By Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOS â€” NIGERIAN students, under the umbrella of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), have rejected governmentâ€™s plan to fully deregulate the downstream sector of the nationâ€™s petroleum industry and called on President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to avoid civil unrest in the country.
NANS in a statement, through the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), demanded among others, that the oil sector be nationalised and placed under the democratic control and management of elected committees of workers and the oil producing communities.
The statement signed by Messrs. Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Chinedu Bosah, ERCâ€™s National Coordinator andÂ Secretary respectively, read in part: â€œWe strongly condemn the planned deregulation of the oil sector and the privatisation of the nationâ€™s refineries.
â€œWe see this move as another attempt by the capitalists and anti-poor Yarâ€™Adua government to convert public assets and resources into the exclusive, private property of the rich few, thereby leaving the masses at the mercy of these selfish profit-driven individuals.
â€œWe shall mobilise Nigerian students and youths for nationwide protests and lecture boycotts should the government fails to halt this policy. Governmentâ€™s argument that only deregulation and privatisation can guarantee constant availability of fuel products at affordable prices is untrue.
â€œThe deregulation of diesel and kerosene and their prices shooting up by over 400 per cent has clearly shown that the deregulation as a policy is anti-people. For Nigerian students and the working masses, deregulation will mean hike in transportation fares, increase in the general prices of goods and services, which will further compound the already crisis faced by poor working class, students and youths.
â€œAs an alternative to deregulation, we demand that the oil sector be nationalised and placed under the democratic control and management of elected committees of workers and the oil producing communities. Only this can guarantee constant availability of fuel products at affordable prices; refining of oil for domestic use, as well as the judicious utilisation of oil revenues to better the lives of the working masses etc.
The students demanded the followings: â€œHalt to deregulation of the oil sector and privatisation of oil refineries; full and immediate implementation of agreement signed with ASUU;Â Funding of education up to 26 per cent of budget as recommended by UNESCO; cancellation of all fees including the exorbitant Law school fees.
â€œPayment of N40,000 Cost of Studying Allowance (COSA) to all Nigerian students in tertiary institutions to help them meet the cost of textbooks, accommodation, feeding, transportation, etc; recall of all victimised students/staff activists and restoration of all banned unions; immediate freedom for the 27 jailed soldiers without loss of pay; public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control and management of workers.â€