NNPC insolvent, says minister
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the state oil firm, is insolvent, unable to pay debts of 754bn naira.
Junior Finance Minister Remi Babalola said recently that NNPC had asked the Government for help to cover its debts and fund its operations. The NNPC also owes about N450 billion to Nigeria’s Federation Account, which distributes oil money to varying levels of the country’s government.
But the NNPC denied the claim and said the government was not paying its own debts to the firm. These currently stand at more than N1.156 trillion.
The company controls more than half of oil assets in Nigeria – one of the world’s biggest exporters. So 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 it does little or nothing to regulate the industry, reduce oil spillage or stop gas flaring.
Although Nigeria is a major crude oil producer, it must buy almost all the petroleum products it uses on the international market because its own refineries are insufficient and dilapidated. The NNPC buys refined petrol at international prices and then sells it on to local marketeers. All this provides massive opportunities for fraud and corruption.
The Nigerian government gained an extra $390 billion in oil-related fiscal revenue over the period 1971–2005. However, the Nigerian anti-corruption commission estimates that some $380 billion of this oil money was stolen or squandered between 1960 and 1999.
Nigeria has four oil refineries, but they are widely seen to be poorly maintained and only running at 40% of capacity.
In May, NNPC, and the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) agreed a $23bn (£15bn) deal to build three new oil refineries. The first of these will be built in the Lekki free trade zone of Lagos the other two in Bayelsa and Kogi. The deal also includes the construction of a fuel complex.
The Chinese will cover 80% of the cost, and NNPC 20%, while the state of Lagos will provide land and infrastructure.
So the Chinese are bribing the Nigerian government with these new refineries to guarantee their future supplies of oil. In return they are also getting free land and tax concessions to ensure that these refineries are profitable in future.
Goodluck Jonathan has promised to tackle corruption in the oil industry. He has sacked some officials from the NNPC and ordered an audit of the firm’s accounts. But this is only scratching at the surface!
The oil workers union, NUPENG recently complained the government is not using the oil wealth for national development. It threatened that should the government fail to act on road repairs and the problem of casualisation in the industry, it would commence a strike in Abuja and environs from 1st August.
Similarly workers of Asca Bitumen and Oil Company Limited started a strike from 12th July. They are demanding improvements to their conditions of service, living wages and re-instatement of recently sacked workers.
The oil industry from the wells to the petrol stations should be controlled, run and managed by the people who really understand it – the oil and petrol industry workers.
This is the only way that corruption will be ended. The huge wealth from oil will then be planned and managed for the benefit of the vast majority of us.
Minimum Wage: Panel pegs pay at N18,000
The Government Committee on the National Minimum Wage have finally announced their recommendation. As long as the Government agrees, the minimum wage is to increase to N18,000 a month.
This is a far cry from the N52,200 demanded by the trade unions and the first increase for 10 years. We should also remember that in January last year the House of Representatives voted to increase the minimum wage to at least N30,000!
In addition, a circular was issued in early July which would still mean that the last paid federal worker would now receive on N17,073 monthly,
The new national minimum wage will only apply to organizations with 50 employees and above, and exclude seasonal employment such as in agriculture, workers on part time basis and allied employment.
Also, the panel said it initially arrived at “an average of N22,500 per month as the appropriate figure for a new national minimum wage, but scaled it down to N18,000 because the economy would not be able to support the higher figure. So working people will have to pay for the bosses crisis!
NLC President Abdulwaheed Omar cautioned that the report should not be edited by government. “What we expect is that government should transmit the report to the National Assembly for legislation. The National Assembly is expected to legislate on it as quickly as possible so that the workers can start reaping the dividends of their sweat,” he said.
So after all the talk at the rallies last year, the NLC and the TUC have just accepted the derisorily low figures for a new minimum wage. This is despite the clear opposition to such a low figure at the May-day rally in Abuja this year. As we said in the Socialist Bulletin sold at that event:
No to N18,000 minimum wage!
For a new living minimum wage debate at the workplace!!
For internal democracy in the unions and social change through workers struggle!!!
Prof Nwabueze calls for a “bloody revolution”
Professor Ben Nwabueze, a leading Professor of constitutional law and one of the top advisers of President Goodluck Jonathan, openly stated during his book launch early in July that a “bloody revolution” is “imminent” in Nigeria.
This was not a new call by the Professor; he was merely restating a similar call he made two years ago. General T. Y. Danjuma, who like him is a leading member of the presidential advisory council, responded. The General, who recently announced that he made a profit of $1b from an oil block, said what Nigeria needs is a single man who will turn the country around.
What lessons and conclusions can working class activists make from this debate?
Some members of the elite class who have mis-ruled Nigeria for 50years and been the beneficiaries of the pillage and plunder of the country can openly and repeatedly point to the need for a revolution. This points at the deep nature of the contradictions that assail the capitalist system.
Rising poverty, deepening inequality, the hunger and suffering of tens of millions, while a few thousand super-rich live the most ostentatious lives, are enough to cause rising anger, desperation and possible spontaneous bursts of revolutionary fervour.
That people like Nwabueze accept the reality of the keg of gunpowder that the capitalist system is sitting on does not necessarily mean they have become converted to the cause of impoverished working and unemployed people. On the contrary, what they seek to do is be prophets of what is needed to prevent the change that we so badly need.
A revolution signifies a turn around, a break from how a society is being governed, brought about through the mass action of people who take over the streets and their workplaces. Revolutions are primarily about power changing hands. In that sense, every revolution is political. Many revolutions do however stop with that political dimension. The only result is the change of one set of the ruling elite by another set from the same class. Governance is changed at the political level, but no change is made in how society is organized, economically and socially. This allows the rich to continue to exploit, dominate and oppress the majority of poor property-less people.
Professor Nwabueze however buttressed his call for revolution with the example of the 1789 revolution in France, either because like many apologists of the elite he does not understand or he tries to distort the significance of that revolution. Revolutions such as the French revolution challenged and overthrew existing forms of economic and social organization of society, replacing them with a new social formation.
In 1789 France, the system in which feudal lords were masters over the peasants was overthrown. In its place economic relations based on production in large-scale factories, between capitalist employers and wage-workers, were forged through the fiery furnace of the masses revolutionary uprising.
In earlier societies before capitalism, working people were scattered in farms as peasants and lacked the power to organise themselves as workers do now. They were slaves, so a single person or representative of some elite group could come and stand as their saviour, the way Danjuma is trying to do now. But the difference with the working class is that its labour creates wealth and it can organise, mobilise and become a social force like never before in history. We see this when workers call General Strikes; the whole system of capitalism is brought to its knees!
With its social and historic position, the emancipation of the working class can be carried out only by the working class itself! It is the working class, through its own self-emancipation that can lead all other exploited and oppressed people locally and indeed the world over to throw away the shackles of the domination of the few bosses. We see as well how other working people look up to labour to give the lead on such struggles as those against fuel price hikes for example. These are demonstrations of their sub-conscious realization of the central role of the working class in the struggle for progressive reforms and revolution.
We should thus tell a Mr. Nwabueze that: “you do not need to tell us that a revolution is imminent; you and your kind are sowing the wind and will reap the whirlwind. Our day shall come when we will make the earth quake under your feet, seize the power from your hands in government, the workplace and on the streets; liberating ourselves and building a new, better, more humane society, where the needs of the people and not the greed of a few will guide us, as masters of our fate!”
NLC holds State Level and Rain Schools
On June 23, the 5th edition of the Nigeria Labour Congress State Level Schools commenced.
The schools will run for 10 weeks and meet for 4-6 hours every Wednesday. Participants discuss issues of significance to the working class such as: trade union history and working class struggles; an introduction to economics; collective bargaining and grievance handling; mainstreaming gender in the trade unions; trade union finances; and labour laws. The schools’ target audiences are workplace representatives and trade union activists in each state.
Over the years, with the focus of “building the future of our movement through education”, the schools have played a key role in raising the level of working class consciousness. Over four thousand worker-activists have passed through them. Bonds of solidarity which have proved useful in organising struggles at local levels have been forged in the course of participation in these schools.
Socialist Bulletin commends the NLC on the continued sustenance of this laudable programme despite the withdrawal of solidarity support funding from sister trade unions in the Netherlands which were used to run the first three years of the programme.
This also reflects the commitment of the NLC state councils and industrial unions to the schools. They have seen the benefits of the schools in terms of deepening of awareness of workers and their representatives at the state level.
Socialist Bulletin notes that the State Level Schools also provide veritable avenues for building the unity and clarity of the labour movement (encompassing the trade unions, the Labour Party, progressive civil society organisations and the socialist movement) as a whole.
The involvement of cadres and activists from the Labour Party, Labour Civil Society Coalition and socialist movements would go a long way in raising working class consciousness and building workers’ power, which are essential elements of the schools aims.
In a related development, the NLC is holding its 8th annual Rain School and the 16th in its series of national schools on July 19 – 23, at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. The School comprises three courses: leadership; organising; and gender. There is a participant from each of the 37 NLC affiliates. It also involves two plenary sessions in which trade union leaders and radical intellectuals brainstorm with participants around the theme of the school. This year’s Rain School will look at the travails of the working class over the past fifty years of Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule and the challenges of its struggles for emancipation.
It promises to be a very robust 8th NLC Rain School and Socialist Bulletin wishes the school, its organisers and participants a tremendous success. We believe these schools are significant developments that should contribute to working class self-emancipation.
Polytechnic workers begin strike over breach of agreement
Workers in federal and state polytechnics across the country on Monday 5th July began a five-day warning strike to demand for the payment of the balance of monetisation and implementation of Consolidated Tertiary Educational Institutions Salary Structure (CONTEDISS). Also being demanded by the senior polytechnic workers is the adoption of 65 years as retirement age for non-teaching staff in the polytechnics as reflected in the 2001 re-negotiated agreement with the Federal Government.
The warning strike followed the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum the polytechnic staff had earlier issued to government under their umbrella body, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP).
It also condemned the statement made by the Minister of Finance that the proposed public sector salary increase will only affect members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and Non- Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU). It said the statement is misleading and does not reflect the terms in the recently signed 2001 re-negotiated agreement between SSANIP and government, where government agreed that ‘whenever there is a general increase in public sector salaries and allowances, the remuneration of non-academic staff shall be correspondingly increased’.
While appreciating the adoption of 65years as retirement age for non-teaching staff in the polytechnics as reflected in the 2001 re-negotiated agreement with the Federal Government, it decried the non-release of relevant and enabling circulars for implementing the new retirement age. It, therefore, called on the government to expedite action on the release of the enabling circulars to facilitate its implementation.
Meanwhile, academic activities in public primary and secondary schools across Oyo State were paralysed on 5 July as Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) began an indefinite strike over the persistent refusal of the state government to effect payment of the 27.5 percent new Teachers Salary Scale (TSS).
Bauchi civil servants go on strike
Bauchi State civil servants embarked on an indefinite strike over the non-payment of their demands by the state government. Their action practically grounded all economic sectors of the state.
Weeks earlier, the state government threatened the workers with implementing the ‘no work no pay rule’; but the civil servants joined the state branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in driving home their demands.
The state NLC decided on strike action following a seven-day ultimatum given to the state government to pay all workers outstanding allowances and entitlement before 8th of July 2010.
Police threaten strike
Police have threatened to begin a warning strike by the end of this month.
The decision to embark on the nationwide job boycott was reached in a secret meeting in Edo State. Coordinators have been named for each state and mandated to mobilise affected Inspectors and junior ranks in their states to ensure that the action is successful.
NLC commences publication of Workers World
The first edition of NLC’s bi-monthly magazine, Workers World has been issued for May/June. Similarly a few months back, the Trade Union Congress commenced publication of its Congress International, magazine.
Workers’ newspapers are very important as possible instruments for building workers’ solidarity and power for several reasons. First, the usual daily newspapers present us with news and view from the standpoint of the bosses and big business. Only workers’ papers can consistently provide workers with news and analysis that best represents our interests and defends our rights.
Second, workers newspapers do not only inform and educate workers; they are platforms for organising and mobilising the working class.
The Nigerian trade union movement had from its very origins realized the critical importance of workers papers. This is why in November 1942, at the inaugural Congress of the first trade union federation, one of the key resolutions was that for the establishment of The Nigerian Worker, the first major working class newspaper in Nigeria.
The colonial masters soon considered the newspaper as subversive because it rallied tens of thousands of workers around the struggle for their self-emancipation as well as the broader anti-colonial nationalist movement.
Forty seven years later, Congress International and Workers’ World present great opportunities for the trade union movement to provide the working class with mass workers’ newspapers as platforms for class struggle.
To reach their full potential, workers should be involved in writing stories for the newspapers/magazines, distributing them, circulating them, selling them and popularizing them in the workplaces and communities. Socialist Bulletin calls on all its supporters to assist with this task.