Anti-Fuel Price Hike Uprising and the Task of Building a Revolutionary Labour Movement

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As one is writing this piece, the leadership of the labour movement in Nigeria is being bathe with unprecedented venom and angst by the working and poor people who had risked their lives to combat the iniquitous fuel price hike from N65 to as high as N150 by the Goodluck Jonathan regime. The Nigerian government, on first of January 2012, suddenly announced hike in pump price of petrol, a staple fuel for majority of Nigerians. Although the government had made its intention of removing a so-called ‘subsidy’ on petrol since mid-2011 known, but the public was made to believe that the policy would start taking effect in April, when the 2012 fiscal year should start. Therefore, a sudden increase of petrol price on a festive January 1 indeed demonstrated the irresponsibility of the capitalist government, which cares less about the welfare of its citizens. This sudden New Year gift drew the ire of many Nigerians, some of whom previously had some illusions in the government. Nigerian government predicated the obnoxious fuel price hike on its so-called deregulation policy – in reality, an attempt to hand over the fate of tens of millions of poor Nigerians, and indeed the Nigerian economy to the profit-oriented caprices of handful big businesses, multinational corporations and international capitalism.

The Emergent Revolutionary Potentials


Nigerians from all works of life rose in unison to reject the policy. The labour movement leadership (in NLC and TUC), which despite its questionable support for neo-liberal policies of privatization, commercialization and deregulation, itself was piqued by the increase. Consequently, as a result of its historical opposition to fuel price hike, the labour movement under NLC and TUC had to declare a national strike which, even against its own expectation was simply turned to an uprising by the mass of workers, youths and the oppressed in general. Indeed, Nigeria underwent what can be termed a pre-revolutionary situation within the one-week strike and mass protests, as millions of working class, youths, professionals, even ranks of the armed forces; indeed the oppressed people (save for some handful confused few) took to the streets to challenge the legitimacy of the capitalist Goodluck Jonathan government. Of course, there had been several mass protests at least a week before the strike was declared across the country, the declaration of the strike only opened up a flurry of bottled up fury within the working and oppressed people.

Mass of workers, youths and the oppressed people in Nigeria rejected not only attempt at eroding their living standards through the fraudulent fuel price hike, but also demanded the end of regime of corruption and perfidy. Unconsciously, and to some extent consciously, they were raising the banner of revolution and a working people’s government. In fact, they were challenging the foundation of capitalism. To many it is opportunity to enact Nigeria’s version of Arab Spring and to others, it is Occupy Nigeria. From the central Lagos to the metropolis of Kano, millions of youths, workers, artisans, peasants, petty traders, pensioners, old people, teens, etc trooped to the streets to demand for better living conditions. Barricades were set up; protests organized even in the remotest communities of the country while there were independent organizations by the working people to defend the movement.[2] Unfortunately, the labour movement leadership, in a compromising manner for which it is known, called off the mass protests and strikes at the peak of mass consciousness and radicalization across the country after a week of mass uprising.

Central to the effective organization of these protests and strike is the Joint-Action Front (JAF), a coalition of pro-labour socialist and left groups, working with labour movement in Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO). This point is vital, as there have been attempts to portray the mass uprising as the efforts of some bourgeois opponents of Jonathan government organized in such platforms as Save Nigeria Group (SNG); Enough is Enough Group, etc. These groups are not fundamentally different from the regime being combated in terms of ideology, programmes and policies. More than this, the Joint-Action Front (JAF) had been putting consistent pressure on the labour movement to take action against fuel price hike and other neo-liberal policies. The group (JAF) has been very active in its opposition to all the anti-poor policies of the government, and actually organized series of protests since December against the planned fuel price hike. Interestingly, it was after labour movement declared national general strike and protests that the bourgeois ‘oppositionists’ woke up from their slumber to revolutionaries.

Just as revolutionaries have opined, revolutions are many times, ignited not by masses deliberately fighting for socialism but by seemingly simple issues that impact directly on their living conditions. For many, they could not believe it was the same Jonathan that told them he had no shoes as a child; the meek Goodluck. While it can be argued that the mass uprising against the hike in fuel (petrol) pump price did not provide a rounded-out revolutionary situation, it has however provided a platform upon which can be built the foundation of the imminent revolution. Indeed, had the labour leadership stayed the course a little while, the contradictions, especially within the ruling class would have been sharper, with possible crack occurring even within the armed forces[3]. At this point, it would have been difficult to reverse the revolutionary course, or botch it the way it was stabbed in the back by the labour leaders. At such moment, the questions would have been what kind of programmes and demands are needed to accomplish the revolution; what platform is leading the revolution, and in what direction. However, no step taken in a revolutionary course is lost; at the least, it provides a basis from which the masses will further the revolutionary course in subsequent period, as the contradictions and crises of capitalism can only get worse.

For the record, such a revolution that must liberate Nigeria must as a necessity lead to overthrow of neo-colonial capitalism, and enthrone a democratic socialist society, if the society must move forward on a long-term basis. This should start with the call for the immediate takeover of the oil and gas sector away from the hands of the few capitalist profiteers and their international finance capitalist patrons, and put it under the democratic public ownership of the society. This will free up resources needed to provide better living conditions for the mass of people, and offer opportunity to liberate and develop other resources and sectors of the economy including the vital ones like agriculture, iron and steel, transportation, social services, etc.

The mass revolt against fuel price hike, while underscoring the revolutionary potential in Nigeria, has again shown that only a fighting working class leadership, linking the fundamental demands of its class with that of other oppressed strata and challenging the foundation of capitalism in Nigeria, can liberate the society. Surely, this struggle, even if suspended has removed the veil that Nigerians cannot revolt; it has shown to the masses that they can rally to defeat government. Despite Jonathan’s obstinacy at the start, it was forced by mass movement to reverse itself and reduce the hike from N145 to N97 (49 percent increase). Had the masses been held back by the carrot of never-ending negotiation being thrown by the government, this gain no matter how little (or short-lived it may be) would not have been won. More than this, it is glaring that the Jonathan capitalist government has indeed unleashed the dragon of mass movement, which will consume both the capitalist governments and the iniquitous neo-colonial capitalist system they superintend. The militarization of epicentres of the uprising, especially Lagos and Kano – which shows the weakness of the regime than its strength – has again revealed that liberal capitalist governments are only democratic when the interests of their class are protected. However, they will be fiercely terroristic and fascistic[4], even more than military rules, when the interests of their class is threatened by the organized struggle of mass of working and oppressed.

Fuel Price Hike: Subsidy to the Rich through More Brutal Means

While the fuel price hike affects virtually every stratum of the poor and even the middle class, it clearly is not in the end, a fundamental attack on the foundation of neo-colonial capitalism. The removal of the so-called subsidy on fuel price does not really mean that the looters and the capitalist class will lose their sources of wealth neither will it end exploitation of the working and oppressed people. It only provides crueler opportunity for different sections of the capitalist class to gain more wealth in the bazaar; while also giving the oil importers, their bank underwriters, political backers, multinational oil refiners, transporters (shipping companies and fuel transporting companies like the Dangote Transport), etc the chance to further impoverish the poor through direct exploitation.

Government claimed in its propaganda that over N1.6 trillion was used to subsidize fuel price in 2011 alone (an amount that has been exposed to be sheers fraud as shown below), the removal of this amount will not translate to improved spending on the local economy or public infrastructures. A ready example is the billions of naira spent on so-called one thousand, six hundred (1600) units of public buses purchased to hoodwink the masses into accepting the obnoxious fuel price hike. The project only provided opportunity for big businesses in importation, banking and insurance, shipping; and multinational car manufacturers, etc, who will be behind the procurement of these vehicles, to make swift profits. The fact is that the project is worse than a token, as the best a local government can get is just two buses. In addition, the cost of maintenance of the vehicle in an import economy is enough to kill off the business of poor transporters who will access these vehicles e.g. the buses are diesel engine, which will cost money in terms of fueling than even a petrol engine vehicle. This will mean high (if not higher) cost of transport for poor people. In the final analysis, the so-called money to be saved will find their ways to the private accounts of big businesses and the corrupt politicians. The so-called subsidy removal will not translate to building of new refineries to process local fuel demands; neither will it mean free, quality education at all levels or quality and free healthcare for the majority poor who do not have access to these services.

Furthermore, if the government is forced to return the fuel price to its pre-January 1, 2012 level; while it will bring some relief for the suffering and poor masses, it only implies that the nation’s wealth will be used to subsidize the profit of the oil importers, bankers, transporters, multinational oil corporations, etc, albeit through dubious means. On the other hand, the remaining sections of the capitalist class will either find themselves in other means of wealth looting from the national treasury (or sweat of the working people) or create a role for themselves in the fuel subsidy racket.

The fuel price hike only reveals the crudely backward and self-centred nature of the Nigerian capitalist class (in both politics and big business). The capitalists only care about the immediate profits and wealth to be acquired than any long-term investment. It is a clear fact that Nigeria’s economy is a road economy as virtually all economic activities are facilitated through road transportation. Since the nation’s flag independence, Nigerian governments have only paved less than 1400 km of rail tracks( which aside being less than just 10 percent of the required rail track is indeed archaic) while inland water transport system has been abandoned. In fact, the road transport itself aside being grossly inadequate is dangerously archaic and underdeveloped. Thus, virtually every means of transportation is centred on the road. Worse still,
there is no organized mass transit system by the Nigerian governments as a way of minimizing the crisis in the transport system in general.[5] Therefore, increment in fuel price, which will lead to hike in cost of transport will also mean increasing cost of living for the majority poor, who constitute more than 80 percent of the population[6].

This in itself will worsen the low purchasing power of the majority of the population, which for productive capitalists will mean lower markets and fall in business activities. For a serious minded political class, it will implies reversal of any developmental effort of government as many people will lose jobs or unable to maintain an average living conditions. For a country already bedeviled with high rate of unemployment and insecurity, the hike in fuel price will just mean a collapse of the country’s social fabrics, as more people will vent their frustration and anger against the society through various violent means – ethno-religious and communal strife, violent crimes, etc. This is clear reality when viewed against the background that already, the income of the majority poor has shrunk due to collapse of the basic social facilities – electricity, transport, etc, coupled with chronic underfunding and commercialization/privatization of social services like education, healthcare, water supply, etc. Even the minimum wage fought for by workers has not been implemented in either the private or public sector. Where marginal increases have been added to workers’ wages due to bitter struggles of workers, the capitalist class in both public and private sectors have clawed these gains back through various means, especially taxes. Therefore, even to the blind, the hike in fuel price is a sure road to disaster for the country.

Role of State Governments and Opposition Parties

Indeed, the fuel price hike is itself one of the major efforts of the capitalist class to claw back the very token concession it was forced to give to workers’ wage. This explains why the state governments were not opposed to the fuel price hike. Indeed, all of them, including those from the so-called opposition political parties supported the fuel price hike because it will provide them with quick, unmerited wealth – not to be expended in improving social infrastructure, but in servicing their own local capitalist class’ interests. Interestingly, the major opposition political party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), even played a treacherous politics on the issue. While the party claimed that it is opposed to the ‘timing’ (not the policy) of fuel price increase, many of its state governors supported the policy. Indeed, its governors, Babatunde Fashola and Adams Oshiomhole of Lagos and Edo State respectively were major promoters of the obnoxious fuel price hike. Other ACN governors like Rauf Aregbesola and Kayode Fayemi of Osun and Ekiti States respectively only made an about face when they saw the unprecedented fury of mass of people. In fact, it was Fayemi that first propagated the idea of removal of subsidy (i.e. hike in fuel price) as a condition for the implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage. Worse still, none of the ACN states implemented fully the minimum wages.

Moreover, the party, ACN believes in all neo-liberal policies being implemented by the PDP-led Jonathan government. Where they have opportunity, they used state machinery to implement these policies. For instance, the Lagos State government recently introduced criminal and fraudulent toll collection on a public road in Lekki-Epe under the guise of road concessioning to a crony private company. When the people protested, the Fashola government only employed the armed security forces and fascist elements to attack the protesters. Furthermore, the state government criminally hiked fees in the only state owned university, LASU by almost 750 percents to an average of N200, 000. When the students and their parents protested, the government went ahead to close down the institution, militarize it, and undemocratically banned the student union of the institution. Had this kind of party being in control of national government, it would have introduced these neo-liberal policies, if not in much more ruthless manner. Therefore, Fashola/ACN government opposition to military occupation of Lagos is mere grandstanding.

Other state governments (in other political parties) not only supported the policy, but also in many instances, like in the southeast and south-south regions, actively aided the Jonathan government in attacking and repressing the mass uprising against the policy. This however, does not mean at a time of sharper class conflict, when the capitalist governments are threatened (e.g. if Jonathan government took to brazen repression), the rank of the capitalist politicians may not break, as some, in defence of their privileges or in order to profit from the crisis, may oppose the central government. This is what happened when Nigeria’s national assembly, fearful of possible mass revolt that will follow the fuel price increase tried so save the regime.  Thus, the emergency plenary session of the House of Representative called for Sunday, 8 January 2012 (a day before the commencement of the national strike and mass protests), rejecting the hike in fuel price; and the subsequent Senate sitting same week calling for reversal of the policy were not accidental. They reflect the growing schism within the ruling class. Interestingly, it was the same national assembly leadership, which negotiated the new fuel price increase with the labour movement on behalf of the Jonathan government; so much for capitalist democracy.

Fuel Price Hike: A Reflection of Nigeria’s Backward Neo-Colonial Capitalist Class

Since 1999, Nigeria has earned nothing less than $300 billion from oil royalty, but less than ten percent of this amount is enough to develop the oil and gas sector to the extent of not only self-sufficiency but also exportation of refined products (more than 40) and applied products. With modern mass train system, waterways and integrated road network, it will be possible to make the oil and gas industry serves the people. It will surely spur other sectors of economy and even the private businesses, even if this will mean exploitation of the working people – a situation that will produce its own contradictions later of course.

However, it will be illusory to expect the current capitalist class in Nigeria to undertake a developmental approach to economic affair. Indeed, with the above painted picture, the capitalist class, even on a capitalist basis should have utilized state resources to undertaken mass programme of developing infrastructures and social services with the aim of spurring mass purchasing power and private businesses. This is even easier in Nigeria as a very cheap source of wealth represented by the huge availability of oil and gas, may minimize the taxing of the rich to undertake these projects, as against what was witnessed in Western Europe during the welfare state era (the golden era of capitalism), as capitalist big businesses were taxed to reboot capitalism. The Nigerian capitalist class is clearly unproductive and backward. It is mere transmitter of global imperial capitalism, and not an averagely independent political economic class. Since the flag independence, the capitalist class in Nigeria, (both political and big business sections) has been mere vassal of global imperialist capitalism. Investment in mass infrastructures like road, rail, waterways, etc and developing the vital sector of the nation’s economy like oil and gas, minerals, iron and steel, power generation, etc will mean that the capitalist class will have to forgo immediate huge wealth accumulation for long term investment.

This is exactly what Nigerian capitalist class is not prepared to do. Aside this, the Nigeria’s political and economic capitalists are not prepared to challenge their imperialist masters in Western Europe. For instance, how will investment in oil exploration and refining favour multinational oil corporations operating in Nigeria – Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, etc, who control the oil and gas industry in Nigeria? Indeed, the global capitalist forces, will wage bitter struggles against the Nigeria’s capitalist class, and of course isolate it. This will mean that the Nigeria’s capitalist class will play the role of a rebel in global capitalist system; which in itself will require Nigeria’s capitalist class relying on the mass of working and oppressed people. This is indeed a tall dream for Nigeria’s capitalist class, which it never dreamt of undertaking, as this even threatens their own privileges. Therefore, it prefers to tie itself to the apron string of global imperialist capitalism. Moreover, for global capitalism, this is not an era of ‘progressive capitalism’ but that of a clear-cut neo-liberal phase of unhindered exploitation of the working people and accumulation of super-profits – a project spearheaded by the global finance capital with its unprecedented profit speculation.[7] This is underlined by the huge support the imperialist governments gave to the decision to hike fuel price by the Nigerian government[8]. This understanding is fundamental in knowing how to fight against the obnoxious policy of fuel price deregulation.

Fuel Subsidy: A deliberate swindle of the poor

Nothing underlines the backward and unproductive nature of Nigeria’s capitalist class than this issue of subsidy and fuel price hike. The Nigerian capitalist government predicated the hike in fuel price on the need to stop the financial hemorrhaging of the country through the subsidy paid on petrol price. According to government sources, over N3.6 trillion has been spent on fuel subsidy since 2006. However, according to various analyses and information, this subsidy has been nothing but pure fraud. In the first instance, Nigeria’s state owned oil corporation, NNPC has an installed capacity to refine 450, 000 barrels of crude oil per day; this is about 50 percent of national consumption of petrol (aside other fuel products like kerosene, diesel, etc). However, this has reduced drastically to mere 170, 000 refining capacity as a result of the deliberate collapse of the refineries, as hundreds of billions budgeted for the maintenance of the refineries have not yielded any basic result while none of those responsible for this racket have been brought to book; even if for mere window dressing. This in itself is a reflection of the deep-level connection of virtually every facet of Nigeria’s economic and political class to the rackets and looting in the oil industry.[9] Worse still, the remnant of the NNPC’s allocated crude oil is also a mean to shortchange the country. The remaining 280, 000 barrels are just allocated to foreign refineries, even in West Africa to refine and bring refine petrol. No account of the price of refining or other products refined from the crude; it is only byzantine barter system! This implies that the Nigerian capitalist class (and its so-called ‘technocrats’) have no clue on how to run the economy even on a capitalist basis, and they care less for that – inasmuch as their pecuniary interests are satisfied, Nigerian economy can simply collapse.

If the refineries have been collapsed, is it also too much for NNPC to directly import the fuel need of the country instead of handing it over to middlemen under the guise of importers. At least, if NNPC is importing the fuel need of the country, the question of handing over public resources to a few fuel importers will not arise in the first instance. Already the Obasanjo government had cancelled custom tax on imported fuel by the middlemen since 2002, thus subsidizing their unhindered wealth accumulation. However, expecting government to undertake this task is assuming that the capitalist government is not acting on behalf of this cabal of importers, their bank underwriters, shippers, local transporters, military supremacists, corrupt government officials, etc, who actually supported/propped up this government. What underscore this than the fact that in 2011 alone, the number of importers increased from around twenty in 2010 to more than hundred (including construction and portfolio companies)? This is not unexpected; in 2009 and 2010, only around N260 billion was used to subsidize fuel, but by 2011, the subsidy cost had grown to over N1.6 trillion!

This fraud was justified by the Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala (an expatriate from World Bank) on the increased demand for petrol (put around 35 million liters a day), ‘subsidy’ on kerosene (when the price of the same kerosene had been deregulated since 2010) and the high cost of crude oil price in the international market. These excuses clearly highlight the fact that despite the so-called ‘technocratic’ credentials of these agents of imperialism, they are clearly as fraudulent and corrupt as their local/home-based colleagues-in-fraud is. In fact, they are their intellectual backbone. On the first excuse, the average fuel consumption has been exaggeratedly put around 35 million liters/day since 2010. Where then is the fundamental consumption increase that would have justified the sudden over 600 percents hike in subsidy cost within a space of one year[10]. What fundamental economic development has the country witnessed that would have warranted such increase in consumption up to five folds? Ironically, the last one year has seen further deindustrialization being witnessed since the emergence of the civilian rule with over 800, 000 thousand jobs officially lost in the economy, especially in private sector in 2011 alone according to the statistics bureau.

In 2007 when the crude oil prices in the global speculation market rose to as high as $147 per barrel, government did not spend up N260 billion on subsidies (including subsidy on kerosene). Why has this now turned around such that at around $110 per barrel, Nigeria is paying in multiples, amount for subsidy in 2011; more so that the deliberately devalued exchange rate is has not witnessed up to 20 percent rise within the same periods under review? This is coming on the heel of the revelations at the House of Reps hearing that there is over-shooting of the nation’s fuel consumption by over 24 million liters/day by government officials and agencies. Going by this revelation alone, it means that the so-called subsidy is officially inflated by over 68 percent. This is aside the fact that the subsidy itself is a deliberate fraud meant to satiate the profit quest of Nigeria’s unproductive capitalist class. As said earlier, none of those involved in gargantuan rackets has been brought to book; on the contrary, you have the Nigerian government officials, including Okonjo-Iweala justifying the racket and shielding the fraudsters. To show how deeply connected these people are, these big business in the oil rackets are given national awards. In fact, government officials warn us to stop accusing these people, because if they get angry, we will be worse off for it (through economic sabotage)![11] Indeed, despite the huge revelations on the subsidy racket, Nigerian president, when challenged in an interview with AFP journalists on 25th January, 2012, claimed that since nobody has been indicted, he could not have punished anybody. The journalists would have forgotten to ask him who is expected to indict whom[12].  Surely, the last has not been heard from this gargantuan swindle.

Government and its Fraudulent Deregulation Mantra

A major argument of the government to justify obnoxious attack on people’s living condition is that private investors are not ‘motivated’ to investment in oil refining because the price of fuel is not competitive, as the investors will run at loss if they are not allowed to suck the poor dry. This is the same argument used to hike electricity tariff and plan the sale of the national electricity utility company, PHCN to the so-called private investor, even when over $20 billion has been reported looted through this sector alone by combination of politicians in power and big business.

This is firstly a clear case of irresponsibility as the government has refused to answer the question of why government failed to refurbish the state owned refineries and build new ones, with the unprecedented wealth in the nation’s coffer even since 2009 alone. Assuming without conceding that the so-called investors are even prepared to undertake long-term investment; why can’t government, at worst subsidize the price of their refined products for Nigerians, the same way it is subsidizing fuel importation? The reality is that Nigeria’s capitalist economic class is not cut for long-term investment; it prefers to feed parasitically on state resources and infrastructures. This is why it is easy for capitalists to buy government’s enterprises, corporations and infrastructures at token, where they can easily make short-term profits without contributing anything fundamental to their improvement.

This explains why capitalist investors under the Bluestar Consortium preferred to buy NNPC at rock bottom prices[13] than investing directly in oil refining. Interestingly, many of the portfolio “investors” in this failed privatization racket are now involved in oil importing fraud (and other fraudulent economic hemorrhaging). For those corporations that have been sold out, it has been tales of woes for the country and its working people. For instance, according to Nigeria’s vice president, Namadi Sambo (who also superintend over the privatization racket), over 80 percent of privatized firms have failed. Where it is impossible to buy or compete with state firms, they simply run aground such firms with the sole purpose of feasting on their carcasses and turning Nigerians to their slaves. This is the story of the NNPC (which cannot fully importing the nation’s fuel need, not to mention refining) and several other state owned enterprises like NITEL, Steel rolling and iron smelting companies, national carrier, among several others.

In the real sense, what Nigerian capitalist government wants to do is to hand over the fate of Nigerians to the profit decision of few capitalist big business and multinational corporations and not to encourage the so-called investors. Assuming without conceding that these private refineries are built, they will merely be conduit pipes for direct looting of the nation’s wealth. This is even truer when view against the background that fossil fuel is central to Nigeria’s economy. They set of vampire capitalists will simply hold the people by the jugular, the same way the oil importers have become monsters for Nigeria. For instance, if private refineries are built, and government subsidizes fuel prices (i.e. government subsidizes their profits from the nation’s wealth), this will only provide huge opportunity to loot the country dry. On the other hand, if government ‘liberalizes’ the price regime for private investors, it will be like a house security operative securing an open gate of a house to armed robbers to freely carry out their heinous acts on the household.

Deregulation: The Case of Telecommunication Sector

The fraudulent argument that deregulation will allow competition has witnessed in some other sectors such as telecommunication is to say the least one sided. While it is true that many people now have access to telecommunication service than when the state owned Telecom Corporation, NITEL was in monopoly of telecommunication; the reality is that it was a global phenomenon. Global capitalism, in search of cheap means of production, had to develop science constantly with a view to gain as much profit as possible, with of course its own contradiction. The mobile telecommunication business is far cheaper to set up, and it involves lesser risk and capital, with higher and faster rate of profits unlike fixed wire telecommunication that requires higher capital outlay and longer incubation period for profit (though more reliable). Therefore, capitalist big business will explore any part of the world with such technology in order to gain huge wealth. Nigeria, just like several other African countries could not have been an exception. Even if the telecommunication is not liberalized, mobile telecommunication will still enter Nigeria. Of course, this may be at slower rate than currently witnessed, but the exploitation of the working people with this technology will still be the same. In the real sense, the so-called state owned Telecoms Company, NITEL had long been privatized, as its undemocratically appointed management and officials (comprising private-oriented politicians and capitalist technocrats) have turned it into their private cash cow, hiding under state ownership.

More than this, the private telecom companies only thrived on the carcass of the state owned telecom company, NITEL that was destroyed by bureaucratically appointed government officials (and technocrats). Interestingly, those who mismanaged this enterprise and their collaborators are the ones behind the private telecom companies (sitting on their boards, or serving as their advisors, technical partners and investors). While it is agreed that communication service under the state enterprise was made elitists and ineffective, it is clear that this is a product of the capitalistic and undemocratic manner of running it[14], and not a product of non-viability of state enterprises. Indeed, to underline the fact that this corporation was killed for private businesses, the private telecom companies are reported to owe NITEL over N80 billion unpaid fees for use of its facilities. In addition, a Nigerian Senate Committee on Communication hearing on NITEL crisis in 2009 revealed how the corporation was serious run down and shortchanged by both private telecom companies and investors brought to buy and manage it.

Furthermore, despite the five-year tax holiday given to these private telecoms companies, the cost of making call in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world. Yet, the excuse of high cost of doing business as the basis for high cost of their services has not stopped these private telecoms companies from making unprecedented profits running to hundreds of billions of dollars, while they employ less than less than one percent of the nation’s workforce. Worst still, most of these private businesses hardly keep their profits in the country, but simply export them, while most of the technologies are also imported, thus contributing to the negative economic balance of trade of the country. Even, some of the telecom companies prefer to import its workers from other countries! The same story applies to many other sectors. It is worth stating that, if this can happen in a less capital-intensive sector like mobile telecommunication, you can just imagine what will happen in a capital-intensive sector like oil refining.

In the real sense, deregulation is not meant to move Nigeria forward or provide choices for Nigerians but actually to hand over Nigerians to the hands of capitalist sharks. The working class alternative to the rot in the telecommunication would be that the state owned corporation be developed and run on a democratic basis with workers (of the corporation and associated agencies), consumers and communities make input how this corporation is run. With the account books made open for all to see, its management officials paid as skilled workers, and put under public scrutiny, the state owned entity could be made to work efficiently. More than this, the corporation’s aim should be to provide standard telecommunication to the people at cheapest rate, with the aim of serving as tool to develop the country; and not to make profit for few individuals and private concerns under fraudulent public private arrangement. It is on this basis that all facets of telecommunication including fixed and mobile telecommunications, and information communication and technology, can be developed all together, as against the current arrangement in which fixed wire telecommunication is killed for mobile telecommunication, because the latter is more lucrative for the big business.

Going Beyond the Petty Bourgeois Arguments; For Public Ownership of the Oil Industry

We go to this extent to underline the fact that Nigeria can never break even in this kind of neo-colonial arrangement. When Nigerians are fighting against fuel price hike, they should know that what they are actually fighting is a behemoth monster of neo-colonial capitalist robbers. This is necessary because many Nigerians have been made to believe that deregulation or subsidy removal is good, only that government must fight corruption or that it was the timing was wrong or that we only need timetable for the subsidy removal, and all those sorts of funny arguments. The best of the argument is that government should fix our refineries, roads and other infrastructures and fight corruption before deregulating and removing the subsidy (this is the argument of the labour leaders)[15]. These demands are clearly unrealistic as they sound like asking hardened armed robbers to prosecute themselves or hand over looted wealth to their victims. Moreover, there is no way you can support deregulation in the oil industry and oppose it in other sectors of the economy. If you say government should develop education, it will tell you in the spirit of deregulation and public private partnership; it will give the private sector the necessary backing to do this. Therefore, deregulation is one of the neo-liberal policies meant to super-exploit the working people and extract mega-profits from them, without any hindrance.

Even if fuel prices are reversed to its pre-January 1, 2012 price regime, while it will give some respites to the impoverished working people, it will not stop the capitalist class from looting the nation’s wealth or attacking the working people’s living conditions. Unless the oil and gas industry is put under the democratic public ownership of the working and oppressed people, where there will be planning on how to use the mineral to provide all the basic needs of the people and also develop the economy, the poor people will continually be duped. Democratic public ownership means that the management of the oil wealth will be determined by the working people, consumers, host communities, relevant professional groups, and Nigerians organized across the country. This will mean huge wealth locked up in the private accounts of multinational corporations, fuel importers, etc will be used to provide free and high quality education and health; mass public works to provide millions of decent and secure jobs for all able bodied Nigerians; among others. Without doing this, we will only be moving in a vicious cycle.

Arguing for a Working and Poor People’s Political Voice

However, this task cannot be undertaken by the current set of capitalist politicians, who actually are a gang of capitalists seconded by the capitalist class to insure the interests of their colleagues in big business. This will require taking over of political power by the working and oppressed people and redirecting the economy in the interests of the oppressed people. This will mean putting the mainstay of the economy under the democratic and public ownership of the society, which will provide opportunity to plan democratically for the society. This emphasizes the need for a working people’s political party with a clearly democratic and revolutionary socialist orientation, which will serve as a political fighting banner of the working and oppressed people from grassroots to the national level. Such a party will not only be an electoral platform, but one that will advance the interests of the people from the grassroots to the national level, leading mass campaigns against anti-poor policies at all levels.

This party, if formed on socialist programmes, will consistently, tenaciously campaign, and fight against all anti-poor capitalist policies of privatization, commercialization, deregulation, devaluation, huge salaries for politicians, etc. On the contrary, it will stand for public ownership of the mainstay of the economy, and the resources of the country (mineral, natural, human and monetary), which will be run and utilized on the basis of democratic planning by working people and oppressed people from grassroots to the national level. It will demand a sovereign national conference of democratically elected representatives of the working people, peasants, artisans, professional groups, youth and students, ethnic nationalities, etc to discuss on the nationality question and the socio-economic and political orientations of the country. This is the only way to put ultimately end to mass suffering in the midst of super-abundance. Unless this is done, the labour movement will find itself boxed into a corner and continue to disappoint people either on the short run or on long run.

More than this, such a party will have to take an internationalist orientation of fraternal relations with working and oppressed people in not only Africa, but also indeed the whole world, with a view to championing revolutionary movements in these countries. This is necessary, as a socialist Nigeria cannot exist in isolation, in an ocean of brutal capitalist regimes across the world. Surely, other capitalist governments, especially in the centres of global, imperialist capitalism, will not sit back and watch working people in Nigeria, provide example to the working people of their countries. They will wage bitter struggles, using subtle, covert and overt means to subvert the revolution. This will therefore require Nigerian working people and its revolutionary government to make link with working people in other countries, with a view to not only encourage them to stop their capitalist governments from attacking Nigeria’s revolutionary government, but also to support their efforts to overthrow their own capitalist regimes and enthrone a genuine socialist governments. It need to be stressed that the impact of global resistance against the capitalist class from the Arab world to the epicentres of global capitalism played a role in arousing the revolutionary mode witnessed in the one-week mass uprising. Surely, Nigeria’s movement will also inspire other movements across Africa and indeed the third world.[16]

The Pro-capitalist and Anti-revolutionary Character of the Labour Movement Leadership

The failure of rounded out revolutionary approach, coupled with the ruinous bureaucracy in the labour movement is the underlining cause of the treacherous compromise of the labour leadership in the fuel price struggle. In the first instance, the labour leaderships (both TUC and NLC) are not opposed to privatization and deregulation as policies. Of course, a cursory look at various press statements of NLC on the issue of fuel subsidy reveal some form of opposition to the fuel price hike; but on the basis of support for deregulation, the labour movement has already shot itself in the leg. Moreover, arising from this is the fact that the labour leadership that support neo-liberalism and capitalism will not be prepared to challenge the status quo to a point in which it will be threaten with a revolution. This is underlined by the deliberate attempt of the labour leadership to avoid disrupting the source of wealth for imperialism – stoppage of flow stations. The oil workers’ union (PENGASSAN) had belatedly threatened to shut down the flow station if the strike persisted until second week; but this was refuted by the NLC president, Abdul-Waheed Omar, after a weekend parley with government.

Had the flow stations had been shut, it would have led to rise in crude oil price in the international speculation market and reduction in crude export, which would not only forced Jonathan government to immediately concede in order not to incur the wrath of its imperialist backers. Had the Jonathan government went ahead with mass repression (possibly through emergency rule); this would have raised the specter of real revolution as this will push more people to the streets. The volte-face of the labour leadership is not accidental or mistake but a clear understanding of what is at stake if the shut down should take place. It is not accidental that the labour leaders, while suspending the protests, maintained that it did not advocate a ‘regime change’. This is meant to assure the Jonathan government that it is not threatened. This statement was issued at a time when government had already killed score of people.

The capitalist class is not foolish; based on compromising pro-capitalist ideological orientation of the labour leadership, the capitalist class only needs to corrupt the labour leadership, and make it to operate within the precinct of trade unionism. This will mean involving the labour leadership is committees to implement these anti-poor policies. For instance, the labour leadership has been incorporated into such committees as National Council on Privatization (NCP), Nigerian Pension Commission (Pencom), Petroleum Product Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Infrastructure Concessioning Regulatory Commission, among several others. Indeed, immediately after the labour suspended the strike, the TUC president, Peter Esele was made a member of a so-called Special Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Task force, to fast track the passage of PIB into law. This is a bill that aim to hand over the nation’s oil wealth to few in big business and multinational corporations, with a minimal advantage for the local capitalist class to also gain some more crumbs from the largesse.

Indeed, in the press statement issued by the labour leadership in suspending the strike, it was stated that the strike had achieved its aims (?) because the government had promised to fight corruption, make oil wealth available for the people, and all the sorts. In the real sense, the labour leadership while using this to justify its rotten compromise is also giving credibility to a government that is fundamentally corrupt, anti-poor and pro-big business. How can a government that budget a billion for presidential meal fight corruption. The reality is that, the labour leadership has been structured into the capitalist politics; therefore, it is bound to be blackmailed by the capitalist class of wanting to upturn the table, whenever it is forced to take up the government. Thus, the labour leadership has a dual character: it is elected (even if bureaucratically) to represent the workers, but in the real sense, it is serving as a prison warder of capitalist class to hold working people in bondage.

This is aided by bureaucracy in the labour movement, which make rank-and-file or workers have little or no influence on how their unions are run. Added to this is the trade unionist nature of the labour movement. This means that trade unions serve as platform which operations and activities are structured into the capitalist system and is expected to serve as a platform to resolve conflicts between workers and the capitalist (ostensibly in the interests of workers); and not a platform to represent the real class interests of the working and oppressed people. Inasmuch as the labour leaders are made capitalist themselves, nothing more to fear by the capitalist class. This explains the ease with which the labour leaders called off the national strikes and protests, even without iota of respect for its own structures – National Executive Council; which further underline the deep-rootedness of bureaucracy and lack of democracy in the labour movement.

This character of the labour leadership is not limited to the central labour leaders alone but the whole structure of labour movement leadership. Safe for some handful state labour leadership like Kano, most of the state labour leaders were only vassals of their state governments. For most of them, it was an opportunity to sell themselves at higher prices to their respective state governments. For instance in the southeast states, labour leaders had had a meeting with leadership of the PDP in the zone “to discuss on the fuel price issue”, about a month before the strike; aside other meetings the labour leaders held with their various state governments. Thus, when the national protests broke out, most of the state leaders actually sabotaged the protests and strike. In Abia State, the labour leader, who actually met the state governor the night prior to the commencement of the strike, claimed that, since the state had been flooded with security agents, the protests could not go ahead. In fact, the strike was easily broken up by the state government in Ebonyi State with a threat of enforcing a “no work, no pay” rule while the state labour leaders did not bother to raise a finger. In Enugu State, the state government of Sullivan Chime went to a ridiculous level of arresting and jailing some local labour leaders perceived not to be playing the ball in beheading the national movement in the state. Interestingly, the state labour leaders under NLC and TUC did not openly resist this repressive action of the government, the same manner the national labour leaders did not stringently opposed deployment of military troops to some states, where the uprising has been strongest. In other states in the zone, the labour leaders covertly worked with the security agencies and the governments to find excuse for not organizing any serious activities.

In several other states, despite the fact that it was the labour leaders that called the strike and mass protests, most of the state labour leaders find it very difficult to mobilize their members out, because they have lost touch with and respect of the workers. In many cases, it was the civil society groups and activists from academic and professional communities that actually mobilized the workers and the oppressed people out. This is not accidental: the trade unionist character and bureaucratic manner of running the unions had made the leaders not to even have the confidence to mobilize their members. This is in addition to the pro-capitalist, pro-establishment character of many labour leaders, some of whom are elites themselves. While they are forced by mass anger to lead protests, they look for the flimsiest excuse to run away from mass movement e.g. violence. In fact, they lack basic rule of coordinating and organizing the movement, because it is strange to many of them. The labour leaders at the industrial levels are not different. Most of the leaders have lost the respect of their members with their treacherous roles in previous struggles, the recent of which is the minimum wage struggle. Yet, these leaders constitute the decision making structure of the central labour unions – NLC and TUC. Therefore, the working people have been sold out from the beginning. This is not the first and it may not be the last, unless the labour movement is rebuilt on a democratic and revolutionary basis.

Organized Mass Movement as a counterweight to terrorism

While it is true that violent skirmishes were witnessed in some areas during the protests and strike, this in itself was a product of lack of adequate preparation and revolutionary planning by the labour leaders, who were in the leadership of the uprising. No attempt was made to set up democratic action committees in communities and neighbourhoods to coordinate the movement, including organizing supply of necessary services and goods including food, etc. and serving to defend the protests and strikes in communities. Such committees should then have been linked up to national level. Glimpse of such committees could be seen in many communities and workplaces, where barricades were set up, money raised for feeding and organization, among other tasks. What was needed was to systematize these committees into proper of organization of the mass uprising, which with the suspension of government in the mid air, would serve as embryonic form of a revolutionary government. Such committees will also serve as platform of discussion, not just on how to move the struggle forward, but on the type of society the people need to build. With this, it would have been possible to sustain the sacrifice of the masses (comprising mostly of daily income earners) at minimal cost and prevent attempt by a very handful individuals to resolve their survival on individualistic means through petty looting. But this is assuming that the labour leadership is not calling the strikes and protests half-heartedly, knowing that a stalemate will somehow occur along the line, which will raise the question of political power – a dreaded question for the labour leadership.

While it is true the country is facing the challenge of terrorism, the fact is that only working and oppressed people’s organized struggle that can defeat terrorism. This will that working class movement, aside raising collective demands that will improve the living conditions of the poor people including provision of decent and secure jobs for all able bodied people, will also organize mass actions including community watch to combat the menace of terrorism. This is necessary as the menace of terrorism is itself a reflection of the bankruptcy of neo-colonial capitalist state, which has failed address the basic needs of the people and resolve the nationality question coupled with the unprecedented corruption, inequality and injustice this has engendered. Indeed, a section of the capitalist class is surely using terrorism and divisive ethnic card to hold stakes in the capitalist distribution system, while even the ruling class may employ the tool of terrorism and ethnic division to undertake a brutal repression of the revolutionary movement.

However, a pan-Nigerian working people’s movement will not only unite the working people across religious, ethnic and racial tendencies with clear cut programmes that affect all, but will also make clarion call on the rank and file of the armed forces to join the movement. This kind of approach is the surest means that can defeat terrorism and the capitalist class that engenders and nurture it. Element of what can happen when working and poor unite to fight capitalist regime is reflected in the Kano and Bayelsa examples. In Kano, despite the specter of religious fanaticism, Christians were seen protecting the Muslims on a praying ground during mass protests. In fact, the Boko Haram terror sect was extremely unpopular during this period. Also in Bayelsa State (the state of origin of the president), despite the  threat of the state sponsored ethnic hoodlums to attack any protest, the strike was very successful with all work places shut down by the strike. Therefore, attempt of the labour leaders to over-blow the issue of violence and anarchy as excuse to cut short the uprising is either a reflection of ignorance or outright perfidy. Such argument can be a willing tool in the hand of the state to repress future revolutionary movement. It is indeed vital state that this argument of the labour leaders gave confidence to the government to militarize the centres of the protests.

Are working people expendable in revolutions?

The failure of labour leadership had made many people including youths and activists to maintain that they do not need workers to organize a revolution. While it is not sacrosanct that trade unions should lead revolution; it is a truism that unless workers, organized under a collective banner put their feet into a mass movement and/or uprising, such will never yield expected result either in the short or long run. This is because, organized workers, no matter their smallness hold the main stake of capitalist economy; they represent the class that the capitalist need in order to extract surplus value i.e. profits. When workers go on general strike, the central question that arises is who run society – Workers or Capitalists; as the whole society is paralyzed. Therefore, it is not true that workers’ role in revolution is infinitesimal. Of course, other strata of the society can play decisive roles; the leading role of workers is the only mean to force down the hands of the capitalist class. In the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, while there were mass revolts across the country, general strikes declared by workers actually sounded the death knell for the brutal regimes of Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. Going back into history; despite the victory of the May 31st Movement guerilla campaign led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara against the Batista regime in Cuba, it was the mass strike of the workers in Havana that sent the Batista regime packing. We can go on to cite various historical examples.

This is even clearly expressed in the fuel price struggle. While there are protests across the country prior to the labour declaring strike, the proclamation of labour leadership actually gave direction to the next stage of the struggle. It is not also accidental that the government felt relieved and confident to attack protesters immediately the labour leaders signaled their intention to hang the struggle. Of course, workers (alone) did not (and cannot alone) play heroic and yeoman roles in the revolts; their organized actions either gave or removed energy from the uprising. It should also be understood that while labour leadership as presently structured is not revolutionary (while the structures of labour movement itself is basically deficient), the labour movement and the unions still represent the central platform for organization. Truly, in period of serious revolutionary ferment, for instance, if the government had undertaken brutal repression, labour leadership calling off strike might be useless as workers will simply ignore such and bypass the officialdom/bureaucracy of the labour leadership, and directly exert their class power on the revolutionary course. Even in such situation, there will still be need for working people to have an organized political platform of intervention. This emphasizes the need to prepare and build a revolutionary platform that will start to prepare working and oppressed people for such a task. Without this and in the absence of experience and understanding of their roles, a revolutionary initiative of the working and oppressed people can be hijacked by a section of the bourgeois or petty bourgeois class, in the interests of capitalism.

Rebuilding the Labour Movement as a Revolutionary Platform

Consequently, for genuine labour leaders and activists, it only mean that any struggle undertaken by the working people must not be limited to the single issue being addressed; it must involve all the fundamental demands of the working and oppressed people. For instance, while the fuel price struggle is raging, universities were under locks consequent upon lecturers’ strike over underfunding of education. Furthermore, the electricity utility company, PHCN, was to be sold out with serious consequence for the electricity workers; while millions of youths are unemployed. These, among several issues should have been included as part of the demands of the movement. On the contrary, the labour leadership avoided raising these issues, because it is not prepared to challenge the system in the first place; as including these issues will mean arousing the working and oppressed people with greater anger to challenge the regime and the system it represents. As against the excuse of the labour leadership that it wanted to be focused on fuel price hike alone, its decision to call off the strike was premised on promises made by the anti-poor government on other issues that are not initially included in fuel price hike; promises that will never be fulfilled.

We need a revolutionary, democratic labour leadership. We cannot continue to lament in its absence; we need to rebuild the labour movement on a fighting, democratic, revolutionary and democratic basis. This underlines the need for such platform as Joint-Action Front (JAF, which played a central role of organization and mobilization during the uprising); socialist and left-leaning organizations and activists to begin the process of building a Labour Activists’ Network. This is with a view to galvanizing all change seeking elements within and without the labour movement including labour leaders, activists and rank-and-file workers, intellectual community, youth movements, etc from the local level to the national level, with basic minimum programme of rebuilding the labour movement and building a revolutionary political platform. This will mean organizing workers’ education across unions with a view to raising the consciousness of workers towards rebuilding their unions on a democratic basis. It will also mean raising campaigns on how to rebuild the labour movement and refocus it away from mere trade unionist task; rather on a class and revolutionary task of leading other oppressed people for a social revolution.

Such platform will also lead campaigns and struggles against all anti-poor, capitalist policies from local to national level, and counter-posing them with revolutionary socialist policies and programmes of mass investment in social infrastructures, services and amenities; and public ownership of the nation’s economic mainstay. Ultimately, such a platform will serve as a nuclear organ for the formation of a revolutionary, democratic working people’s political party, that while standing on clear-cut democratic socialist principle, will lead the mass of people to revolution. This task will not be easy or child play, it will require serious commitment from genuinely minded socialists, labour activists, etc. Of course, there will be setbacks, but if there is a focus, there can be headway. We need to bring back the best part of labour activism history i.e. workers’ education, collective organizing, etc and build on them. Today, because of the absence of this collective platform, labour and popular activism has been replaced with civil society activism.

These are the basic long-term lessons we must learn from the botched anti-deregulation uprising. Surely, the mass of people have seen the potentials in their collective power to reorganize society. The uprising is only a dress rehearsal of imminent revolution, for which Nigeria is long overdue. The mass of people will in time to come, conclude that only internationalized revolutionary, democratic socialist programmes can salvage the future of Nigeria, nay Africa and the world at large.

 

Kola Ibrahim

(08059399178, 08067939674, kmarx4life@gmail.com, kmarx4live@yahoo.com)

P.O.Box 1319, GPO, Enuwa, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria.

January, 2012, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

Blogs: www.ibrolenin.blogspot.com, www.socialistagitators.blogspot.com

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Kola Ibrahim, a labour and youth activist is a Civil Engineering graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He was a student activist both on campus and in the national students’ movement – a role that earned him many forms of victimization by the government and pro-establishment university administrations. He has written many articles and comments on national and international issues, which have appeared in many local and international newspapers, news magazines and journals – print and electronic. He is presently working on a pamphlet on recent revolt in the Middle East and North Africa, and an edited collection of his past write-ups. He has also completed a work on the recent minimum wage struggle in Nigeria. He has also been active in labour and youths campaigns and struggles, ever since his student days. He is a socialist.



[1] This write up is an attempt at reviewing the just botched protests against hike in fuel price by the Jonathan government; with a view at drawing the necessary lessons that may be useful in subsequent mass actions. The write up may not represent everything about the mass protests, but it certain contain valuable polemical positions that will require discussions, debates, etc. especially among working class people and youths. That exactly is what this write up represents.

[2] Yours sincerely actually witnessed various groups of youths and workers, organizing barricades, while others went to the extent of mobilizing money to feed the people who are stranded. Empryonic forms of actions committees were set up across several communities; and where activists awere well organized, direct coordinating committees were set up.

[3] For instance, if the movement had grown until the second week, with proper organization and leadership, the Jonathan government would have been compelled to undertake massive crackdown and repression, which would have caused a sharper schism within the capitalist class, especially the political section. This will surely reverberate in the armed forces, with many of the rank and file policemen, soldiers, etc changing side for the revolution.

[4] This is glaring with the use of not only the armed forces to terrorize the people, but attempt to use ethnic/divisive and fascistic forces of the Niger Delta militants and separatists to challenge the labour movement.

[5] This in itself reflects the underdeveloped nature of Nigeria’s capitalist political class. It is no more strange to see many state and local governments (and even federal government) using state resources to procure commercial buses, and hand them over to individual commercial transporters, mostly poor people at exorbitant rates. This will imply that aside the high cost of transport this will engender, it will also resort to desperation on the part of the poor commercial transporters, many of whom end up broke and bankrupt. A sensible approach would have been to have state run transport system.

[6] Who live on around $2.5 a day, according to the World Bank

[7] This is done by forcing capitalist bosses to drive down wages through cut in wages, retrenchment, overworking of workers, etc. with a view to meeting profit target and speculation of finance capital (banks, edge funds, portfolio investors, etc.)

[8] The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was quoted in the sideline of her trip to some African states recently that the US government supports the policies of deregulation and fuel price hike; with a proviso that it is left for Nigerian government to know how to implement them. This is also coming on the heel of a visit of the IMF chief, Christine Lagarde to Nigeria, to boost Nigerian government’s morale in implementing these policies. Undoubtedly, the policies provide new opportunities for multinational corporations and finance capitalists to explore and exploit Nigerian market cheaply and easily. Of course, if the mass resistance had led to blown out revolt, the western imperialist governments, in their characteristic hypocritical manner would have possibly feigned support for the revolt, with a view to influencing it in the interests of their capitalist classes.

[9] Aside over N100 billion wasted during Obasanjo’s era to refurbish the refineries, the Yar’Adua government also budgeted billions for turnaround maintenance of the refineries. At a time, it was revealed by the corporation’s management that the NNPC is now working more than 60 percent of its capacity, only for it to reveal again that the corporation could only refine less than 170, 000 b/d of its allocated crude oil.

[10] Indeed, Nigerian government officials, including Iweala herself, do not even know the exact amount of fuel consumed in Nigeria daily; neither do they know how much fuel is imported into the country daily. At a House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee hearing on the subsidy to a senior Customs official representing the agency, maintained that Nigeria’s imported fuel is done in secrecy and flagrant flouting of customs and importing rules (which are deliberately waivered by no other persons than the ministers in charge). It was further revealed that the mother ship bringing imported fuel to Nigeria is not berthed on Nigeria’s ports but outside the country’s shores or in neighbouring West African countries’ shores and ports. What an ingenious means of avoiding preying eyes of Nigerian public! This is aside several other revelations exposing the perfidy in oil importation into the country.

[11] See Petroleum Minister, Allison Madueke’s speech at the House of Representatives’ hearing on the fuel subsidy fraud in national dailies of Wednesday, 18 January 2012. Also, at a Town-hall meeting organized by newspaper proprietors’ group in December, 2011, government officials (Okonjo-Iweala, Madueke, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (central bank governor) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo State governor) were eager to protect the image of the racketeers, some of whom were seated right on the front role of the Town hall meeting.

[12] The same excuse used by Obasanjo government to silence those demanding prosecution of past military rulers who looted the country blind.

[13] Safe for massive opposition by labour and pro-labour civil society groups organized under the Joint Action Forum (JAF) and Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), the nation’s oil corporation, NNPC built and developed with tens of billions of dollars would have been sold for $1.3 billion!

[14] Thus, you have situation where workers working in the corporation, consumers and communities have no control or say on how the corporation is run. This, in a period of widespread poverty, superintended by the jackboot military regime, turn some of the workers to willing tools of the top management to suck the corporation dry, and make it inefficient.

[15] These various arguments itself underlines the heterogeneous nature of the fuel price hike struggle, as many even elements within the capitalist political structures (and big business), whose interests are also affected by the policy are opposed to the policy. This underlines the need for a clear-cut working class approach to such general issue by conscious labour leadership; and not be the representation of such diffuse and confused orientation, which only tend to confuse working people.

 

[16] This is currently being witnessed in Ghana where the working people are resisting the hike in fuel prices in the country. This shows that global capitalism rampage is everywhere. This further necessitates the need for the working class movement to link up internationally on revolutionary basis.

1 COMMENT

  1. Calling the Minister of Finance an agent of the West isn’t right. We must try to situate issues in its right perspective. Nigerians sure know who the crooks are.

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