A pro-labor group called the Joint Action Front (JAF) has urged Nigerian workers, farmers, youth, the unemployed and other groups to use “mass actions to reject, resist and defeat” the hike in fuel price announced two days ago by President Muhammadu Buhari. It also asked Nigerians to demand the enthronement of socialism.

In a statement released today and signed by its chairman, Dipo Fashina, and secretary, Abiodun Aremu, JAF condemned “the latest imposition of hardship, punishment and miserable existence on [Nigerians] by the deceptive and anti-poor people Buhari regime with its wicked increase in fuel price from N86.50 to N145 on May 11, 2016.”

Rejecting the hike in fuel price, the group described the government’s decision as “a product of the capitalist neoliberal policies of deregulation.” It added that deregulation always punished working people and the poor, “whose lives have been made miserable by the recent hike in electricity tariffs, arrears of unpaid salaries, lack of social security and welfare, commercialisation of education and health care, poor living conditions, job losses and unemployment.” It insisted that deregulation was akin to privatization, contending that both policies were “dictated by greedy, profit-seeking, and looting [by] the few rich cabals at the expense of the poor masses and working people.”

The statement recalled that, before the 2015 general election, when the Buhari-led All Peoples Congress (APC) wooed Nigerians, JAF had cautioned that, “Irrespective of the party that wins the presidential election, the crisis in the economy is bound to continue because the economic agenda of the two major parties (PDP and APC) remains dependent on oil and capitalist policies of privatization and deregulation. These policies are operated and championed by servants of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose main business is to steal our national wealth for the use of the exploiters in Europe, United States of America, Japan, Asia, etc. These agents cannot defend the working people, the poor and the oppressed anywhere.”

JAF insisted that “the Change we want will UNITE the vast majority of our people under a government that will organize the working people and oppressed poor to boost our productive capacities and will use the resources for sustainable economic and social advancement; thereby reversing our economic dependency and restoring our dignity as an independent country.” The statement added: “The Government of the working people will take care of all Nigerians no matter where they come from, their religion, where they live, and their sex. It will care for all Nigerians dehumanized by the rule of the oppressors.”

JAF said it was working with its labor partners to decide on ways of compelling the government to reverse the fuel price to N86.50. In addition, the group said it was bent on defeating “all the capitalist policies of austerity measures targeted at the poor and the working people.” It vowed to engage in “a long-drawn struggle in alliance with the working people and the poor for political power and to urge Nigerians to raise the alternative banner of SOCIALISM for REAL CHANGE.”

It urged its affiliates and allies to hold mass meetings and rallies, adding that one such effort began today when protesters marched from the gate of the University of Ibadan gate through the Bodija area of Ibadan to mobilize the people of Oyo State for an impending nationwide action.

JAF appealed to Nigerians to demand an immediate and unconditional reversal of the fuel price hike; that the government rehabilitate the four refineries and build new ones to ensure availability of petroleum products at cheaper and affordable prices; and the reversal of all policies of privatisation and deregulation, adding that the policies were “responsible for improper functioning of the local refineries, looting by government officials and fuel marketers through fuel importation and subsidies; and the collapse and fraudulent hand over to private profiteers of public enterprises, such as PHCN, NITEL, Nigeria Airways, Nigerian Ports Authority, Ajaokuta Steel, Osogbo Steel Rolling Mill, Itakpe Iron and Ore, Tafawa Balewa Square, National Arts Theatre, Trade Fair Complex, ALSCON, Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company (NNMC), Daily Times, etc.”

In addition, JAF asked the government to obey Section 16 of the 1999 Constitution on Economic Objectives. Part of the section spells out that the national economy should be controlled “in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen.” It added that other parts of the section mandates the government to manage and operate major sectors of the economy as well as to ensure that the economic system was not operated in such manner as to permit the concentration of wealth, the means of production and exchange in the hands of a few individuals or of a group.

JAF urged the government to make massive public investments in industrialization and infrastructure (energy, rail, road, and mass housing) in order to create millions of employment opportunities. The group added “public investments in the energy sector (fuel and electricity) and other public sectors can be efficient if they are under the democratic control and management of committees of workers, consumers and representatives of the government.”

JAF’s charter of demands included a new national minimum wage as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, adequate funding of public education and healthcare, and respect for collective agreements reached with Labor unions.

JAF’s statement called for a struggle “to end the unjust system of capitalism and its failed policies and to bring forth a new political and economic order under the just system of socialism that will end the era of privatization, deregulation, looting and exploitation.” 

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