The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) today in a “final” appeal urged the federal government to reverse its plan to increase fuel prices.
Stressing that it will no longer sit down and watch as Nigerians are treated as second-class citizens in their own country “where the abject poverty of the masses is in sharp contrast to the superfluity of the ruling class,” it vowed to collaborate with other forces in the country to combat the quality of capitalism being practiced it its leadership.
In a press statement signed by Comrade Sunny Enenuvwedia and Comrade Michael M. Ahiakwo, the President and Secretary of CDHR, the organization criticized President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2012-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the 2012 Fiscal Strategy Paper, which were made public last week, noting that the documents propose to phase out in the New Year what the government claims as its subsidy on fuel.
Pointing out that this would be the 18th time in the last 30 years that the Nigerian ruling class has increased petroleum products using similar excuses and promises, it wondered why the approach of the Jonathan government is shrouded in secrecy and corruption.
“The President of the Senate in a recent motion to probe the activities of the NNPC did actually blame the controversy surrounding fuel subsidy on cartels operating in the oil industry,” the statement said. “In a similar reaction, the Federal House of Representatives insinuated the existence of high level corruption in the oil industry with the full knowledge of the NNPC.”
In that light, the CDHR wonders why the Jonathan government has failed to take concrete steps to tackle the cabal and bring them to book instead of subjecting poor Nigerians to suffer untold burdens.
It reminded President Jonathan that democracy releases the total energy of all citizens for development. “Restraining, curtailing, suppressing and oppressing people with associated authoritarianism, which the present Nigeria government is turning into, breeds nothing but violence,” the CDHR warned.
[Full text of the press statement]:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) is the foremost human rights organization in Nigeria. The formation of the organization is already in the public domain.
The CDHR calls for this conference to bring the attention of Nigerians to the confrontations facing the teeming masses of this great nation at this crucial period. We are embittered about the blood draining neo-liberal thinking of our present government, which policy is presently manifesting in the proposed removal of fuel-subsidy. We bring to the fore hence we reiterate the increasing suffering of the poor people, the denied and exploited citizens of this great oil-rich country!
It is however our intention to use this medium to inform and warn Nigerians at home and in diaspora of the possible commencement of a real struggle for total freedom for Nigerians. The battle will ensure that Nigerians no longer remain a mere allocation under the dictates of a few neo-colonial powers. We the citizens of Nigeria are fed up with remaining under the governance and dictates of neo-liberal policies and forces of IMF and World Bank since our independence in October 1960. These neo-liberal policies
are led by a few countries and the present Nigerian government dances to the dictates at the expense of welfare of Nigerians.
The Latest Fraud on Nigerians
Nigerians have been defrauded! Yes we are defrauded.
On the 4th of October 2011, Nigeria’s president Dr. Goodluck Jonathan forwarded to the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) the 2012-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, and the 2012 Fiscal Strategy Paper. Among other issues, the documents propose to phase out what government claims as its subsidy on fuel beginning in 2012. According to the President, this will make available about N1.2 Trillion, some of which will be available for use in creating ‘safety nets for the poor’ who will be adversely affected by the removal of the subsidy, and also go into the establishment of what the President calls ‘Critical Infrastructure’. The CDHR notes with disappointment that this is 18th time the Nigerian ruling class has increased petroleum product in the last 30 years, giving similar excuses and promises on each occasion.
The Journey of Sabotage by our Governments: A History of Fuel Price Increase
The current sabotage of government at removing fuel subsidy is not the first time our ruling class has tinkered with the price of petrol. On October 1st 1978, the Military Government of General Olusegun Obasanjo increased the price from 8.4kobo to 15.37kobo. It was again increased on the 20th of April, 1982 to 20kobo, and again to 39.5kobo on March 31st 1986. On April 10 1988, it was increased to 42kobo per litre. On January 1st 1989, nine months later, another increase was announced where private cars will be charged 60kobo while commercial cars will keep paying 42kobo. The non-justifiability of this price regime led to the announcement of a uniform price of 60kobo per litre on December 19, 1989. On March 6 1991, thirteen months after, the price was again increased from 60kobo to 70kobo. On the 8th of November 1993, the price was increased to N5:00 but on November 22, 1993, it was reduced to N3:25. On October 2nd, 1994, it was again increased to N15:00 but reduced two days later to N11:00. On December 20, 1998, it was increased to N25:00 and reduced to N20:00 on January 6th 1999, a month later. On June 1st 2000, it was increased to N30:00 and again reduced to N25:00 one week later. Five days later, on June 13, 2000, the price was further reduced to N22:00 per litre. On January 1st 2002 the price was increased from N22:00 to N26:00 per litre. Yet, it was increased again to N40:00 a litre on June 23, 2003, and again to N70:00, a litre in June 2009. It was later reduced to N65:00 per litre. Through this past experience, we are sure this new proposed increment will add to the multifaceted suffering of Nigerian citizens.
The Claimed Reason for Government Removal of Subsidy
In the government’s recent analysis for the removal of the so called “Subsidy”, there are obvious indications that the whole process is embroiled in secrecy and corruption. The same process is controlled by a cartel which enjoys the claimed benefits that would have accrued to Nigerians.
The President of the Senate in a recent motion to probe the activities of the NNPC did actually blame the controversy surrounding fuel subsidy on Cartels operating in the oil industry.
In a similar reaction, the Federal House of Representatives insinuated the existence of high level corruption in the oil industry with the full knowledge of the NNPC.
The puzzle posed on us in CDHR at this juncture is: Why doesn’t our national government take concrete steps to tackle this cabal and bring them to book rather than subjecting poor Nigerians to suffer untold burdens. Have we, the citizens of this nation, not suffered enough since 1978?
Fuel Price Increase and Subjected Hardships
The link between the cost of fuel and increases in the cost of living, in particular the cost of food and consumables, is one that has since been established by IMF recent report which indicates that high fuel costs are instrumental to rising food prices and other necessities. In Nigeria, neither the IMF nor World Bank analysis is needed to understand the centrality of fuel to our lives. People of all forms of living, ranging from artisans to professionals are badly affected by the hiking in prices.
Based on the above analysis and record of increment over the years, Nigerian populace have been subjected to untold hardships ranging from high cost of food, medical facilities, housing facilities and unprecedented level of sickness and death. These sufferings are not issues to our government and never thought of by the ruling class. Why should a President unanimously voted by the masses not think of the welfare of the people who elected him into office?
Democracy and the Right of Nigerians to Oppose Fuel Price Increase
Contrary to the general appeal of Nigerians, the government seems hell-bent on achieving its proposed increase. This, we find to be directly challenging to Democracy as well as the spirit and letter of the 1999 constitution which establishes that “Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom the government derives all its powers and authority” (Chap 11. Sec. 14 (2) a).
The appeal of democracy, when firmly established, lies in its pragmatism and legalism as a means of guaranteeing individual rights, interest and social justice. It preserves harmony within communities through consensus and agreement, it integrates societies.
We wish to remind President Goodluck Jonathan that Democracy releases the total energy of all citizens for development. Restraining, Curtailing, Suppressing and Oppressing people with associated authoritarianism, which the present Nigeria government is turning into, breeds nothing but violence.
Our Demand / Our Call
This day, the 22nd December 2011, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights makes the final appeal to the Federal Government. We call for immediate reversal of government’s agenda on fuel price increase.
The CDHR shall no longer sit down and watch Nigerians being treated as second-class citizens in their own country where the abject poverty of the masses is in sharp contrast to the superfluity of the ruling class.
The CDHR is ready to collaborate with all forces in Nigeria to combat the inherent nature of capitalism exhibited by our leadership. Together we must unite to take upon ourselves the struggle not only for government reversal on oil subsidy but to challenge the structure of the society or any policy, which until now has served to oppress us. Without this, it is impossible to resolve the oppressor / oppressed divide in Nigeria.
Comr. Sunny Enenuvwedia Com. Michael M. Ahiakwo