The United Action Front of Nigeria Civil Society comprising of prominent activists in the country and leaders of National Consultative Front, Free Nigeria Movement, Citizens Action Movement, Country First Movement, Citizens Unite For Democracy, EndSARS Youths Movement, which among other mass movements, demanded for a reversal of the precipitate hike in petrol pump prices last week, say they have resolved to go ahead with the planned mass protests if the Federal Government fails to accede to their demands by the close of work on Wednesday, 7th June, 2023. They made this known in a press statement made available to AkweyaTV on 6 June 2023.
The coalition of mass and youth movements of the Nigerian civil society said this declaration followed emergency consultations of key leaders and activists. Saying that the battle is beyond organised Labour, the activists resolved that “the suspension of strike action by Labour Unions will not hinder us, as Nigerians, who are currently bearing the heat of the indiscretion of the Tinubu regime, from demonstrating our dissatisfaction with the ways families and households in the country have been suddenly plunged into mass impoverishment and sufferings through the gestapo hike of petrol pump prices by the government.”
In their words, “This fight is beyond the NLC and TUC as they only represent an infinitesimal percentage of the Nigerian working people, while the vast majority of the people currently bearing the burden and brunt of the prevailing conspiracy of of the rich and powerful associated with government, are in the civil society and the private sector.”
They said their coalition is “compelled to challenge the insensitivity and dictatorship of the Tinubu government on the streets of Nigeria; as wage workers in formal employment of government are just 10 per cent of the work force of Nigeria with the overwhelming majority in the informal private sector.”
The activists added that, “given the unprecedented unemployment and economic decline in Nigeria, it’s already certain that crimes for survival and insecurity will assume an anarchical dimension, if the outrageous prices of fuel foisted on ordinary Nigerians, is not immediately reversed to N167 per litre to allow for peaceful consultations with various segments and stakeholders in charting and consummating the best modalities and economic alternative for the current exploited subsidy regime; as Tinubu Kitchen Cabinet must be made to realise that they’re not leading a military junta in Nigeria but a constitutional democracy.”
The release signed by NCFront leader, Comrade ‘Wale Okunniyi aka Veteran Che, said even autocratic governments such as that of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida engaged in dialogues before embarking on fuel price hikes in the name of subsidy removal.
“We make bold to buttress that even Babangida, who led a military autocracy, was cleverly consultative in his approach to national emergencies notwithstanding his occasional Machiavellian instinct. So, it’s very embarrassing and disappointing to see a Tinubu nurtured by a pro-democracy organisation such as NADECO of the civil society suddenly degenerate into a turncoat of a dictatorial ruler so early in government. However, we have resolved to prove that the people, the masses and the youths own Nigeria and this fact shall be proven peacefully on the streets of Nigeria after Wednesday if government fails to listen to the people.”
As a matter of fact, this fight is beyond the NLC and TUC as they only represent an infinitesimal percentage of the Nigerian working people, while the vast majority of the people currently bearing the burden and brunt of the prevailing conspiracy of of the rich and powerful associated with government, are in the civil society and the private sector. So our civic space can not to rely on Labour alone for national economic response to State decapitation of the nigerian people. The truth is that only about 10% of Nigerians are government’s wage earners. Majority are in the informal Sector. The knocks and effects of this outrageous hike will be far devastating on the poor, weak, vulnerable, powerless and impoverished people in the informal sector of our civil society.
Calling itself “the conscience of our country,” the activists demanded that before any considered hike in petrol pump prices arising from subsidy removal, government should convene “a national consultative commission of critical stakeholders in the civil society, labour, private sector and government to drive national consensus on what amount of subsidy is to be removed from our petrol pricing. What amount of proceed and earnings will be earned or saved from the removal? What are the alternative economic measures to be applied in cushioning and ameliorating the harsh effects of subsidy removal? How and when will such measures be appropriately applied?”
They called for a reversal of the pump price of petrol to N167 per litre while the government listens to stakeholders and citizens during the Stakeholders Consultative Committee, “rather than spend $800m World Bank loan to pay N5,000 to 50 thousand Nigerians for six months as currently being bandied by Tinubu’s handlers.”
The leaders called on all affected Nigerians to “come out and join the planning of this historic nationwide mass protests in the 36statese of the Federation and Abuja. For support and further inquires, the public is expected to contact our National Coordinating Centre via 09028000222 and to note that a people united can never be defeated.”
This position taken by civil society leaders further widens a nascent and menacing gap between the approaches of organised Labour and leaders of NGOs and civil society coalitions. Labour tends to use every opportunity to negotiate in the interest of workers and their unions, while, as in this case, when their interests diverge from those of the larger mass of Nigerians, Labour opts to call off mass actions, as was the case in January 2012 when President Goodluck Jonathan increased petrol price from N65 to N141 per litre and citizens grounded the nation for a week before the NLC waded in and took the wind out of its sail.