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June edition

Niger Delta spills as bad as Gulf of Mexico

The oil firm BP now admits that up to 60,000 or 70,000 barrels a day could be leaking into the Gulf of Mexico. Although BP is now managing to collect some of the leaking oil through the containment cap, the spill is expected to continue until August when relief wells have been drilled. As a result, this BP oil spill is by the far the worst single oil disaster ever anywhere in the world.
In contrast, the combined spillages in the Niger Delta may average 16,000 barrels a day according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the World Bank says it could be up to 10 times higher. So the over all average oil spill rate in the Niger Delta could be two or three times the level of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico – but what does the Nigerian Government do?
The Nigerian government is the principal owner of all of the major upstream companies operating in Nigeria. They own 55% of Shell Nigeria, 60% of Agip, 60% of Mobil and 60% of Chevron. But the Government does little or nothing to regulate the industry, reduce oil spillage or stop gas flaring.
Back in the Gulf of Mexico, the region’s fishing industry will be destroyed. The full effect of the spill on fish, birds and marine mammals will not be known for generations. Oil is pouring into the deep currents of a semi-enclosed sea, poisoning the water and depriving it of oxygen so that entire classes of marine species are at risk of annihilation. It is as if an underwater bomb has struck the Gulf of Mexico, causing some damage on the surface but destroying the living creatures below. And most of the methods to deal with this process have made it worse.
The 20 April explosion in the Gulf of Mexico happened because BP was in a hurry to seal off the oil well so it could move the rig to another drilling location. Eleven workers died as a result. BP, which has boasted of its success in boosting oil production in the gulf, has a sordid history when it comes to safety. Last October it was fined $87 million for failing to correct safety problems discovered after a 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers at BP’s Texas City refinery.

In 2009 BP spent nearly $16 million on lobbying the US government.
The US oil drilling regulator, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), was a tool of the oil companies. It provided leases without making the companies, including BP, obtain required environmental permits. It has approved 27 new offshore projects since the Deepwater Horizon explosion – and 26 were exempt from review.
The reason is simple. An investigation into MMS found “a culture where the acceptance of gifts from oil and gas companies was widespread”. Some MMS inspectors had allowed oil company officials to fill out inspection forms. The inspectors would then sign the forms and turn them in as their own. In 2008, one inspector used his government email to conduct job negotiations with Island Operating Company (IOC), an offshore oil services company he had repeatedly cited for breaking safety rules.
After the employment negotiations began, he conducted four inspections of IOC oil platforms, none of which resulted in any criticism. Soon afterwards, IOC hired him. Asked if he ever takes bribes, another former inspector said he didn’t – but added that he did take “gifts’” from “good friends that I wouldn’t write up anyway”.
In May, when CBS journalists tried to film some of the worst of the oil spill, on a beach in Louisiana, they were stopped by a boatload of BP contractors and two coastguard officers. The coastguards, part of the US Army, threatened to arrest the film crew unless they turned back. According to one person aboard the boat, “This is BP’s rules; it’s not ours.”
Less than two weeks after BP’s rig exploded, an ExxonMobil pipeline burst in Akwa Ibom, spilling around 25,000 barrels into the delta over seven days before it was patched. As is typical in Nigeria, little response followed. Locals demonstrated, but report being attacked by security guards in retaliation.
The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is showing the whole world what the effects of such a disaster can be. But the Nigerian Government allows the silent disaster of oil spillage and gas flaring to continue across the Niger Delta.
The US government is taking some action. This shows that even a government which is supported, bribed and lobbied by the oil industry can still take action. In contrast, the Nigerian government sits back and does nothing to stop oil pollution and gas flaring in the Niger Delta. They are too interested in lining their own pockets. Trade unions, workers and others need to campaign to ensure that the Nigerian Government takes as much effort to prevent pollution in the Niger Delta as the US Government is now doing over the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

South African World Cup – what benefit for workers?
For the first time in history, the FIFA World Cup is being played on Africa soil, in South Africa. The competition took off in June 11, 2010 with an opening match between the host and Mexico. Thirty-two countries (including Nigeria) from all over the globe are participating in the tournament. Huge resources are being spent by the South African government and the contending countries in the course of organizing and participating in the competition. But promise no positive impact on the welfare of the masses. During the construction exercise of the stadia, there was a protracted workers’ strike. The construction workers’ union agitated for better pay and working condition. Their demands were undermined as the South Africa government threatened to sack the entire workforce and instigate a legal action against them.

Economic Effect

MTN, a multinational telecommunication company, is an official sponsor of the competition. The competition has been designed for the rich with accommodation costing around $350 per day. It is now almost impossible to get accommodation below $200 (N30,000) in Johannesburg. The rate has even gone up by over 300 percent. In the past few days, taxi operators are set to introduce the metre charge to make more profit during the period. This means visitors and even indigenes will have to pay more on transportation and other basic needs. Match tickets are being categorized to allow a few people to receive first class treatment as they can afford an excessive amount to watch the matches. The broadcasting rights for the tournament are strictly dominated by FIFA, subjecting local television channels to its terms and conditions.
Nigeria’s Participation
Nigeria’s qualification to the world cup was a narrow escape. The Super Eagles were guided throughout the last nations cup in Angola, where we ended up in third place, by indigenous coach – Amadu Shuaibu – who also qualified us for this world cup. Immediately after he qualified us to South Africa, Nigeria Football Federation relegated him to a mere subordinate to an immediate sacked Sweden National team coach – Lars Largerback – the position which he declined. Lars Largerback (a Sweden nationality) was employed three months to the world cup to manage Nigeria national team despite the fact that there are a number of qualified/experienced indigenous coaches in the country who can do the job better. President Goodluck Jonathan organized an elaborate party for the players just before their departure to South Africa. As if that was not enough, the president led about 300 top government officials to watch the Super Eagles playing in South Africa. Also on htis trip are David Mark, Dimeji Bankola, Prof. Dora Akunyili and a host of lazy members of the National Assembly. No wonder the Government budgeted such a huge amount of money for travel and tours during 2010. Despite all this outrageous waste of our resources, the Super Eagles failed to go beyond the group matches as they were defeated by Argentina and Greece.
After all the effort put in as individuals to support the team – at the end of the day we are disappointed. Isn’t it high time the problem was addressed? The Nigeria Football Federation is not helping the matter by giving the job to someone that has no stake in the failure of the country. Those ruling us are not showing good example as the footballers are already aware of their (leadership) selfishness, undemocratic, uncivilized and unpatriotic ways of governing the country. As a result of that, the super eagle players have imbibed the capitalist tendencies hence they don’t put the country they represent first by playing with zeal, passion, and collective spirit. They see the national team as an avenue to taking their bit out of the “national cake”. Finally, the question is, even if miraculously Nigeria wins the world cup, what significant effect is it going to have on the lives of the masses as the issue of corruption embattling our nation has not been resolved?

Polytechnic workers insist on indefinite strike!
A warning strike was called in mid-June by Polytechnic workers to press home demands for the implementation of the new Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Educations Academic Salary Structure (CONPCASS), which the Federal Government approved in an agreement with the unions.
The workers, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), said total strike would be shelved only after the expected money gets credited into their respective accounts.
COEASU National President, Malam Mohammed Awal Ibrahim, said the major grouse of the unions was the failure of the Federal Government to fully implement the new Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Educations Academic Salary Structures as approved with the unions in February, 2010.
Besides, he said the non-implementation of the new retirement age of 65 years for his members, despite the implementation of same in the universities was unacceptable. “Our senior colleagues were compelled to retire at the age of 60 years as against 65 years as applicable to their counterparts in the university.” Ibrahim explained that the salary arrears from July, 2009 till date have not been paid, and that there was no commitment from the Federal Government.
The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) is insisting on an indefinite strike if their demands are not met by next Monday (28th June).

Osun lecturers take indefinite strike action
Lecturers in Osun State have vowed to continue their industrial action. The lecturers commenced the industrial action on May 28 after several meetings with the governor did not yield any positive result. No agreement was reached over the implementation of the Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Salary Structure (CONPOCASS) approved since 1st July, 2009.
The union which gave a seven-day ultimatum went on three day warning strike and have subsequently declared an indefinite industrial action to press home their demands.
The lecturers at Osun State Polytechnic, Iree; College of Education, Ila Orangun and College of Technology, Esa Oke have paralysed all academic activities in the schools. The Academic Staff Union of State Polytechnics (ASUP) in the Osun State has vowed not to call off the strike if the Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola led-administration fails to implement the CONTISS salary. The aggrieved lecturers said several states have adopted the new salary structure and urged the state government to follow suit or else they won’t return to work

Doctors in public hospitals begin strike
Services were paralysed in government hospitals in early June as doctors held a three-day warning strike. The doctors were protesting the decay of medical infrastructure and the government’s non-challant attitude. The strike was nationwide action by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) toward improvement of facilities in public hospitals.
The President of the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital chapter of the Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Sharfuddeen Mashi, said apart from the lingering decay of infrastructure, lack of advanced training among doctors in public hospitals and lack of political will by the government to address the problems had been of concern to them. Mashi wondered why government officials spend huge amount of the nation’s funds on overseas treatment for their wards and relatives at the expense of the masses, an act which they said must be stopped, if the nation healthcare system is to be improved.
Doctors expressed the same feeling at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH). “If we have better facilities at home, the large sum of money spent on treatment abroad will be used for other pressing needs,” President, Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Dr. Pokop Bupwatda, said.

Medical workers’ begin strike
Medical workers in Cross River State held an indefinite strike in May.
The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) issued a notice of the strike to all its members across the state. The unions said the action became imminent owing to government’s lackadaisical attitude towards their plight.
In addition, the unions accused the government of punitive action by posting four of their leaders to rural areas immediately after the warning strike.

NHIS chief wants dedicated health fund via taxation
Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Waziri Dogo Mohammed, has called for a dedicated health fund from proper taxation. The executive secretary explained the fact that proper taxation was the only sustainable way of maintaining the type of social services that NHIS was providing.
Meanwhile it was reported that members of House of Representatives have demanded an increase in their allowances, which will see each member pocket a handsome sum of N42 million per quarter (up from N 27million).

Protest in Lagos over killing of Julius Berger worker
In mid-June, workers at Julius Berger Construction barricaded the four routes on the Iganmu interchange bridge in Lagos to protest the alleged killing of a colleague, Wahab Amusu, by a policeman from Iponri Police Station. They said that the driver was pushed from a 16-metre-high bridge by the policeman when another driver refused to pay a bribe.

The House of Shame
The House of Representatives has been described as the House of shame for open physical combat that its members engaged in on June 22, 2010 in the course of changing the house leaders that were alleged of corrupt practices. Those minority group members that initiated the allegation were attacked, their clothes torn and their limbs broken.
Allegations of corruption have been responsible for the removal of many leading members of the National Assembly since 1999. The current leadership of the House of Representatives removed the immediate past leadership with the allegation of stealing millions of naira, but in the present case involves over N10billion naira.
Instead of providing an answer to this query and defending themselves, the leadership of the house mobilised other members to fight it out on the floor of the house. Many Nigerians are furious about the incident and are calling for a probe into the allegations.
Meanwhile the EFCC has waded into the matter. Though, the argument of the House leadership is that the allegations were only made after a reshuffle of House Committees. We have come to the conclusion that most members of the House are corrupt and this is clear from their present canvassing for an increase in their pay from N27million to N47million per month. An amount even higher than President Obama earns.
Whatever might be the motives behind the allegations of corruption, the House leaders should be accountable all citizens on how they run parliament, both in the area of political mandates and finance.

Babangida’s Second Coming?
Babangida has joined the race for the presidency in 2011. Many Nigerians have criticised him for his integrity problem. The youths and students in particular have warned that they will embark on mass action against his candidature.
Babangida in his eight years rule as military head of state stood for anything but good. His nick names such as evil genius and Maradona show how evil and manipulative people saw him to be. He will be remembered forever for institutionalising corruption, drug traffickers becoming common place and the killing of the popular journalist, Dele Giwa and M. Vatsa, a poet and Minister of Abuja FCT. He forced the IMF/World Bank inspired policy of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) on the people and against their will. Above all, he conducted the best and fairest elections and then annulled the result that made MKO Abiola the winner.
Abiola was later murdered in detention by Abacha, who Babangida had supported after being forced from office in August 1993. Since the return of civilian rule, Babangida has been influential behind the scenes. For instance, he influenced the coming to power of Obasanjo.
The only group that are disposed to Babangida’s rule are the greedy ruling elite.
The atrocities Babangida committed against Nigerians can best be compared to that of Hitler. So, we should not treat his case like any other people or a normal situation. Babangida cannot win a free and fair election, so he may be forced on Nigerians against their will.
In such a situation, the working people of Nigeria will have no alternative than to go beyond the ritual of democracy. They will have to take their destiny into their own hands by engaging in radical struggle to deepen democracy.
Ondo State students have, for example, promised to fight against Babangida’s campaign. This should be encouraged just like mass action against fascist groups in Europe. It would be too late to defer our struggle against him until after election when the wrong would have been done.

About socialistworkersbulletin

a bi-weekly publication of the Socialist Workers League, in the traditions of International Socialism. we stand for revolution from below! and our call is: workers & youths! unite & fight!


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