TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANISED OF THE JOINT ACTION FRONT (JAF) OYO STATE CHAPTER ON SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2020, TO EXPRESS ITS DISPLEASURE AND DISSATISFACTION OVER THE RECENT HIKES IN PUMP PRICE OF PETROL, ELECTRICITY TARIFF, VAT AS WELL AS OTHER ANTI PEOPLE POLICIES OF THE BUHARI-LED GOVERNMENT.
THE RECENT HIKE IN THE PUMP PRICE OF PETROL, ELECTRICITY TARIFF AND VAT IS WICKED, ANTI-PEOPLE AND SHOWS THAT BUHARI-LED GOVERNMENT IS EXTREMELY INSENSITIVE TO THE PAIN AND AGONY OF NIGERIA WORKING PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH AT THIS PRESENT TIME.
Fraternal greetings to all the media representatives, leaders and members of different affiliate civil society organisations of JAF here present this morning. We thank you most sincerely for attending this very important press conference.
Again let us quickly inform you that JAF is a coalition of pro-labour, radical and socialist oriented civil society organisations which has been in existence since early 2000 in a principled partnership under a platform known as Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) with the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC which are the two existing trade union centres in the country today.
Therefore, as a coalition of pro-labour organisation, JAF is known to always stand in defence of the economic and democratic rights of the Nigerian working people. JAF undertakes this historical responsibility as a step towards the actualisation of its goal which is SYSTEM CHANGE either by initiating its own independent struggle or supporting struggles initiated by working people themselves whether within the workplaces or communities.
It is in the effort to continue to fulfil this historical responsibility that JAF condemns the recent hike in the pump price of petrol, electricity tariff, VAT as well as other anti-people policies of the Buhari-led government and calls on the Nigerian working people to resist the onslaughts until the total reversal is forced. To achieve this requires the general public to be sensitised on: reasons to organise a fight back; demands to be advanced in the course of it and; roles to be played by individuals to build mass support for the demands towards ensuring their actualisation. Hence, the focus of this press conference.
Rationale for a fight back
Given this background, we will like to state as follows some of the reasons the working people must organise a fight back to defeat the onslaught:
a) To prevent worsen living conditions
It will be recalled that before the barrage of these attacks, the practical realities for the mass of the working people across the country is that the cost of living including prices of food items and transportation had become so unbearable owing to economic dislocation occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, a bag of rice that used to be #20,000 few weeks ago is now #27,000. The exchange rate of Naira has been subjected to technical devaluation at different times in the last six months while different taxes had also been imposed on the working people within the same period. Given this situation, especially when mass of the working class is currently suffering different economic consequences of the pandemic ranging from job loss, slash in salary to nonpayment of salary, the new increase in fuel price and electricity tariff will no doubt worsen living conditions. The meagre income earned by the working people will further shrink as the masses will be made to pay more for basic social utilities should we fail to organise to defeat this onslaught.
b) To prevent the Buhari-led government from taking the working people for a ride.
In 2016, this Buhari-led government in less than a year in office hiked the pump price of petrol from #97 to #145. Unfortunately, there was little or no resistance from the working people to resist the assault at that time. This attitude of the working people at that time no doubt emboldened the regime to increase its attacks on the mass of the working class. Unlike 2016, the attack was only an increase in the pr
ice of petrol, this time around pump price of petrol was increased three times in less than three months’ side by side with hike in the electricity tariff and VAT while water wage bill is at the verge of being imposed on mass of the working people asides other anti-people policies under which the poor continue to groan.
We have to make a bold statement that “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” to this government. We are no no longer ready to be taken for a ride. We can do this only by giving the administration a serious fight back.
c) This is not what the regime promised
Coming to power in 2015, the Buhari-led government never promised to increase the economic burden under which mass of the working people groan under the discredited Jonathan PDP-led government. Rather, the promise was to change from the old anti-people policies of previous regime. With these barrage of hikes in public utilities it is very clear that Buhari-led government is a deceit and has failed to keep to the promise he made to the Nigerian people.
d) Robbing the poor to satisfy the greed of the few members of the ruling class
The increase in tariff which is planned to be done periodically is to guarantee super profit for the ruling class and their cronies, owners of the electricity companies despite their poor performance. This is a conscious exploitation of the masses. It is a deliberate arrangement of making the masses to pay for darkness as electricity supply remains poor while most consumers are assaulted with estimated bills by DISCOs. Also in oil sector the need to invest public fund to reposition the refineries and make it functional had been compromised at different occasion by successive pro capitalist government in the country. This is a bid to create a veritable ground for billionaire importers of fuel to continue to make super profit at the expense of the working people. This is no doubt, another reason for a fight back to reject this kind of anti – people arrangement and demand the return of both the power and oil sectors to public ownership under a democratic control and management of the working people.
e) To forestall further descent of the society into barbarism
It must be recognised that the increase and alarming rate of crime in the country today is an expression of social crisis and decadence in the society. This is directly linked with the neoliberal policies often pursued by the successive pro capitalist governments in the country. Therefore, except this new barrages of hike in public utilities is defeated, there is every likelihood that it will lead to increase in mass unemployment, as many small scale businesses will collapse with tendency for an increase in crime rate and other related social crisis in the country.
Demands for an effective fight back
For an effective fight back, JAF demands the following:
a) Total reversal of the hike in the price of petrol, electricity tariff and VAT at least to the pre 2016 prices. This means for instance that the pump price of petrol should be reversed to #87 per litre.
b) Repair of all the old public refineries and construction of building new ones under a democratic control and management of the working people
c) An end to various neoliberal policies like deregulation, privatisation while the oil and power sector must be re-nationalised under a democratic control of the working people.
d) Leadership of trade union centre, NLC and TUC must declare an immediate nationwide strike and street protest to resist the hikes and demand a total reversal as well as an end to neoliberal policies.
e) An end to a system of capitalism in favour of a socialist system. Both APC and PDP with their smaller clones continue to fail to implement policies that are capable of transforming the life of vast majority of the people. This is because they subscribe to the same capitalist programme and philosophy. This philosophy promotes greed and profit of a few at the expense of the vast majority. It means the use of collective wealth of the society for the benefit of a few. This is why fictitious or inflated contracts are awarded to cronies of the ruling class in the so-called private sector. It explains the jumbo pays, allowances and opulent lifestyles of political office holders. It explains why public education and health care are underfunded, and roads are in bad shape. As earlier stated, it is the reason for perennial increase in fuel price and poor electricity supply.
We cannot do things the same way and expect different result. Nigeria has abundant human and material resources. We need an alternative economic programme that will ensure the use of these resources for the benefit of all.
It entails among other things public ownership of commanding height of the economy (oil and gas, banking, etc) under democratic management and control in order to have adequate resources for provision of quality health care, education, water and infrastructural development – roads and electricity. It also means all political office holders will be on the salary and allowance structure earned by civil servants. All projects allocation will be under democratic control of workers and consumers. By and large, it means the basic needs of the people and society will form the basis of governance and economy, not the greed and profit of a few. It is possible.
To build public support for the above highlighted demands, JAF urges Nigerians to:
(i) Read, circulate and discuss with friends, neighbours in community and workplaces, the leaflets issued either by JAF or any of its affiliates that condemn attacks on the working people.
(ii) Join meetings and protest actions called to resist the hike and other related anti-people policies of the Buhari-led government.
(iii) Organise in your area and link up with state secretariat of JAF for proper briefing of the mode(s) of resistance against the onslaught on working people.
We like to use this medium to call on all Nigerians who agree with the position and demands enunciated above to join us and help to build JAF and spread its idea towards the collective liberation of the working people.
Thanks for listening
Comrade Ademola Aremu
Comrade Abbey Trotsky