of capitalism, which the Buhari regime subscribe to, leaves it with no other choice than to seek means to ensure that as much profit as possible is earned by the oil barons to meet their greed for super profit. This is why like the previous regime before it, it is comfortable not to take up the task of constructing new modern state of the art refineries since it is the same capitalist class and the cronies of the regime that benefits from the importation of fuel, a business concern that runs into millions and millions of dollars daily to meet the high consumption need of the country, and guarantees faster and quicker super profit. The so-called liberalization of the oil sector amounts to nothing else than the fact that the monopoly of government functionaries as the sole importer of fuel product is broken to allow private profiteers who are misnamed as “investors” to also come and chop at the expense of the working masses.
In going forward it is imperative to state that the leadership of the organized labour as represented by the NLC and TUC need to end its collaborationist role with the ruling class and adopt an independent and consistent opposition against the anti-people policies of deregulation and the entire capitalist system that seeks to make the working masses suffer for the failure of the ruling elites to build new refineries and at the same time guarantee super-profits for the oil barons. This will in no small measure help restore the loss of hope and confidence, not only amongst its rank and file workers but among the masses, to be able to provide the needed leadership for the working masses to take capitalism on and end its disastrous reign over the economy and lives of the working masses.
One cannot help but recall the aborted General Strike of 28 September 2020, which was initially called by the leaders of the trade unions headed by Ayuba Wabba and Quadri Olaleye and had succeeded a great deal to mobilize the masses to protest against the increment in electricity tariff and fuel price. Adding insult to injury was the further proof of capitulation of the leadership of the Unions to the ruling elites by its endorsement of the neo-liberal policy of deregulation of the downstream oil sector under the conditional guise of presenting to the FG the need to “revitalize the refineries first” when its crystal clear that the same logic of neo-liberal capitalism of making cheaper and easier profit explains why new refineries are not built.
We call on the rank and file workers in the various unions and indeed in all working-class organization to organize and put up the necessary pressure within and outside their unions that force the labour leaders to retrace their steps as well to struggle to ensure that the unions are democratically presided over by leaders who act for the interest of the members and working-class in entirety and if otherwise can immediately recall and elect those who will. There is no way forward for the working masses to benefit from the huge wealth generated daily from the oil sector if it is not fully nationalized, along with other commanding heights of the economy, and placed under the democratic control and management of the working people. For this to happen the working masses first turn to and will continue to look up to their traditional organizations of the trade unions to become of struggle against the neoliberal capitalist policies of the FG under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.