//
you're reading...
SWL

Socialist Worker Issue 002 (October-November 2012)

NIGERIA AT 52: A NATION RUN IN THE INTEREST OF THE RICH!

In terms of natural resource endowment, Nigeria occupies between the 9th and the 11th position in the entire world. But Nigeria is also host to the largest concentration of chronically poor people in Africa. In the entire world, it is estimated that one billion people live below poverty line. One third of this population, that is 300 million, live in Africa. According to the 2010 Report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it is projected that 120 million Nigerians were living in relative poverty as at 2011. This means about half of the population of poor people in Africa or about 12 per cent of the world’s poor live in Nigeria. On the other hand, the richest people in Nigeria are very rich. Aliko Dangote is richer than everyone in Britain!

So, why do we have a rich nation but so many poor people? It is because the country is governed by the rich in the interests of the rich and at the expense of the mass of poor people. In other words, the poor are poor because the rich are rich. The process of enrichment of the rich is the process for the dispossession of the poor. For example, the resources of the country are used first to satisfy the greed of the rulers and the crumbs that remain are used to attend to the need of the majority. That is why a typical Senator earns about three times what the US President earns while the official minimum wage is only N18, 000!

The US President earns only about N60 million per year compared to a Nigerian Senator who earns at least N163 million per year. That is why the National Assembly has refused to obey a recent court order, which ordered it to publish budgetary allocations it has received.

Also, the rich Nigerians dispossess society of the common patrimony and enrich themselves in the name of privatization. They go abroad for medical care and send their children abroad for education, using public resources, while they refuse to implement constitutional provisions, which mandate them to provide cost-free education and health care for the masses. They live in mansions and demolish the shanties where the masses live in order to build houses, which only the rich can afford.

Of course, they help enrich the so-called private developers with land acquired from poor people under the Land Use Act. Many of the so-called private developers lack the capacity to provide houses. So, they end up selling the land at exorbitant prices to individuals. Alternatively, they demand initial mortgage deposits, which only people who have taken questionable government contracts can afford. In many cases, they demolish houses and structures where ordinary people eke out a living, without court orders and without providing alternatives, all in the name of a clean environment. But only the living can enjoy a clean environment. With arbitrary demolitions, many children drop out of school because of the sudden termination of the livelihoods of their parents. Hunger, anger, poverty, frustration and so on are the lot of most common people. This also fuels criminal activities and physical insecurity, which we all suffer.

West Africa Insight (Vol 3, No. 11, September 2012) has shown that Nigerian governments are now preoccupied with destroying, rather than protecting lives. The Magazine cites the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), which found that demolitions in Nigeria have rendered homeless no less than 2 million people. In Abuja alone, the Violations of Human Rights Global Survey, No. 10 found that 800, 000 persons have been rendered homeless by the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA. In other parts of Nigeria, demolitions have caused massive displacements (homelessness) of people as follows, among several others:

  • Ago Egun Ilaje, Lagos: 15, 000 persons.
  •  Makoko, Lagos: 100, 000 persons
  •  Agip Waterside Community, Port Harcourt, Rivers State: between 5,000 and 10, 000 persons.
  • Rainbow Town, Port Harcourt: 1.2 million persons.

 

The Federal Capital Territory Development Authority, (FCDA), Abuja, has also revealed that 19 villages would be demolished. This would involve 10,000 houses and 300,000 persons that would be rendered homeless. The villages to be affected include:
1. Mudashiru Idu
2. Karmo-Dape
3. Tasha
4. Gwagwa
5. Suburi
6. Zauda
7. Jahi
8. Gishiri
9. Mabushi
10. Mpape
11. Kuchigoro
12. Chika
13. Aleita
14. Piwoyi
15. Lugbe
16. Pyakassa
17. Tundun-Wada
18. Dei-Dei, and
19. Guzape
All this, under the 1999 Constitution that mandates governments to provide ‘suitable and adequate shelter’, which the rulers swore to uphold!

Nigeria’s democracy is government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich through the dispossession, displacement and disempowerment of ordinary people.

This situation should not be allowed to continue. But the present reality cannot be changed by miracle, outside the initiatives of the masses themselves. The masses of Nigeria must reclaim Nigeria and run society in their own interest, based on socialist principles and programmes. This task is possible if organizations of the poor (workers, students, artisans, ordinary farmers, traders, etc) unite and assist each other in moments of struggle, and on a sustained, organised and systematic basis.

 

Rights are not given, rights have to be fought for and won!

Dare to struggle, Dare to win!!

Another world, a world of abundance is possible. But only if we fight for our rights to survival and comfort.

 

WHAT KIND OF TRADE UNION MOVEMENT DO WE NEED TODAY?

By

The WORLD FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS (WFTU)

The WFTU, an international class oriented organization with 82 million members in 120 countries, has among other international organisations, expressed unflinching support to the fighting South African workers. In a speech by the General Secretary of the body, George Mavrikos, to the 11th National Congress of COSATU, the WFTU explains the kind of trade unionism that can defend the interests of the working class today. Extracts from the Speech are provided below.

 

Once more from this podium we want to express our solidarity to the struggle of the South African miners. We want to express our condolences to the South African working class. As WFTU, as an organization of proletarian internationalism we stand firmly with all the workers in struggle. WFTU struggles against the capitalist brutality and the abolition of the exploitation of human by human …

 

Today, more than ever, the globalized capitalism with its excessive profit, with its huge amounts of profit, is incapable to provide to the working people. It can’t provide them with work, bread, shelter, water, clothing, books. It shows, however, great capabilities in organizing the war against the international proletariat. It takes back all the labour rights that had been gained by the class-oriented trade union movement during the past decades. It hammers the workers with dozens of anti-labour measures in the name of the capitalist crisis. It organizes new imperialist wars, unleashes fire against the people for the control of the energy resources, for the oil. Once more the capitalists and their governments are redesigning the boarders and the maps. Once more they spill the workers’ blood for the interests of the multinationals.

 

The main difference today is that the international labour movement is “caught

off guard”. It is “disarmed”. The class of the capitalists with its agents in social-democracy and in the trade unions has managed to divide the workers, to weaken the unions around the world. It has managed to impose reformist

leaderships, to impose an opportunistic line and compromise with the class enemy and his governments.

The level of rottenness of some trade unions …is such that the workers see no difference between the unions and the companies of legal counselling … The workers … do not see the trade unions as the militant revolutionary unification of workers that will struggle with all means for their rights, for the solidarity and the collectivity amongst the workers. The workers do not see those unions as the school of the revolutionary struggle. In the contrary they see these unions as bureaucratic mechanisms of collaboration with the bosses. As mediators between the government and the workers. As companies or as departments of the Ministries of Labour.

 

And all these coincide with very bad conditions within the International Organizations (like the ILO, the UN), negative conditions that make our own struggle more difficult, more complex.

 

Why we need powerful internationalist unions

But, today, more than ever, the working class needs to construct powerful trade unions. Unions that will unite all the workers in the industry, in every working place irrespectively of their position in the production. Today we need trade unions that will organize the struggle in every form with determination and combativeness for the conquest of labour rights. We need a consistent and constant front against reformism, against opportunism, against corruption. We need in international level a unified militant front of the proletariat against our common bosses.

 

Today the trade union movement has to respond to more complex issues.

The simple trade union struggle for the increase of the salaries in one sole factory has to confront a series of hard arguments against the workers:

• The bosses threaten the workers that if they don’t accept to work for peanuts they will take their factories and their investments and move to other countries. The same arguments, however, are used in every country to keep the working class in chains. The same argument is used by the bosses

even in countries like Nepal of Asia were the

monthly salary is about 700 Rand!

 

• The imperialist wars, the poverty, the hunger, the natural disasters, the

unemployment. All those, force masses of workers in labour migration. Even in South Africa, there are many immigrants from Asian countries who come to find a job although the unemployment is very high. The immigrant

workers are the most terrified workers; they are the most exploited workers.

Today, we are in conditions of deep capitalist crisis. In Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, in France, in the whole Europe, in the

capitalist world. So can the simple trade union struggle be

isolated by the internationalist struggle? Can the struggle in one country be isolated with the essential solidarity amongst the workers of the world and their struggles? Can the struggle against one multinational be successful without the coordination between the workers in various countries who work for the same bosses? Can the struggle of the unions be successful

if they don’t coordinate their action with common objectives?

 

Today the proletarian internationalist struggle has an increased role. The cooperation between the national and the sectoral trade

union organizations around the world for the coordination and the class orientations of their struggle is vital. Can those sell-outs, … the spineless agents of the bourgeoisie in the trade union movement, the corrupted servants of the Ministries take upon their shoulders such a heavy duty?

No way! No way! Never!

 

What kind of trade union movement do we need today?

With this great history and experience in our shoulders, comrades, we have to respond to the key question of our times. What trade union movement we need in national and international level to fight effectively for the interests of the working class against the monopolies, against the multinationals? To

win battles and to improve the living conditions of the workers and the poor people. To pave a new course where the wealth will belong to those who produce it.

 

To respond to this question, we as WFTU, study the new conditions of the capitalist development and the capitalist crisis… We need trade unions that will be:

• Class oriented and revolutionary organizations of the workers struggling

against the capital and against imperialism

• Democratic in operation and worker-controlled.

• Unions that will have leadership that comes from the ranks of the working class. Leadership that respects criticism and self-criticism. Leadership with proletarian discipline that will be dedicated to the struggle against bureaucracy and corruption.

• We need unions that will struggle with determination against the discriminations of workers according to race, gender, religion etc.

• Unions that will promote the alliance between workers, farmers, labour youth and working women.

• Unions that will fulfil their internationalist duties of proletarian solidarity with the people fighting around the world.

• Unions that will educate the generations of workers with the history and the lessons of the international and national trade union movement and the struggles of the working class.

• Unions that will intervene in the

International Organizations, that will demand solutions in favor of the workers, that will demand democratic and trade union freedoms and will defend any remaining positive international collective agreement.

• Unions that will not be neutral or with everybody. For example, in the Middle East we are not with Israel. We are with Palestine. We fully support the Palestinian struggle not only with words but with concrete action, day after day. In Syria, we are not with the kings, with the emirs, with the sultans, with

the imperialists. They don’t care for the democracy in Syria. The care about the resources. They target the oil. As WFTU we firmly say, the people of Syria are the only ones who must choose their present and future. The people of Syria are the only ones responsible to form their democracy and freedom. With such unions we can bring closer the strategic goal of the socialist society. This kind of unions is what WFTU is struggling to build. Not compromised unions, not unions that are only legal consultants, not unions departments of the ministries of labour, not trade unions members of the Boards of their multinational companies.

 

SUPPORT SOUTH AFRICA’S MINERS!

striking South African miners

For six weeks, starting early August, about three thousand mineworkers at the Marikana Platinum Mine embarked on strike for increased wages and improved conditions of work. The mine is owned and run by Lonmin whose headquarters are in London.

Police and the employers had conspired and resolved to break the strike on 16 August, to force the miners back to work. On that day, miners had assembled on a hill top. After a few warnings, the police began shooting into the ranks of the striking workers. As a result 34 workers were killed and hundreds wounded and arrested. Altogether, the deaths recorded rose to 46.

That incident is nothing but genocide. It is comparable only to the 1960 Sharpeville massacre under the Apartheid white minority rule.

The genocide has therefore confirmed that though on the surface it appears Apartheid has been overthrown, in reality, capitalism and discrimination on the basis of social class have remained untouched.

The Lonmin workers strike has spurred on more strikes in other mines over pay and conditions. Rather than being intimidated by the genocide committed against the miners, the massacre has turned out to be a source of inspiration to other mine workers.

The trend now is that other employers in South Africa are being compelled to follow the 22% pay rise won by the Marikana miners. Socialist groups in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa recently agreed to talk to local miners and to encourage them to follow the example of the Marikana miners.

The miners’ strikes have once again confirmed that freedom comes only through stubborn struggles in defence of rights and class interests.

 

Failure of Power Sector: Is Privatisation a way out?

By Biodun Olamosu
The failure of power sector for the past three decades has become a prosaic reality. In the past, the erstwhile Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN), later known as NEPA, would announce and apologise beforehand if there would be power failure for specified areas. The duration of such power cuts would equally be announced.

It is an established fact that there is no record of any industrialised country without getting this sector right. There appears to be a relationship between a stable power sector and industrial development.

The collapse of the sector has caused difficulties for the entire economy. Commercial activities have come to a state of comatose while individuals and corporate organisations resort to using different capacities of generator as alternative sources of power generation for their domestic and commercial needs respectively. The situation has brought untold health hazards, including generator-smoke induced deaths in many homes.

The state of the power sector has also brought about high cost of production, de- industrialisation, leading to mass retrenchment and increased rate of unemployment, and so on. Many technicians and artisans have been compelled to abandon productive activities only to resort to ‘okada’ transport business, using motor-cycles, in order to eke out a living.

The questions that naturally follow from these are: Why are we in this messy situation and how did we get here?

The crisis in this sector has been much pronounced after fifteen years of total neglect. Prior to 1999, out of the productive capacity of 6000 megawatts, only 2000 megawatts were being produced. The government claims to have spent over $16bn under the regime of President Obasanjo alone. Much more had been committed to the sector since then. Yet, the Nigerian government is only able to generate and distribute between 3,200 and 4, 200 MW, in recent time, for a population of over 162 million whereas South Africa with a population of about 50million generates 40,000 megawatts.

It has been confirmed that power generation is capital intensive and that it costs not less than one billion dollars to produce 1000 megawatts excluding other expenses on transmission and distribution. For the country to assume the status of a developed economy research findings state that it must be able to produce 100,000 megawatts. But this seems a far cry with the stupendous corruption and lacklustre attitude of Nigerian governments. But for corruption, the amount publicly claimed to have been invested in the power sector could have brought appreciable improvement.

To the chagrin of the working people, instead of squarely facing the challenges in the sector, government decided to embark on wholesome privatisation of the sector. The truth of the matter is that the failure of public corporations in Nigeria can be located within the capitalist structure of the economy whereby virtually everything is executed through contract awards and domination of profit-making as the motive for production. The privatisation of the power sector is nothing but a way of corruptly enriching some individuals with enormous investment that had been made over the decades, at the expense of loss of livelihood of tens of thousands of the workforce. Rather than paying the severance package on the basis of 25 percent of contributions, government insisted on short changing the workers and paying on the basis of 15 per cent.

It is important to call on the labour movement not to give up on the battle to reverse all incidences of privatized public enterprises. The Nigerian labour movement should learn from the Bolivian experience. In Bolivia, the publicly owned gas corporation (equivalent of Nigeria’s PHCN) had earlier been privatised but the government was made to reverse the policy as a result of both the titanic struggles of the workers from below and the failure of privatisation to achieve the perceived expectations.

The ultimate way out lies in the re-nationalisation of the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy, including the electricity sub-sector, under the democratic control and management of the working people. The benefits of public ownership of enterprises can best be achieved only under a socialist workers’ government.

 

 

ALLEGED SALE OR CONCESSION OF SOME PHCN COMPANIES BY THE BPE: AN ILLEGALITY THAT WILL NOT ENDURE

By

Bamidele Aturu, Esq

General Counsel and solicitor to NUEE (the Union)

We are solicitors to the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees on whose behalf and instructions we issue this press statement.

Our client is shocked beyond description that in spite of cases in court challenging the so-called unbundling of the successor companies, an agency of the Federal Government created by law could permit itself the illegal excursion of purporting to sell the companies in spite of the fact well known to it that a suit is challenging the privatization process.

 

It has become necessary again to warn all those who are investing resources in the exercise that the union is resolved to challenge the illegality to the end. Nigeria is a country governed according to the dictates of the rule of law and once parties have submitted a dispute between them to the jurisdiction of our courts it amounts to a violation of constitutionalism and the rule of law to do anything to frustrate or sabotage the ultimate decision of the court. It is reassuring that our courts would not hesitate to nullify the outcome of any exercise, such as the purported privatization or sale of the successor companies by the Bureau of Public Enterprises.

 

Our client is also worried that the companies, the collective patrimony of all Nigerians, built by our forebears could be sold at rock bottom prices. It thinks that this is unfair, immoral and indefensible. Its position remains that any person or group or consortium as the case may be that is interested in operating in the power sector should invest their resources and compete with PHCN. The union will certainly head back to the court shortly to sort out this illegality. In the meantime we restate, on behalf of our client, that those who have invested money in the ventures should quickly ask for a refund as the illegality surely will not endure.

OYO STATE GOVERNMENT: RECALL SACKED WORKERS NOW!      

Gov Ajimobi is anti-workers!

The Oyo State Government recently sacked about 3,000 workers from its employment, mainly on the grounds of certificate forgery or age falsification. While criminality of any type should not be condoned, the fact that the State House of Assembly adopted a resolution asking the Executive to suspend the implementation of the Report of staff audit carried out by a private company, Captain Consulting Firm shows that the process leading to the sack of the workers was not fair. It thus appears that the real reason for the mass sack has nothing to do with maintaining integrity in the civil service but government policy to cut costs. The Government had declared this policy of cost-cutting as the condition for a full implementation of the N18,000 national minimum wage. It will be recalled that the minimum wage has not been fully implemented in Oyo State, up till today.

 

It is an indictment on the kind of democracy being practised in Oyo State when the resolution of the state legislature does not count in determining what government does as far as the welfare of the citizens are concerned.

 

It is also disturbing that while there are millions of unemployed persons in the state, the state government has to rely on private companies to carry out staff audit, an exercise that would have gulped huge resources of the state. If government lacks confidence in public institutions then why not privatise governance, including the position of Governor and the legislature?

 

There is no basis for sacking workers in a society afflicted with extreme forms of poverty. Millions of jobs can be created in the process of providing the services  needed by the citizenry. For example, if the Oyo State Housing Corporation and the Water Corporation were empowered to build houses and supply water for the people, several thousands of the unemployed could be employed in the process. But this is not happening because there is a tendency to shift government responsibility to the private sector such that governance in Nigeria has become nothing but contractocracy – a system of government by award of contracts.

 

Oyo State lacks pipe borne water. The Government has supplied drilling equipment to local governments in the state. But it is surprising to note that instead of putting the equipment to use, so as to put an end to water scarcity, the government indulges in engaging contractors to dig boreholes. What could be responsible for this, if not a conscious act of dis-empowering public institutions in order to empower private individuals with the wealth of the state, which is the common patrimony of all citizens of Oyo state?

 

Socialist Worker calls on the Oyo State government to reinstate the sacked workers, in accordance to the resolution of the State House of Assembly. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) also has a duty to fight for the reinstatement of the sacked workers. In the final analysis, workers must appreciate that only under socialism can their interests be protected on a sustained basis. None of the existing capitalist political parties can guarantee the protection of workers’ interests. Workers should therefore resist the temptation of placing their hopes in capitalist politicians, either within the ruling party in the state or in the opposition parties. The challenge is to build a socialist-oriented party of labour and the poor to change society on socialist programmes.

 

NIGERIAN STUDENTS FIGHT BACK!

By

KUNLE WIZMAN AJAYI

 

Just like the proverbial animal that’s been chased to the wall, Nigerian students in many campuses, are fighting back.  They are demanding a fundamental change on education policy in the country. They are demanding Education Reforms involving reduction in the high fees; qualitative and conducive learning conditions; democratisation of decision-making processes on campuses to include inputs of students; independent students’ unionism and adequate funding of education. These demands, of course, are genuine and correct. But the ruling class has not only ignored their genuine cries, they have engineered repressive measures to prevent and shut all dissenting voices. Many Students’ Unions have been banned, and education massively underfunded. This has long ago drawn us to that inevitable conclusion – this system of ‘greed and power’ will never fund education appropriately. This is capitalism’s character everywhere in the world. Until students go to the streets to demand  their rights, in a highly organized manner, there will be no change.

 

 

The peak of students’ struggle in recent time was the Unilag Students’ protest against the arbirary name-changing to Moshood Abiola University by President Jonathan on May 29. For three days, Unilag students (without a students’ union for the past 8 years) occupied the streets of Lagos, demanding an immediate reversal, fighting arms in arms with their teachers and all other education workers. At the end, the students beat the FGN to a retreat. Of course, the Socialist Youth League’s press statement, which was widely circulated aptly captured the UNILAG students’ struggles, that it was ‘A FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY!’ That protest imbued students with a lot of confidence and inspired them for more struggles. The point must however be made that the protest was the climax of a united action amongst all the education workers, and students especially, for the democratisation of decision-making in our educational institutions, as enshrined in the 2009 ASUU AGREEMENT WITH the Federal Government.

 

Some days later, Great Ife students also displayed their preference for mass action as they sharply forced their management to a retreat over compounded Examination Time-table. It was another display of the capacity of students to openly unionise and fraternise even under the most repressive atmosphere.

 

At Federal Polytechnic, Offa, students have had to defend their freedom to public gathering and expression. On July 11, members of the CDHR on that campus, with support from the mass of the students, successfully defended their right to gather and discuss on ‘CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA INSTITUTIONS, A CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL SECURITY’ at the popular Olawoyin Hall. The symposium was an intellectual forum where ideas were cross-fertilized and the way forward analysed. Kunle Wizeman of the SYL, representing Com. Femi Aborisade, the Editor-in-chief of Socialist Worker, spoke on the effects of corruption on the society at large, and the importance of fighting the venom from its roots – ‘authority stealing.’ Taiwo Otitolaye, the former UAD convener also discussed the topic with other speakers. The over 200 students’ gathering came to the conclusion that independent actions of students across the country must be intensified in order to fight alongside the working people towards uprooting capitalism, and replacing it with a more democratic system where impunity is taboo as the major sectors of the economy would be placed in the hands of the public and managed democratically by the workers themselves.

 

Many more of these public gatherings and discussions have been held in many other campuses like Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba (AAUA);  Osun State College of Education (OSCOHEALTH), ILESA (where students forced the management to break the evil ‘bureaucratic bottlenecks’ and won, for the first time, the effecting of the long approved NYSC mobilisation rights for qualified students). Lagos State University (LASU) has been the centre stage of resistance, as the ACN-led misgovernment in Lagos turned Education to a bazaar where the poor become spectators. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) held its symposium right on that campus and the attendance was superb and historic!

 

LASU AND EKSU FEES: FLASHPOINTS OF EDUCATION FOR THE RICH

 

As part of the anti-poor policies of Governor Raji Fasola in Lagos, the tuition fees of students of LAGOS STATE UNIVERSITY (LASU)  have been increased to a rocket high rate of 725%, from N25,000 to between N193.750 and N348.750 per session. In LASU, at the matriculation day on 12th of March 2012, only 1,951 students out of over 4,903 (or 39.8%) offered admission turned up for oath-taking, all because of the economic hardship imposed on students.

 

The Government of Governor Kayode Fayemi of the ACN-led Ekiti State government has increased the school fees by 100% in the Ekiti state University. The implication is that students who were paying N50,000 before will now be paying between N93,000 and N191,500 per session, depending on courses being offered. It is obvious that an average Ekiti state worker cannot afford to pay the fees. Though students resisted these policies but the state brutality, arrest and detention of students’ leaders, the victimisation of Students’ Union leaders and activists forced the repressive policies on the students.

 

Aside these official hikes, many other obnoxious fees and levies have been imposed on students, which have made education in Nigeria a ‘NO-GO-AREA’ for the poor. One of these is ‘ACCEPTANCE FEES’ that has been introduced by several institutions, including Federal institutions. This is so ridiculous that when faced with the fact that it is being collected at OAU, IFE  early last year, Yayale Ahmed, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, denied ever hearing such before. Such denial shows how barbaric the fee is. Yet other heinous fees like ICT FEES; SIWES e.t.c are still being collected.

 

Also, pre-undergraduate fees like POST-UTME and other fees charged in all the Centres For Distance Learning in various institutions show that the ruling class is bent on using all measures to keep young people from poor families away from having access to education.

 

Nigerian students must kickstart the process of a nationwide mass struggle to save our lives from being destroyed as ‘education is the key of life.’ Nigeria has more than enough resources to give education to every Nigerian, from cradle to grave, as provided under S. 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution. Aborisade posited recently that ‘Nigeria is an oil-rich country. According to IMF, over $700bn had been realized in oil revenues alone since 1960. Eighty-five per cent (85%) of this sum accrues to only 1% of the population and about 40% or more of the national wealth has been stolen.’ He also quoted Ribadu as asserting that ‘Between 1960 and 1999 Nigerian officials had stolen or wasted more than $440bn.That is six times the Marshall Plan…’ ‘This is the total amount that was used to rebuild the whole of Western Europe after the massive destruction produced by the 2nd world war.’ How will they fund education when they continue to loot the country, milk our resources dry and sell them cheaply to the multinationals, and then adopt the bestial Imperialist policy of privatizing everything, including education! That is the evil in the Oronsaye Panel Recommendation. We must organize a practical NO to it now.

Let us dare to struggle to defend our future.

VICTORIA ASCERTA!

 

 

 

AIR NIGERIA SELF-LIQUIDATES, SACKS OVER 700 WORKERS

  • Aviation trade unions also ground Arik Air

Air Nigeria workers protesting

By Baba Aye

Air Nigeria declared its self-liquidation and the consequent sack of over 700 workers early September. The workers who have not been paid their salaries for five months, and whose pension and tax deductions over the years have not been paid to any Pension Fund Administrator or the tax office respectively, were equally not paid any severance benefits. They are however not taking this injustice lying low. Hundreds of those affected, which include pilots, engineers, air hostesses and ground workers marched on the offices of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Friday September 7, demanding that their pending wages and severance allowances be paid. In a related development, on September 20, aviation sector trade unions organised a demonstration which ground the activities of Arik Air in Lagos. This was to protest the incipient intent of the Federal Government to bear the N18bn debts of the airline.

The Air Nigeria workers who were led by Isaac Balami, the National President of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), and officials of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) wondered why Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, the CEO of Air Nigeria had been allowed to have the Air Nigeria license after “his earlier failed adventure with NICON Airways”. The airline has been operating on the basis of a partial suspension since June 21, subsequent to a financial audit query by the NCAA which indicated that the airline might be distressed.

The stories of Jimoh Ibrahim on one hand and Air Nigeria on the other hand present apt pictures of the casino nature of capitalist ventures. Mr. Ibrahim who by his early 30s had become a billionaire is noted for fronting for (past) rulers of the country. He has had his hand in several piers including oil and gas, insurance, hotels, real estate, shipping, and of course aviation. His earlier NICON Airline had an inglorious ending. Yet, in 2008 he bought controlling shares in Virgin Nigeria.

Virgin Nigeria itself has a history that goes back to Nigeria Airways. In line with the anti-people creed that “government has no business doing business”, which influenced large-scale privatisation of State Owned Enterprises, the airline was sold off by the government to Virgin Atlantic, giving birth to the short-lived Virgin Nigeria. Mr. Branson’s Virgin Atlantic stripped the airline of its real estate worth billions of naira in Ikeja GRA and then dumped it like a bag of hot potatoes. Jimoh Ibrahim bought it at a rock bottom price.

Arik Air, is also complicit in the thievery that marked the sale of Nigeria Airways. Established in 2002, it bought up the Nigeria Airways facility in Lagos, four years later. There has always been a suspicion that its king-pin, Sir Arumemi-Ikhide, acting as a front for persons in government, had set up Arik Air, to grab what was left from the earlier sale to Virgin Atlantic. The facility worth over $10bn was sold at barely $1bn to Arik Air.

The Federal Government, Richard Branson, Jimoh Ibrahim and Aruremi-Ikhide have one thing in common. They are in no way concerned with the plight of the workers of the airline. Profit, profit and still more profit is what drives the capitalists and the government is their government. Privatisation is aimed at subsidizing the private greed of the capitalists with public funds and the sweat of the working class. Workers have to organise to fight for them not to be thrown into the abyss of poverty and unemployment in such a scenario.

Socialist Worker stands in solidarity with the Air Nigeria workers and demands that the five months pending wages as well as severance pay be duly paid immediately. We also demand that the pension premiums deducted from the workers’ wages as well as what should have been paid by the employer be fully paid back to the workers, with accruing interests. Further, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim should be arrested and prosecuted for breaking both pension and tax laws formulated by the government which represents his class. If workers had on their own flouted any of these legislations, they would have been made to face the law. Bailing out Arik Air on the fraudulent basis of making it the national carrier must also be stopped through more mass protests and it must be made to pay up its debts and ensure regular payment of workers’ salaries. Section 506 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act ought to be applied to remove the veil of incorporation and make the directors and all others who control the company to personally liable rather than using public funds to bail them out.

These steps are important, but the way forward must ultimately include a demand for these enterprises in the aviation sector to be turned over to the workers who are the creators of the wealth claimed by these companies and indeed all businesses, to democratically run them as social enterprises. Capitalism subjects every aspect of our social life to the goal of expanding profit, caring less about our needs as working people. The goal of socialists is to make the fulfilment of human needs the primary aim of economic activities. Thus, in the final analysis, the working class, along with local communities will need to take over not only Air Nigeria, but indeed all business enterprises that constitute the commanding heights of the economy (such as the oil and gas) and democratically run them, in our collective interests.

 

 

THE CHALLENGES OF HEALTH WORKERS STRIKE

JOHESU leaders at press conference

By Baba Aye

Workers in tertiary hospitals embarked on a strike action which lasted ten days in September. The industrial action was called off when Prof. Christian Chukwu, the Minister of Health secured an order from the National Industrial Court for the striking workers to resume work, in the name of “national interest”. The bone of contention was the “non-skipping of CONHESS 10”. CONHESS or Consolidated Health Salary Structure had been negotiated by the health sector unions with the Federal Government in 2009.

The National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission’s circular letter no. SWC/S/04/S.410/Vol. II/349 of December 8, 2009 was explicit that it involved “conversion from Consolidated Tertiary Health Salary Structure (CONTISS) and Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure (CONPSS)” for its beneficiaries. Traditionally the equivalents of CONHESS 10 were skipped in the earlier salary structures, but the current Minister of Health insists that health workers must pass through “his” CONHESS 10, which amounts to a drag on the career progression of the workers concerned.

The anger of members of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) in tertiary health institutions was beyond doubt when they convened for the 31st session of their forum at the University of Ilorin at the beginning of August. In the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting “the Forum-in-session mandate(d) all its branches to immediately proceed on strike without further notice, in any hospital where skipping of CONHESS 10 is not implemented (&), where the Management fails to release promotions on the excuse of waiting for directives from the FMOH or that the Management has released the promotions, but placed workers on CONHESS 10.” It further went ahead to demand “the immediate removal” of the minister.

The first round in the fight back of MHWUN and other unions in the sector such as the Nurses Union (NANNM), the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), SSATHURAI, & NUMPTAMP was at the National Eye Centre at the beginning of September. In a strike organised by the local Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) united platform, the Centre was ground to a halt by a total strike. The national body of the JOHESU equally issued an ultimatum at this time. On the expiration of the ultimatum, a national strike was commenced on September 18.

Earlier in May JOHESU had initiated a strike action based on the same issue as well as its reservations on the National Health Bill and the undemocratic manner of appointing ministers of health. The strike was called off after the Federal Government stepped in to make promises that, true to type, it has failed to keep such as reversing the non-skipping of CONHESS 10. The health sector unions have now grown wary of government’s entreaties. They have demanded the resignation of the Minister of Health and set to commence mobilization across the country for this purpose in earnest, as duly stated by the President of MHWUN, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who is the National Chairman of JOHESU.

The interests of the state and those of workers are diametrically opposed. The state/governments at all levels represent the interests of the bosses. They promote industrial “pluralism”. But within this “social dialogue”, they always try to ensure that the views of the bosses carry the day, while they pretend that the workers views matter.

The only way to ensure that workers rights are respected is through demonstrated workers’ power. While strike action is not the only way to exercise this, it is the most powerful last resort, and when embarked upon, it is important as much as possible to remain steadfast until victory is won. The law courts are used by the elite class as instruments of their class war against the working class. The law is not neutral as we are made to believe; it serves the order of the ruling class.

The so-called “national interest” which the National Industrial Court invoked is basically the interest of the elite for stability. Health workers are concerned about the wellbeing of poor people that use public hospitals, but they are beginning to see beyond the deceit of our oppressors inside and outside government. The main problems that health care delivery face today can be traced much more to poor funding and lack of concern for public health than to industrial unrest, which in any case is provoked by the state.

The demand for the removal of the Minister is significant because it points at the fact that it is not just the bosses that wield power. Indeed, the ultimate power comes from below, from the working class. But it is important to note that the bosses are ready to sacrifice any member of their state machinery as they did with Barth Nnaji in the power sector, so as to try to maintain their power in a general and broader sense. Thus, there is the need for workers to realise the total nature of the system that exploits and equally oppresses us through policies and practices that limit our wages and place obstacles in the pathways of career development.

This system, which aims at making the rich richer and the poor poorer, is capitalism. While we fight against the different forms of its manifestations such as the skipping of CONHESS 10, we must fight to generally overthrow it and in its place establish a system based on workers democratic control and management of society, which is socialism. It is then and only then that we would have broken the chains that today weigh us down and which we have to fight against, time and again.

IS SELF-DETERMINATION UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND ILLEGAL?

By

Femi Aborisade

The continued peaceful co-existence of peoples and societies internationally lies in the continued collective defence of universally recognised human rights. No room should be given for tyranny to triumph under the pretext of protecting ‘national interests’. It is at the background of this principled position that I wish to contribute to the debate on the constitutionality or legality of some states of the Nigerian Federation that have adopted own flags, anthems, and so on. Some leaders of the civil society have declared that such phenomena as states adopting independent flags and anthems are unconstitutional and therefore illegal. I wish to differ on the following grounds.

Under the Nigerian Constitution and under international human rights law, there is recognition of the right to the protection, promotion of the existence of national, ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic identities in individual geographic units. It is trite to state categorically that international law recognizes the right to self determination of peoples, contrary to the views that have been peddled to the contrary. What needs to be clarified is that there are two aspects of self-determination, namely: external and internal self-determination. It is the internal form of self-determination that international law recognizes. To my knowledge, the States of the Nigerian Federation that have adopted their own flags, anthems, etc, do so, not in an attempt to exercise external form of self-determination (that is not to secede) but in an exercise of the right to internal self-determination (that is to exercise the right to community or collective self-expression) within the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Articles 1 and 55 of the UN Charter (that is UN Constitution) expressly recognize the rights of peoples to self-determination. The self-determination here is to be understood as internal self-determination. For the avoidance of any doubt, the UN Charter defines ‘peoples’ as a group of human beings, who may or may not comprise States or nations.

The verbatim provisions of the UN Charter and the African Charter are reproduced below.

Article 1 sub (2) of the UN Charter provides:

The purposes of the United Nations are:

(2). To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and SELF-DETERMINATION of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.

Also Article 20(1) of the African Charter, which has been domesticated, provides:

All peoples shall have the right to existence. They shall have the unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination. They shall freely determine their political status and shall pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen.

A basic requirement for membership of the international society of nations is acceptance of the aims and objectives of the Charter, which includes three main obligations with regard to human rights: respect, protect and fulfill. Any nation state that is not prepared to accept or accommodate the right to self determination is not fit to belong to the international society of modern nation-states.

I may appreciate the concern of those who condemn states’ initiative at expressing their unique identity.  It may be that they are concerned that Nigeria should not break up along ethnic lines. I share that concern because a breakup of Nigeria will not solve any of the social problems confronting Nigeria. A breakup may just result into a formal replication of the problems in the individual nation-states that may emerge. However, the recognition of the right to self-determination, whether internal or external, is recognition that no force can permanently hold a country together. The continued existence of Nigeria, based on the various component ethnic groups, can only be conditional, conditioned on recognition of fundamental human rights of individuals, peoples, and ethnic groups, their cultural, religious, linguistic and political rights. In a situation in which genocide is being committed with impunity on a daily basis, a consensus must be reached that those committing such mass criminal atrocities do not deserve to live in the community of the human race of the 21st century. Where it is becoming difficult to reach such a basic consensus, ultimate disintegration of Nigeria will be inevitable. It will not be a question of ‘if’ but a question of when and how? Though that would, unfortunately, be at huge costs.

Whatever happens, societies can only be taken forward by recognizing, advocating, respecting, protecting and fulfilling basic human rights. No organisation or individual who has had the opportunity of leading credible organizations that enjoy public confidence should support views or perspectives that could empower wielders of political power to suppress peaceful expression or exercise of preferences by individuals, communities, ethnic groups, states or ‘peoples’.

The various leaders of the civil society organisations ought to continue to defend peaceful exercise of basic human rights, including the right to self-determination, where and when circumstances compel such choices. Therein lies the guarantee for the continued existence of non-state organisations.

We have to emphasis however that while self-determination struggles might become a necessity in certain contexts, it cannot on its own lead to the ultimate goal of emancipation for the poor class. Emphasis has to be placed therefore on the unity of the poor from various ethnic, religious, linguistic or racial backgrounds, against the oppressor class. Class solidarity is more useful than cultural or ethnic solidarity, in the final analysis.

 

Climate change

By

Bayo Akanji

 

Oceanic surge and the other flood disasters that have occurred recently in various places across the country including Lagos, Kano, Jos, Nassarawa, Abeokuta, Ibadan cannot be isolated from global marine activities and warming. It is within this context that the natural cause of the environmental problems that we face today can be explained while the inhibiting factor in relation to the remedies can be located within the capitalist structure of society.

The immediate cause of the ocean surge in Lagos has been associated to land reclamation being carried out by government. But the problem itself as a natural phenomenon can be traced to global warming that occurs infrequently within a climatic circle. The effects of this on the ocean and the environment at large often lead to melting of ice. This process causes the ocean to rise beyond its normal level thereby putting in danger the structures and buildings bordering the coast. And in case of rain, flood results. The problem is more aggravated today because global warming has been compounded by human activities, particularly industrial pollution, which contributes to higher levels of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere without the corresponding living plants that can absorb it (due to large scale deforestation activities) and in turn produce oxygen for
animals/man in a symbiotic way that nature has been patterned to aid coexistence by depending on each other as a way of maintaining natural equilibrium

It is necessary to emphasis that just as human beings relate with one another across the world and migrate from place to place, in the same way, nature is/has been interconnected globally ever before human existence. This is why the problem associated with Atlantic Ocean in the USA can have a devastating effect in any other part(s) of the world, like Nigeria, which falls within oceanic belt. For this reason, ocean surge and climate change have global dimensions.
The capitalist structure of society, which is based on profit motive of the few capitalists as against human existence and needs of ordinary people is an important factor inhibiting how to stem the problem. The developed countries that are the major beneficiaries of world natural resources could not agree at Hagen recently, in terms of being alive to their responsibilities. It is a matter for serious concerns that the Nigerian ruling class, which has proved to be incapable of guaranteeing bare material survival of the citizenry now appears totally helpless in the face of the challenges posed by climate change. In spite of the disastrous experiences of flooding in the past period, many of the state governments did practically nothing to avert reoccurrence this year.

ATTACKS AGAINST MAKOKO FISHERMEN

BY

NURU AYINDE

The recent evacuation and displacement of Makoko residents is part of the continued tendency of the Fashola government contempt for the masses, along with its neo-liberal anti- poor policies in Lagos State.

We have witnessed the same pattern of vicious attacks against traders at Tejuoso market, students of LASU, teachers, doctors, okada riders, and so on for various unpopular reasons. The uninformed argument of the government is centred on ‘modernity and conveniency’ as against the principle of ‘need and necessity’ that is required to serve the best interest of the working people.

In the case of the Makoko residents, they are fishermen whose livelihood depends on the ocean in the area. The evacuation will not only cause them to lose their homes but also their means of livelihood.

The dictatorial way in which the eviction was carried out can only be compared in magnitude with that of the FCT Council and Rivers State governments in their vicious attacks against the poor dwellers in Abuja and Port- Harcourt, respectively. More appalling is the fact that the victims of the demolition exercises received no prior notices before the D-day when they woke up in the hands of unexpected guests, the armed policemen that besieged and sacked them from their abode, without any thought for the vulnerable and the weak, the aged, men and women; children, the sick, the physically challenged, and so on.

The implication of this vicious eviction has been grievous in the lives of the victims who have lost their properties while others lost their lives. Also important is the growing tendency of making people to lose confidence in the system of government by election. The various governors talk and act as if they conquered the people to get to power. They do not bother to demonstrate respect for basic rights. They destroy lives rather than give support, hope and succour.

The working people, the employed and the non-wage masses must build organisations to support each other in times of need, in moments of resisting anti-people policies of the various governments. In the process of building such organisations for practical supports when attacked, we would be building the political muscle to seize power and run society in the interest of our class. The capitalist ruling parties cannot save the masses. Only an alliance of the poor strata, led by the working people, on a socialist programme, can end our suffering.

The Nigerian working people must come to the realisation that there is a need to link economic struggles such as the struggle for wage increase, and so on, with the struggle to protect the environment, not only nationally but on an international basis.

 

London Olympic 2012

By Biodun Olamosu

 

London Olympic 2012 did not disappoint its organisers and audience across the world, starting with its captivating opening ceremony of 27th July that brought into focus the culture and civilisation of the host country, Britain. The event was brought to an end on 12th August, 2012.

The occasion involved sportsmen and women from over 200 countries in the spirit of sportsmanship who keenly contested for medals in various sport activities. Medals were won and lost and tears shed by both winners and loosers. At the end of the day, relations were built and courted among competitors, officials across nations – a remniscent of the philosophy of love, fairplay, sportmanship, self-discipline, control and peace that Olympism stands for. The father of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Conbertin butressed this when he added in 1908 that ‘the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle … to have fought well’. This statement has passed a test of time in overcoming the various challenges that bedevilled the movement over the years, including the racist-fascist ideology of Nazism and the cold war, bi-polar politics of the super powers – old Soviet Union and USA.

Some instances of such challenges include discriminatory policies of the Nazi government of Germany against Blacks and Jews while it hosted the games in 1936, the killing of Israeli delegations in Germany in 1972 by its political rivals, the PLO; the 1976 boycott of Olympic by African countries while agitating against New Zealand for having sporting relationship with the Apartheid regime of South Africa; 1956 boycott by Egypt, Iran and Lebanon on the basis of Suez canal crisis, and several others.

The recurring debate has been to answer the question whether it is possible to disengage sport totally from politics as in the case of Olympic. My opinion on this is that as we cannot afford to encourage the organisers of the games to take decisions based on political consideration, the best thing for them to do is to base their decisions on the principles of universal respect for human rights and peaceful co-existence of all human beings and nations, which characterise the foundation of the United Nations, on any controversial political issue.

At the end of 2012 Olympic event, the Nigerian government has received various bashings from the sport-loving citizens for the woeful performance of the Nigerian team that could not win a single medal at the competition. This is against the background that Nigeria never had it as bad as this in the past. Among the reasons identified for this failure are poor management of sport administration, including delay in preparation, delay in release of funds allocated for the event, lack of encouragement or motivation, and indiscipline on the part of some officials. Above all, the managing authorities are composed of unfits, people who know little or nothing about sport but are there all the same, purely out of political imposition or interference.
It is high time our sport-loving people realised that a government that is not concerned about their welfare would tend to extend similar attitude to other aspects of life, including sports and entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

TALES OF TWO STORIES: ANIMAL FARM AND NIGERIA
BY

DEBOLA OKE

Animal farm is the title of a book written by George Orwell depicting dictatorial tendency in the former Stalinist’s Russia using animal characterisation to tell the story of the country where a successful socialist revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky was achieved but later undermined by Stalin’s counter-revolutionary policies such as canvassing for socialism in one country before its ultimate degeneration to a state-capitalist country. This idea further reinforced the isolation of Russia as against Marxist idea that socialism can be achieved only when the revolutions spread to other parts of the world, especially the developed countries. It is therefore poignant to say that what collapsed in 1989 was Stalinism and not socialism that has long been ditched since 1928. The situation as depicted in this popular literature compares favourably well in many respects with the situation in Nigeria.

The bottomline of the story is that at the beginning, the entire body of animals perceived themselves as comrades and their owners as enemies that were greedy, selfish, evil incarnate, liars, tyrannical. For this reason, they saw nothing to learn from man. They therefore aimed to be united in the struggle against their owners. They also cautioned themselves against adopting the vices of their owners, the ruling class, if and when they triumphed. The animals fought gloriously to gain power through revolution. A new order was ushered in with freedom exercised and industrialisation achieved at the expense of neck-breaking pressures. However, before long, things changed dramatically with the emergent bureaucracy.

 

The pig’s early exposure to education, which put it in a position to read, automatically raised its profile above others. This accorded it respect and privileged position among its piers. Ironically, this marked  beginning of betrayal of the revolution. Napoleon, the overall leader of the society, was to be eulogised by every where by praise singers. All achievements were to be associated with him.

 

Snowball that would have provided righful leadership was side-tracked by Napoleon because it was perceived as a possible challenger to established authority. Thus, the emergence of dictatorship  stifled democracy and encouraged inequality, bitter struggles for positions, rivalries, individual aggrandisement. In the process, other animals were cowed down while the group of leaders in charge had a free day, in looking after themselves, their families, cronies and members of the ruling apparatus at all levels. The earlier idea of socialism and collectivism that bound them together was jettisoned. More often, the predominant statement became ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’.

In comparison to the Nigerian situation, Nigeria as a bye-product of colonialism, which aimed at meeting the interests of British capitalists but in turn produced the working class. As ealier predicted by Marx, the working class produced in the capitalist production process,  will be the grave diggers of capitalism. In truth, this has somewhat been played out by anti-colonial struggles by which flag independence was achieved in 1960.

The 1960 independence brought huge hopes. Freedom, in all ramifications, including economic, political and cultural spheres, was expected. Foreign domination was to be supplanted. But immediately after independence, 80 percent of the economy was still in the hands of British capitalists. Today, the scramble for Nigeria by the world imperialism has meant that other countries such as USA, Japan, France, Germany, China, etc now have a share in dominating Nigeria. Nigerian ruling and non-ruling elites are essentially comfortable playing the role of agents to foreign capitalists, a role that is often called ‘comprador’bourgeoisie.
George Orwell rightly expressed a surprise that he looked from pig to man and man to pig but could not spot the difference. This is very true of Nigeria too when we consider the impacts of successive governments since independence – the domestic ruling elites, consisting of military officers and civilian politicians. The masses have reaped only unfulfilled promises, dashed hopes. The polity is also full of leaderships characterised by brutality, dictatorship, egoistic self centredness, stories of failures, Nigeria is indeed a contradiction – massive wealth on one hand but chronic poverty on the other.

The lesson for Nigeria and other countries is that revolution is inevitable as a way of addressing age old acts of injustice that prevail in the entire system. But democratic norms are equally important. In practice, this means that a revolution carried out by a few will inevitably enslave society. Therefore, there is no alternative to revolution from below, that is, revolution carried out by a large majority of ordinary people, not one by a military wing or a guerrilla movement, no matter how well-meaning and courageous such may be.

 

SOCIALIST WORKERS LEAGUE’S POSITION ON DSM’S SOCIALIST PARTY OF NIGERIA (SPN)

Sometime in August this year, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) invited the Socialist Workers League (SWL), among other left groups, to collaborate in building the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), which the DSM has recently proclaimed. While welcoming the birth of the SPN as a preferable option to all the existing ruling capitalist political parties, on the basis of a socialist programme on which the SPN is based, the SWL, in a letter by its National Chair, Baba Aye, turned down the invitation for collaboration to build the SPN on the following grounds:

  • Socialist groups should first demonstrate the capacity to build significant base of support in the industrial struggles of the rank and file workers before proclaiming the formation of a ‘party’ that focuses, among other goals, on electoral politics within the framework of existing Nigeria’s Constitution.
  • While Nigerian trade unions have been unable to build a socialist labour party committed to the struggles of workers and the poor, it does not mean that a left group could automatically fill the vacuum, without first earning or winning the confidence of the rank and file workers based on activities supportive of their day-to-day struggles at local levels, beyond collaboration with the top labour leadership.
  • The critical issue is the extent of influence which such socialist force(s) wield within the critical mass of workers. Broader parties cannot be decreed into being before being built. It is not the nomenclature of “party” that can transform a small socialist group into a broad-based party but its strength to bid for power, based on the social base of support it has earned.
  • Though it is recognised that there is a dialectical relationship between ‘party’ proclamation and building, the array of “Socialist Parties of Nigeria” which had been in existence before the DSM’s SPN seems to suggest an attitude of putting the cart before the horse. The lesson appears to be that socialist groups in Nigeria should collaborate more in building their strength in local industrial struggles of the workers as well as in wider national issues. The SWL proposes that the left forces, through JAF and other formations, should deepen their work within the working class, trade unions, communities, etc in a more committed and sustained manner, offering support to fighting organisations and creating mass social base of influence before embarking on the electoral project.
  • Further, it would appear that the lessons from the January Revolt, should be learnt with some sense of proportion. While the January movement was revolutionary, the left forces were weak in providing coordination. This, in spite of the existence of JAF.
  • The SWL also noted that in reality, the DSM had taken a decision to form the SPN, without first discussing with other groups. In other words, other groups were merely invited to join SPN. Modesty and good faith might suggest that it would have been better to initiate discussions before declaring the formation of the SPN.
  • Practice remains the sole criterion of truth. To the extent that DSM &/or its SPN are on the trenches of work within the working masses and youths, SWL cadres will continue to meet and inevitably collaborate in the cause of the working class.

 

 

 

 

First Announcement and Call for Participation

Working Class and Trade Union Studies Association of Nigeria

Announces its 2nd Conference

On

Theme: 100 Years of Trade Unionism in Nigeria: Retrospect and Prospects

Date: 5th– 7th December 2012

Venue: Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Objective: Against the backdrop of the centenary celebration of trade unionism in Nigeria, the conference’s main objective is to provide a platform to reflect on the Nigerian trade union movement in its first 100 years of existence. This is with a view to charting a new course of development that would reposition the unions in the greater interests of their members and the larger society in the decades ahead.

Trade unionists, civil society activists, academics, researchers and employers as well as other interested parties from all over the world are invited to participate in this Conference.

Sub-themes

These include:

  1. i.               Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on trade unionism
  2. ii.             Trade union government and administration
  3. iii.           Membership participation and mobilisation 
  4. iv.           Trade unionism and Employment Relations
  5. v.             Labour and Employment Law
  6. vi.           Trade Unions, Civil Society and alliance building
  7. vii.         Trade union-Government  Relations
  8. viii.       Trade unions and international affiliation
  9. ix.           The future of trade unions

 

Conference Fee (covering conference folder and snacks):

Local participants: N5, 000

International participants: US $50

Timelines:

Submission of Abstract(not more than 200 words)-October 30, 2012

Submission of final papers-
November 16, 2012

 

Prof. Funmi Adewumi

Co-convener

funmiadewumi@rocketmail.com

 

Comrade Femi Aborisade

Co-convener

aborisadefemi@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LABOUR AND THE NIGERIAN POLITICAL SPACE: PROPOSALS ON A CHARTER FOR DEVELOPMENT

 

By

Femi Aborisade

Being paper delivered at the 12th National Delegates Conference of the Food beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association

Introduction

Justification for Drawing up a Charter

Ake[1] argues that “somebody has to determine that development is desirable, that a particular kind of development should be pursued and in a particular kind of manner.” This demonstrates that desirability of development, the kind of development and the manner of attainment are neither accidental nor objectively determined. Ake argues that the state is a specific mode of capitalist domination and represents contradictory interests and forces. It is impacted by the nature and effectiveness of capitalist hegemony and by the capacity of the dominated and oppressed classes to deploy effective counter-forces in reaction to their domination. These go a long way towards influencing the possibility of development. The degree of effectiveness of resistance by the dominated tends to determine the extent to which the state uses scarce resources for developmental programs or for building the arsenal of terror required by a militarized state.

Indeed, the 41st Congress of the International Transport Federation (ITF)[2] had long adopted a resolution urging trade unions to develop positive alternatives to government’s neoliberal ideology and programmes. In reacting to issues at local, state, regional or national levels, unions should not only criticise what exists, they should also advocate well considered and researched alternatives. We should convincingly demonstrate that we are capable of running society, where the opportunity arises.

 

Conceptual Clarifications

What is ‘Development’?

Rodney[3] opines that ‘development’ is, more often than not, used in the economic sense for the reason that the state of the economy is assumed to be an index of other social realities. He posits that economic development refers to the capacity of members of a society to jointly increase their control over the environment. This capacity to deal with the environment is in turn dependent on three elements, namely, the extent:

  • of the knowledge and understanding of the laws of nature (science),
  • to which the understanding is put into practice to develop technology (devising tools) and,
  • of effecting improvement in the method of work organisation.

An example of the third element is the improvement, over the ages, in the character of work, ‘from being an individualistic activity towards an activity which assumes a social character through the participation of many[4]’.

 

To Rodney, the whole essence of economic development is the capacity of every people to independently increase their ability to live a more satisfactory life through exploiting the resources of nature[5] Rodney recognises that there could be ups and downs in the process of developing societal capacity for gaining control over the environment. As he puts it:

 

Of course, human history is not a record of advances and nothing else. There were periods in every part of the world when there were temporary setbacks and actual reduction of the capacity to produce basic necessities and other services for the population. But the overall tendency was towards increased production, and at given points of time the increase in the quantity of goods was associated with a change in the quality or character of society[6].

Economic Growth and Economic Development Distinguished

There is a need to distinguish what Rodney calls ‘increased production’ or ‘increase in the quantity of goods’, which may otherwise be called ‘economic growth’ from ‘economic development’.

The concept, ‘economic growth’ refers to an increase or growth in the national income or product, which is usually expressed in terms of per capita income. That is, the aggregate Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the aggregate Gross National Product (GNP, which includes net property income from abroad) divided by the total national population. There is ‘economic growth’ when there is a rise in the GDP/GNP or the per capita income. However, economists[7] point out that there is ‘economic development’ where there are certain fundamental structural changes to the national economy, including, but not limited to the following characteristics:

  • existence of economic growth or increase in real per capita income.
  • the increase in economic growth is reflected in improved material wellbeing of the majority.
  • an increase in the number of persons participating in the production process (i.e. economically engaged).
  • a change in consumption patterns, from majority of the people spending a large fraction of their income on food and other necessities of life to spending a small fraction of their income on necessities and a large fraction on consumer durables and leisure activity-related items.
  • a rising share of industry and a corresponding decrease in the share of the agricultural sector in the GNP.

The foregoing characteristics of economic development mean that though there can be no economic development without economic growth, economic growth is merely a subset of economic development. While economic growth refers to a rise in the GDP/GNP, measured as per capita income, economic development suggests fundamental structural changes to the national economy, including a rise in GDP/GNP. Thus, Rodney’s[8] definition of economic development as:

  • ‘increase in the quantity of goods’ (economic growth), and
  • ‘a change in the quality or character of society’

aptly captures the economist’s conceptualisation of ‘economic development’.

 

Thus, where there is only economic growth without the presence of the other characteristics enumerated above, it would be said that there is growth without development. Such is the conclusion that arises where there is a rise in the per capita income (due to windfalls from sale of crude oil or any other natural resource) which is neither caused by the participation of the economically active population in the economic process nor accompanied by improvement in the material wellbeing of the majority.

 

CHARACTERISING NIGERIA’S REALITY: GROWTH WITHOUT DEVELOPMENT; POVERTY IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY

Nigeria is an oil-rich country. According to the IMF[9], over $700bn had been realized in oil revenues alone since 1960. Eighty five per cent (85%) of this sum accrues to only 1% of the population and about 40% or more of the national wealth has been stolen.

Also, Ribadu[10] asserts that ‘Between 1960 and 1999, Nigerian officials had stolen or wasted more than $440billion. That is six times the Marshall Plan…’ – the total amount that was used to rebuild the whole of Western Europe after the massive destruction produced by the 2nd World War. In spite of the oil wealth, there is an alarming incidence of poverty, which has turned the country into host to 6% of the core chronically poor in the world[11]. The same Report of the APRM asserts that Nigeria is host to the third largest concentration of poor people in the world after China and India and is among the top 20 countries in the world with the widest gap between the rich and the poor.

It is thus paradoxical that as economic growth rises, economic development nose-dives, a phenomenon of growth without development. In other words, there is a negative relationship between economic growth (measure of the value of output of goods and services) and economic development (measure of the welfare of human beings) such that as economic growth rises, economic development declines. This same relationship may also be expressed as being positive, in the sense that, as economic growth rises, poverty rises!

 

The fact of growth without development was pretentiously lamented recently by the Minister for Finance and Co-ordinating Minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who sheds crocodile tears that whereas the GDP for last year (2011) grew by 7.63 per cent, it has not resulted in job creation as over 1.8 million job seekers join the pool of the unemployed every year:

 

We are happy that the economy is growing. But we are not satisfied with the growth. It is not inclusive. It is not creating jobs. We have over 1.8 million job entrants every year. The quality of that growth is not what we want…[12]

 

Nothing can perhaps best illustrate the contradictory phenomenon of growth without development than the rising poverty level, as shown clearly below.

Though there is no single acceptable definition of poverty, there appears to be a consensus in all the definitions that poverty is ‘a state of long-term deprivation of well-being, a situation considered inadequate for decent living[13]. The trend in Relative Poverty in Nigeria, covering various years, is presented below.

 

TREND IN RELATIVE POVERTY[14] IN NIGERIA

 

Year Poverty incidence (%) Estimated Population (Million) Population in poverty (Million)
1980 28.1 65 18
1985 46.3 75 35
1992 42.7 91.5 39
1996 65.6 102.3 67
2004 54.4 126.3 69
2010 69.0 163 112
2011 71.5(NBS forecast) 168 120

Source: Compiled from Reports of the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS.

 

From the Table above, the compelling conclusion that can be drawn is that the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty has been increasing, from year to year. From 18 million Nigerians who were living in a state of long-term deprivation of well-being, a situation considered inadequate for decent living in 1980, the figure rose to 120m by 2011. The NBS[15] found that poverty levels have been rising by the year, for all types of measurement of poverty, whether based on relative poverty, absolute poverty, subjective poverty or Dollar-per-day[16], even though the percentage for each type of measurement varies slightly.

 

In spite of the oil wealth, which has been rising unprecedentedly despite the world financial crises, indices of qualify of life have been on a downward trend, even compared to less resource-rich and war ravaged countries, as shown below by the measures of IHDI, HDI, and Education Index.

 

 

 

IHDI

The UNDP ranks Nigeria 116th position (out of 134 countries) in the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, IHDI for 2011. In other words, Nigeria is among the last 18 countries in the world in terms of Inequality Adjusted Human Development.

 

The IHDI is a “measure of the average level of human development of people in a society after inequality (in terms of access to education, health and income) is taken into account. It captures the HDI of the average person in society, which is less than the aggregate HDI when there is inequality in the distribution of health, education and income. Under perfect equality, the HDI and IHDI are equal; the greater the difference between the two, the greater the inequality.” In that sense, “the IHDI is the actual level of human development (taking into account inequality), while the HDI is the index of the potential human development that could be achieved if there is no inequality[17].

 

HDI

As far as the 2011 estimates for Human Development Index (HDI) are concerned, Nigeria is ranked 156th position out of 187 countries. This means that Nigeria belongs to the last 31 countries in the world lagging behind in terms of HDI.

 

The HDI ranks countries in the following categories – very high human development, high human development, medium human development and low human development

The Human Development Index was developed in 1990 for a comparative measure of the impact of economic policies on quality of life as reflected in terms of life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, well being, and child welfare, on a global basis. It is used in categorising countries into developed, developing or under-developed[18].

Education Index

The United Nations ranks Nigeria 143rd position out of 179 countries in the Education Index. This means that Nigeria belongs to the last 36 countries lagging behind in terms of the level of investment in human development.

The Education Index measures the adult literacy rate (which gives an indication of the ability to read and write) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER). The GER the GER gives an indication of the level of education from nursery to post graduate education. Education is considered a key index of wellbeing and is used in measuring economic development, quality of life. It is also a central factor in grouping a country as developed, developing or underdeveloped[19].

 

CONCEPTUALISING THE CAUSE OF INCREASING POVERTY IN NIGERIA

The Nigerian reality has been characterised above as a situation of growth without development. What we are daily confronted with is increasing and steady decline in the welfare of ordinary people.

The question that needs be posed is what is the cause of abject poverty in the midst of plenty? Why does poverty continue to capture more and more people, dragging them down the abyss?

It is perceived that there could be a relationship between neoliberal policies of privatization and the poverty level. Put in broader sense, there appears to be a relationship between poverty and the relative loss of political and economic sovereignty.

Political Sovereignty may be defined as the ability of an independent state to exercise supreme dominion, authority or power over a geographic unit, without interference from other states. Economic Sovereignty, as a subset of political sovereignty, is the authority of an independent state to make decisions concerning economic policies and to exercise control over the economic activities of both juridical and natural persons conducting business within a country, whether nationals of that country or foreigners, free from interference from other states[20].

 

I contend that the relative loss of both political sovereignty and economic sovereignty, as defined above, could be the cause of increasing poverty and the absence of development in the country. Though there had never been absolute political sovereignty and economic sovereignty in Nigeria, my argument is that the relative loss of both, particularly as from 1986, could be associated with unprecedented imiserisation of the Nigerian society that we are all witnesses to today.

 

In order to have a clear understanding of the cause of poverty in Nigeria, I invite you to periodise the history of Nigeria’s development process into two broad epochs:

  • 1962 – the early 1980s: an era of economic nationalism or state centrism, and
  • 1986 – till date: era of liberalisation, privatisation, commercialisation, etc.

 

The national development plans up to the early 1980s were informed by the intention to attain certain development objectives. A taxonomy of the objectives reveals the following: attainment and maintenance of the highest possible rate of increase in the standard of living, more even distribution of income, social welfare, a just and egalitarian society, a land of bright and full opportunity for all citizens, reduction in the level of unemployment, increase in the supply of high level manpower, self dependence and less of dependence on external resources, balanced development, indigenization of economic activity, diversified economy, a free and democratic society, etc.

In the early post-colonial period, the state in the periphery had to adopt a legitimation strategy, which placed key role on the state being the engine of economic growth.  It was not feasible to put the burden of production of strategic goods and services on profit-seeking private capitalists and expect the ordinary people to enjoy the benefits of the newly won political ‘independence’.  To earn legitimacy from the standpoint of the average citizen, the state had to sustain previous investment and make additional investments in public enterprises in order to make ‘independence’ meaningful to the people.

Thus, for example, in 1959, the National Economic Council came to the conclusion that:

A National Development Plan be prepared for Nigeria with the objective of the achievement and maintenance of the highest possible rate of increase in the standard of living and the creation of the necessary conditions to this end, including public support and awareness of both the potentials that exist and the sacrifices that will be required (FRN, 1970).

The 1st National Development Plan (1962-68) had the aim of achieving:

‘a modernized economy consistent with the democratic, political and social aspirations of the people’[21]

The 2nd National Development Plan (1970-1974) accelerated indigenization with the goal that ‘it was vital for Government …to acquire, by law if necessary, the greater proportion of the productive assets of the economy’[22]

Swanson and Worlde-Semait[23] established that about 600 enterprises and 900 smaller ones were operating at the Federal and State/Local government levels, in the 1980s, respectively[24].

The international environment in the age of state centrism was also favourable to the development of pro-people economic plans. For example, the 1962 UN General Assembly Resolution on the Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources (PSNR), Resolution 1803, provides in Paragraphs 1 and 2, for the right of permanent sovereignty over natural resources, in the interest of national development and wellbeing of the people of the state concerned, and under conditions, rules, restriction or prohibitions deemed desirable, as follows:

 

  1. The right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercised in the interest of their national development and the of the well-being of the people of the state concerned;
  2. The exploration, development and disposition of such resources, as well as the import of the foreign capital required for these purposes, should be in conformity with the rules and conditions which the peoples and nations freely consider to be necessary or desirable with regard to the authorisation, restriction or prohibition of such activities.

 

Paragraph 4 of the Resolution (PSNR) indeed permitted nationalisation and expropriation of private companies, for reasons of public interest, over purely individual or private interests, both domestic and foreign, subject only to payment of compensation in accordance with the rules in force in the sovereign state.

 

Paragraph 8 of same Resolution (PSNR) also recognises the need for observance of contracts freely entered into, but on the condition that:

 

‘states and international organisations shall strictly and conscientiously respect the sovereignty of peoples and nations over their natural wealth and resources in accordance with the Charter and the principles set forth in the present resolution’.

 

The UN, particularly in the ‘60s and 70s, up till the early part of the ‘80s, actively advocated and pursued economic and political principles that supported economic sovereignty for the ultimate benefit of the human person. For example, in 1974, the UN adopted the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States (CERDS).[25]

 

The CERDS provides, among others, for the following rights and duties of the State:

‘the sovereign and inalienable right to choose its economic system, as well as its political, social and cultural systems in accordance with the will of its people, without outside interference, coercion or threat in any form whatsoever’ (Article 1);

 

the right of every state ‘to nationalise, expropriate or transfer ownership of foreign property’ provided appropriate compensation is paid based on appropriate laws of the state adopting such measures (Article 2(2(c).

 

In fact, the 1986 Resolution of the UN’s General Assembly on the Right to Economic Development of States[26] (the Resolution on the Right to Development, for short) recognises economic development as:

an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all people are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realised (Article 1 (1).

Indeed, Article 2 (1) and (2) of the Resolution on the Right to Development declares that:

1. The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development (emphasis mine).

2. All human beings have a responsibility for development, individually and collectively, taking into account the need for full respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as their duties to the community, which alone can ensure the free and complete fulfilment of the human being …

 

Article 2 (3) of the Resolution on the Right to Development declares that

States have the right and the duty to formulate appropriate national development policies that aim at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals, on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of the benefits resulting therefrom (emphasis mine).

 

A fundamental paradigm shift from state centrism to the private sector being the engine of economic change occurred in July 1986 when the policy of privatization was formally declared through the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

FROM STATE CENTRISM TO PRIVATE SECTOR AS ENGINE OF ECONOMIC GROWTH

1986-1993 1st phase of privatisation: Total proceeds: $740m from 88 of 111 companies slated for privatisation.[27]
1999-2005 2nd phase of privatisation: total proceeds: $323.4m, as at 2005[28].
1995 The Nigerian Enterprises (Repeal) Act abolished restrictions to foreign shareholding
1995 The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act (No. 16 of 1995) allows 100 per cent foreign ownership of firms in any sector (S.17), except in the enterprises tagged as ‘negative list’, e. g. production of arms and ammunition (S. 18), for security reasons.
  The NIPC Act also provides guarantee against expropriation and nationalisation as follows: ‘no enterprise shall be nationalised or expropriated by any Government of the Federation’ (S. 25(1)(a), except for national interest and on the condition of payment of adequate compensation(S. 25(2)(a) and no law shall compel any investor to surrender his interest in any enterprise to any other person(S. 25(1)(b).

 

 

Privatisation is an element of economic globalization, which has been defined as a dynamic that is bound up with the pattern of European capitalist development, which demands, with threats of sanctions that:

every set of social arrangements must establish its position in relation to the capitalist West… it must relativize itself.  It must be said that in increasing sectors of the World this relativization process involves a positive preference for Western and capitalist possibilities[29]

 

Any surprise that in 2002, the US urged that market system should be embraced world-wide:

The lessons of history are clear: market economies, not command-and-control economies with heavy hand of government are the best ways to promote prosperity and reduce poverty. Policies that further strengthen market incentives and market institutions are relevant for all economies –industrialized countries, emerging markets, and the developing world[30] (emphasis mine).

But in case of resistance or reluctance to adopt pro-business policies anywhere in the world, then the US imperialism is prepared to use force:

While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary… It is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength. We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge. Our military’s highest priority is to defend the United States. To do so effectively, our military mustdeter threats against U.S. interests, allies, and friends; and decisively defeat any adversary if deterrence fails[31] (emphasis mine).

 

 

 

Joseph Stiglitz[32] has confirmed the tendency of supranational organisations such as the IMF, controlled by the US and other imperialist countries, to undermine the sovereignty of governments in the ‘developing’ countries. He suggests that the IMF tends to view all matters of domestic policy as capable of causing economic instability in order to justify its ‘input into a very wide range of domestic structural issues’.

 

In 2003 the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), as well as its versions at State and Local Government levels, the SEEDS and LEEDS, was introduced. It placed responsibility for all sectors on the private sector, as follows:

A TABULATED ANALYSIS OF THE REFORM AGENDA IN THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AND DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY (NEEDS) DOCUMENT[33]

RESPONSIBILITY SECTORAL RESPONSIBILITY PAGE(S)
Agriculture Private Sector 69-70
Job creation Private Sector XV – XVI, 44
Health Private Sector XVI, 39-40
Housing Private Sector XVI, 43, 44
Education Private Sector XVI, 35, 38
Water Private Sector XIX, 61
Power Private Sector XVIII, 60
Transport – Roads, Railways, Sea Private sector 59 – 60
Environment Private Sector 66
Industry Private Sector XIX, 70-71
Information & Communication Technology Private Sector 73
Tourism Private Sector 74
Film Industry Private Sector 74-75
Oil & Gas Private Sector 76-77
Social Development Private Sector 58
Unity of Nigeria Private Sector 58
Cultural Development

Moral Development

Social Development

 

 

Private Sector

 

58

Source: F. Aborisade (2006). Labour and Socio-Economic Rights Development and Nigeria’s Commercialization and Privatization Policy: A Descriptive Appraisal (Research Report Submitted to Centre for Civil Society, CCS, School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (July)

The goal of the NEEDS document to practically hand over the country to the private sector is also unequivocally stated as follows:

The private sector will be the engine of economic growth under NEEDS. It will be the executor, investor, and manager of businesses. The government will play the role of enabler, facilitator, and regulator, helping the private sector grow, create jobs, and generate wealth. Deregulation and liberalization will diminish governmental control and attract private sector investment… NEEDS aims to restructure the government to make it smaller, stronger … the number of government jobs will decline…[34]

For the avoidance of any doubt, the Federal Government makes it explicitly clear that the ‘primary goal of the NEEDS strategy is to build the private sector’[35]

The strategic policy thrust specified in the NEEDS document to attain the above private-sector driven world is for government to first invest in infrastructures with  a view to upgrading and developing them before privatization[36]. Other policy thrusts include right sizing and eliminating ghost workers[37]; complete deregulation and liberalization of the downstream petroleum sector and privatization of the refineries[38]; monetization of in-kind benefits such as subsidized housing, transport, health and utilities for civil servants[39], which amounts to government abandoning responsibility for provision of such social services to the entire society; providing long term credit to the private sector[40], contrary to the official rationale for privatization based on expectation of injection of funds into the economy by the private sector.

The ‘Vision 20:2020’, the Yar’Adua’s ‘7-point Agenda and Jonathan’s ‘Transformation Agenda’ are all built on the same class agenda: promotion of the private, at the expense of public good.

But it is important to point out that the process leading to the paradigm shift from state centrism to the private sector being the engine of economic growth was not an inevitable phenomenon. The process of change from ‘state-centrism’ to ‘rolling back the state’ did not occur on its own accord.  Unlike Adam Smith, the direction of the economy is not simply influenced by the invisible hand of the market (i.e. the forces of supply and demand).  Rather, supply and demand are influenced by conscious social policies in the process of social interaction or class struggles.  Hence, Marx talks of political economy, i.e. economy that is influenced by political decisions and state-civil society relationships.[41]

Therefore, the trade union movement owes it a duty to continue to stress the duty of government to recognize and the basic socio-economic rights as fundamental rights.

To paraphrase Snooks[42], modern governments have lost sight of the real reason for their existence, which is to facilitate the key objective of citizen’s survival and prosperity. It is for this reason that governments emerged in the earliest civilization and it is for the same reason that they have been maintained ever since. Until now. It was only in the past few decades that governments, internationally, have formally relinquished responsibility for promoting and shaping economic development aimed at guaranteeing the welfare of the citizenry.

It should be borne in mind that even the golden age of capitalism in the 50s and 60s in the West and the welfarist character of the state, post colonial rule, in the former colonial world, were products of profound historical processes, pressures and struggles – the end of the second World War, which provided objective conditions for Marshall Aids, the strength of the labour movement in the core capitalist centres, the cold war between Eastern and Western Europe and the rise of political and economic nationalism in the periphery capitalist states. Social change is a product of conscious self activity of the ordinary people.

 

PROPOSED CHARTER FOR DEVELOPMENT

Declaration on Ideological Standpoint

The world we live in is unjust. The structure of the society we live in is skewed against the working class. It is a necessity for the working class to fight to change the existing social order as a condition for benefitting from available resources. It would be illusory for workers to hope to benefit maximally under the existing social order.

Labour cannot pretend to be neutral in terms of choice of economic system. Economic systems are not value-free. While the capitalist system predominantly protects the class interest of the capitalists, socialism is the system that seeks to protect the interests of the working class and the poor. The realisation that ideological standpoint is central to development informs the UN’s CHARTER OF ECONOMIC RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF STATE (1974) to proclaim that:

 

Every State has the sovereign and inalienable right to choose its economic system as well as its political, social and cultural systems in accordance with the will of its people, without outside interference, coercion or threat in any form whatsoever (Article 1)

 

I advocate that labour should openly declare support for socialism as the goal of the working class struggles in Nigeria. It is healthy for ideological differences to exist in the labour movement than to dull the consciousness of workers to accepting fighting within capitalism without a clear-cut ideological goal.

Declaration on Philosophy of Governance

The philosophical world outlook which guides governance in the current neoliberal era is the Social Darwinist principle of survival of the fittest – that inequalities of wealth, position and political power are naturally inevitable. Any attempt to alter the natural state of inequality is an affront against nature itself. Thus, there is no rationale for government supporting the poor and disadvantaged. If the individual cannot compete and survive, he/she may die! If the individual has the means, he/she may survive; otherwise, let him/her perish! This is the philosophical outlook in governance that must be fought and overturned.

It is essential for labour to declare support for a people-oriented philosophy of governance and development.  A people-oriented philosophy of development is one that makes human beings -ordinary people- the ultimate beneficiaries of all government activities. The question to ask before accepting or rejecting any policy is: what is the effect on the masses?

A people-oriented philosophy of governance and development requires labour to reject all anti-people policies and fight for a society in which need not greed for profitdetermines what is produced and how. To this extent, labour should reject all neo-liberal policies contained in recent government policies such as the FGN’s economic blueprint, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) and its versions at State and Local Government levels, the SEEDS and LEEDS, as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), on a continental level, all of which are built on enriching a few through ‘making the private sector the engine of economic growth’ and dispossessing and imiserising the majority.

Declaration on Social Security Schemes and against Labour Being Commodified

The perspective that labour is a commodity is a perspective that maintains that only those who are capable of producing over and above what they are paid should be provided for by the society. But a society that declares labour not to be a commodity is one that is prepared to extend social security measures to all vulnerable groups who are in need of protection, such as a basic income, regardless of whether they are employed or not employed, and whether they work in the private or public sector.

Declaration on Mode of Ownership and Management of the Economy

Privatisation has been described by David Harvey[43] as primitive accumulation, which is not based on free and fair market exchange or capital-labour relations but a form of accumulation based on dispossession of the society as a whole through state coercion, to benefit a few. Simply, put, privatisation is looting.

David Harvey’s conceptualisation of privatisation as accumulation by dispossession or primitive accumulation has been borne out in the Nigerian experience. In a study carried out by this author[44], it was found that:

  • the total proceeds realised from privatisation between 1999 and May 2006 was only $2.38bn or N49.70bn.
  • buyers of four of the public enterprises had only paid 30% of the bid price;
  • three of the buyers had only paid 10% of the bid price;
  • 14 had not paid anything at all;
  • the buyer of one of the companies, which has eight (8) sub divisions had paid only the entry fee;
  • Only one of the ‘investors’ had paid up to 50% of the bid price;
  • where payments might have been made, the enterprises were sold at ridiculously low prices;
  • Some of the privatized enterprises were closed down by the buyers immediately after ‘purchase’. For those of them who did not close down production of goods and services after purchase, privatization means that while the new capitalist owners spend little or nothing on fixed capital, land, buildings, and machinery, they are in a position to earn super profit.

 

The Report of the House of Representatives’ Ad-HOC Committee on the Investigation of the Privatization and Commercialisation Activities of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) from 1999 to date[45] has also confirmed that privatisation in Nigeria is nothing but looting. Based on established corrupt practices, the Ad hoc Committee recommended, among others, that the sale of the following enterprises/concessions should be rescinded and re-advertised for sale:

  1. Volkswagen Nigeria Ltd (now VON Automobile Nigeria Ltd).
  2. ALSCON
  3. Delta Steel Company
  4. Jos Steel Rolling Mills
  5. Tin can Island Port Terminal ‘A’ (Concession)
  6. Koko Port (Concession)
  7. Port Harcourt Terminal ‘B’ (Concession)
  8. Transcorp Hilton Hotel
  9. Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja
  10. Abuja International Hotels Limited
  11. Daily Times of Nigeria PLC
  12. Sunti Sugar Company
  13. Bacita Sugar Company

 

Labour should oppose privatisation and advocate nationalization of ailing and strategic private companies, including the banks, and renationalize all previously sold public enterprises and put them under democratic management and control of joint committees of elected representatives of:

  • workers in each entity,
  • communities,
  • consumers, and
  • professional bodies.

Nationalization is one of the fundamental lessons to be learnt from the measures being taken internationally to tackle the current economic meltdown. Thus, in September 2008, the US Government carried out the takeover of the mortgage giants, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, in what a US Professor of history termed the ‘greatest nationalisation in the history of humanity’.

The members of the Management teams and/or Governing Boards of public enterprises should:

  • receive no extra payment apart from the salaries they earn in their workplaces, plus incidental expenses.
  • Be elected on rotational basis, after a maximum of one term, and
  • Be recallable at any time they lose the confidence of their constituencies.

 

Declaration on Preference for Public-Public Partnerships (PUPS) as against Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) or Joint Ventures with the Private Sector

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) refers to joint funding or management of an enterprise by the state and the private sector. Though such partnerships take various forms, in all of them, the preoccupation of the private partners is to make or maximize profit. Joint venture projects are a common feature in many sectors of the economy under globalization. Like contracting out/outsourcing, it also has implication for cost-cutting as the state frees itself from the responsibility for employing those working in the joint ventures and paying pensions, and so on. Those working in the joint ventures are thus left to the whims and caprices of the private employers who tend to fix pay and conditions of service arbitrarily as opposed to adopting the framework of collective bargaining.

Instead of PPP, labour should advocate Public-Public Partnerships (PUPS), among governments, public institutions or agencies on an international basis, to build capacities in developing countries

 

Declaration on Need for Equitable Redistribution of Wealth, Particularly in Resource Endowed Societies

Research[46] has shown that there appears to be a relationship between inequality and social conflict, particularly in the context of societies with natural resource endowment. Therefore, considering the unprecedented degree of physical insecurity in Nigeria, there is an urgent need for a programme that ensures an equitable distribution of wealth. The work of Collier shows that natural resources considerably increase the chances of civil conflict in a country. A country that has no natural resources faces a probability of civil conflict of 0.5 per cent while a country with natural resources-to-GDP share of 26 per cent faces a probability of 23 percent. The authors point out that outbreak of civil conflict is an extreme manifestation of institutional collapse. This suggests that the existing socio-economic order, in an oil rich country, with a wide gap in income differentials, can no longer take society forward.

 

Reduction in Income Inequality

In order to reduce extreme inequality as advocated by NEPAD, MDGs and Vision 20:2020, income inequality has to be reduced. The recurrent expenditure of government would be reduced significantly without the need to sack workers if there is reduction in income inequality.

Based on the average cost of maintaining a national legislator (N320m per year)[47] and the official minimum wage (N18,000/day or N216,000/year), income inequality in Nigeria, is a ratio of 1:1,500.

The calculation of the average cost of maintaining a national legislator, according to calculations by the radical Pastor Tunde Bakare,[48]  the average cost of maintaining a national legislator in Nigeria is N320million or $2.1million per year or about N27million per month) is presented below:

Number of Senators = 109

·         Number of Members of the House of Representatives = 360

·         Total Number of Legislators = 469

·         2012 Budget Proposal for the National Assembly = N150 billion

·         Average Cost of Maintaining Each Member = N320 million

·         Average Cost of Maintaining Each Member in USD = $2.1 million/year

Indeed, on the basis of international comparison, the Nigerian Senator earns about seven (7) times what the US President earns. Whereas the US President earns $400,000 per year, or N60million, inclusive of all allowances, the Nigerian Senator earns N163million or $1.10million per year, at the exchange rate of $1:N150. The average salary of the Nigerian Senator per year is about N11million while the allowances amount to N152million (NB: Pre 2012 Budget). Indeed, the cost of a Senator’s car (Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep) alone for the current year is $100,724 or about N16million[49], in a country where minimum wage is N18,000 per month or N216,000 per year!

There is therefore a need to evolve inequality-reducing system of wealth distribution. In the context of Nigeria, this may include the following:

  • Political office holder not earning more than the average or skilled public sector employee. This would discourage the desperation to win elective public office, which has been resulting in the phenomena of various categories of Boko Haram, political assassination, and so on.
  • An end to the system of contract awards for the execution of public projects. Engage direct labour and enter into Public-Public Partnership as against Public-Private Partnership for the purpose of gaining access to technical skills that may be lacking domestically.
  • The above increases the likelihood that the capacity of the various Ministries will be developed, improved or enhanced to provide the services for which they were set up.
  • Public office holders, political party leaders, their families, friends and relatives to be prohibited from taking contracts from government.
  • Public officers and their families to be prohibited from going abroad for medical or educational services.

 

Declaration on the Need to Combat Corruption and Turn Nigeria into a ‘Non-Oil’ Economy

Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Arvind Subramanian[50] stress that oil wealth has fundamentally shaped politics, grievances and conflicts in Nigeria and that successive governments in Nigeria tend to squander the oil wealth such that economic growth does not result in economic development. Nuhu Ribadu[51] estimates that corruption costs Nigeria between 40 and 70 percent of oil wealth (the main source of Nigeria’s wealth), meaning that only between 30 and 60 percent of proceeds from oil could be available for the larger society.

 

Indeed, according to Watts[52], relying on the IMF, over $700bn had been realized as oil revenue since 1960. Eighty per cent (80%) of this sum accrues to only 1% of the population.

Apart from the most recent incidences of corruption (for example, the fuel subsidy scam of N1.7trillion and pension scams) Owolabi Bakre[53] has reviewed some of the key incidences of official corruption in Nigeria, which we summarise in a tabular form below.

Amount Looter: Regime/persons affected Source/Authority
US$12.4 billion Amount realized from oil sale during the Gulf War under Gen. IBB (see Okigbo’s Report, 1994)
over US$30billion Estimated amount stolen during the regime of Ibrahim Babangida (see Daily Independent, November 9, 2007).

 

US$34 billion Gen. Sani Abacha’s looted funds, which Obasabjo froze in 2002. (see Sikka, 2003)
US$2billion Amount looted by Mohammed Abacha  
(US$126m or N19bn Transmission substation contract secured by Abdulsalam Abubakar Energo

Nigeria Limited.after leaving office

(see Vanguard Online, March 13, 2008). Without any evidence of

performance as stipulated by the due process, Abubakar further used his influence to

collect N13billion (US$86,000,000) out of the contract price, but has so far achieved

less than five per cent implementation (see Report of House of Representatives

Committee on Power and Steal, 2008).

(US$86,000,000 collected by Abubakar, out of the contract sum even before performing 5% of the contract. (see Report of House of Representatives

Committee on Power and Steal, 2008).

(see Vanguard Online, March 13, 2008).

‘Nigerians should thank God that Abdulsalam Abubakar did not rule more than nine months – Dr. Christopher Kolade Probe Panel’s report set up to probe his administration’

(see Daily Sun, June 10, 2008).

US$16 billion Obasanjo, (1999-2007) (see Senate Committee

on Power and Energy Report, 2008).

 

In collaboration with many local cronies and some multinational companies, more

than fifty per cent of the money was siphoned into personal accounts abroad (see Senate Committee on

Power and Energy Report, 2008).

Some of the local and foreign companies that got the

contracts to provide electricity did not start the project while they have been paid more

than fifty per cent of the agreed contract cost. Some were even overpaid for work not done at all. (See Director of National Independent Power Project, 2008).

 

US$29 billion Amount allegedly withdrawn by Obasanjo from the Federation Account without recourse to the National Assembly (see Senate Committee on Finance, National Planning and Appropriation Report, 2006).

 

N555 billion (US$4.44

billion)

The amount former President Obasanjo could not account for while the NNPC that was under his personal control for eight years – 1999-2007. (see Tribune,

August 13, 2007).

 

N502 billion or US$4 billion top officials of the NNPC under the

ministerial control of former President Obasanjo

(see Daily Sun, August 13,

2007).

 

about N1.3trilion (US$9,285,714,285) Ministry of Works, under the former Minister of Works, Chief Tony Anenih (see Daily Independent, May 14, 2008).
N300 billion (US$2,142,857,143) Ministry of Works, under the former Minister of Works, Chief Tony Anenih (see

Daily Independent Online, May 12, 2004).

 

N46bn; US$36m; £24m; DM462,000;EURO148m and SEK4m Contracts awarded by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) between 2001 and 2003, which were allegedly marred by large scale frauds, widespread financial recklessness, and massive inflation of contract prices.

 

(see This Day, February 22, 2006)
Contract for railway modernisation project inflated by US$5.8bn and awarded to a Chinese firm called, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) at the cost of US$8.3bn. Whereas it should cost about US$2.5bn. Under President Obasanjo regime (see Punch, June 15, 2008).
     
     

 

In the light of the foregoing, there is a need, not only to combat corruption (as prescribed in the Constitution[54]) but also to campaign for turning Nigeria into a ‘non-oil’ economy, at least within the context of the existing socio-economic order. This objective may be attained by a sustained campaign for the following:

  • Probe the past and ensure that:
    • All stolen wealth is retrieved, either in terms of cash or assets.
    • All stolen money and assets recovered should be put in trust funds for dedicated purposes/projects
    • all those found guilty of corruptly enriching themselves with public wealth are jailed for life
    • establish an Anti-Corruption Ministry for monitoring and investigating execution of current public projects.
    • Enact laws to protect whistle blowers.
    • Enact legislation directly prohibiting plea-bargaining in corruption cases.
    • Turn Nigeria into a ‘non-oil’ economy as suggested by Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Arvind Subramanian[55] by enacting legislation to the effect that proceeds from oil sale are paid directly into the bank accounts of individual Nigerians, on equal basis, such that levies or taxes are imposed on individuals to fund public projects.

 

Declaration on Increases in the National Minimum Wage Based on the Principle of Wage Indexation

A key lesson to be learnt from measures being taken internationally in stimulating the economy is raising the minimum wage. For example, in the U.S., the Federal minimum wage was raised, with effect from 24 July 2009 from $6.55 (N1,048.00) per hour to $7.25 (N1,160.00 at the exchange rate of N160:$1) per hour. Though most States have their own minimum wage rates, employers are required to pay whichever is higher. According to a CNN report[56], an economist with the US Economic Policy Institute (EPI) asserted that the wage increase would inject $5.5 billion worth of extra spending into the US economy over the next year. But in Nigeria, the N18,000 minimum wage has not been implemented fully even by the Federal Government, in spite of the recent increase in the price of petrol.

Apart from the need to raise minimum wage, it has become critically important to advocate the principle of wage indexation, called ‘scala mobile’ in the Italian industrial relations system. It means wages rising as inflation rises. It should be borne in mind that given the rabid commitment of the Federal government to implementing neoliberal agenda in Nigeria, there would be further increases in the prices of petroleum products. Unless wage indexation is adopted, poverty will become deepened and widespread than what we experience currently. Wage indexation could also be a check on the rapidity of fuel price increases by the government, when it is appreciated that any price increase will automatically have an effect on the wage bill.

It should be noted that according to a business intelligence analyst, Abimbola Tooki[57], Nigeria pays the least minimum wage among the top 10 global oil producing nations and members of OPEC, as follows:

Country Minimum Wage (Equivalent in Naira)
Nigeria N18,000
Kuwait N161,500
Iran N101,240
Venezuela N95,600
Saudi Arabia N86,500
Algeria N55,900
Libya N23,800
Iraq N25,800

Oman and United Arab Emirate are said to be paying higher minimum wage rates.

 

Declaration on Job Creation and Employment Security

Trade unions should consider adopting the following policies:

  • Employers must be compelled to open the books for inspection by workers and their representatives, though unions must also engage in independent research on the companies, their income and expenditure profile.
  • Employers, the state and the private sector, should be made to link the state of the economy to levels of employment by adopting the policy of increased appointments based on higher productivity and profits.
  • A campaign for shorter working hours without loss in pay,so that more of the unemployed hands, particularly in the oil producing communities, can have opportunity for employment. For example, Germany, at a point, adopted a program of Kurzarbeit, meaning, shorter working hours and lower pay, to deal with the problem of global financial crisis. Nigerian trade unions should however advocate shorter working hours without loss in pay.
  • Making it more costly to retrench than to retain workers on their jobs could discourage arbitrary layoffs. This is achievable by campaigning for enhanced terminal benefits and higher pension liability on the part of the employer.

 

Declaration on Labour Casualisation:

There are various forms of labour casualisation. It includes contract staffing, outsourcing and so on. Some of the disastrous effects of labour casualisation include resistance to unionisation by employers, job insecurity and poor pay. Unfortunately, both public and private employers engage in the practice of labour casualisation. Labour must declare a policy to fight the practice of labour casualisation.

 

Declaration on Job Promoting/Creation Measures

Though the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth comes from oil, Fajana[58] indicates that the Nigerian oil industry, being capital intensive as opposed to being labour-intensive, provides only approximately 70,000 jobs, including expatriate, regular, contract and subcontract categories of employment. This means that labour must pressurise for a significant proportion of the proceeds from oil to be invested in infrastructures and social services, health, education, public housing, and so on.

Declaration of Policy on Reduction in Tax Liabilities

Labour should launch a campaign for reduction in tax liability, in both the public and private sectors, in order to enhance the purchasing power of workers.

 

For example, US granted tax credits in personal income tax while the UK reduced value added tax from 17.5% to 15%, as measures to deal with the global economic crisis and stimulate the economy.

 

There should a move from regressive taxes like VAT to progressive taxes like corporate taxation, which ensures that the rich pay higher rates of taxation than the poor. International agreements could be entered into with neighbouring countries on minimum rates of corporation tax to be charged by all countries across the region.

Declaration on Capital Flight

Strict controls should be introduced over the movement of capital from Nigeria. All transfers of more than N1m should be subject to proof that the money was obtained legitimately. It is estimated that from 1970 to 2008, nearly $300trillion was transferred out of Nigeria[59].

 

Declaration of policy on non-implementation of pro-worker statutes

Protection of self-interest dictates that labour must declare preparedness to mount pressure for the implementation of statutes that are relatively favourable to the working class. An example that readily comes to mind is the Employee’s Compensation Act (ECA) 2010.

Declaration on a New Direction for the Economy

Labour should campaign for a re-direction of economic policies towards wage-led, domestic-driven growth, rather than the traditional export-oriented production.

 

Declaration on Attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by Fixing Infrastructural Deficits than through Over-Generous Incentives

Researchers have found that governments in developing countries could attract more foreign capital by fixing infrastructural deficits than by over-generous incentives, waivers and concessions, which in the final analysis hurt the economy by depriving it of funds from taxation. Indeed, the UNCTAD recommends that Nigeria should introduce a flat lower corporate tax regime for all non-extractive businesses and remove the pioneer industry scheme on the ground of being selective and limited[60], and in the context of several other ‘over generous’ incentives, waivers and concessions[61].

 

Declaration on Trade Union Freedom

There appears to be a relationship between poverty-inducing policies (economic exclusion) and political repression. The ruling class cannot easily concede freedom for the deprived where there is economic inequality because the economically dominant class will tend to keep down the deprived.

UNCTAD[62], relying on the research conducted by the World Bank[63]  has noted that out of seven (7) selected key African countries[64], Nigeria has the most liberal labour regime. This means Nigeria has the most repressive labour regime among the selected countries. It states that ‘No major rigidities in hiring and firing exist…’[65] In spite of the repressive nature of the employment environment in Nigeria, the UNCTAD Investment Review, quoting an ILO Report[66] found that Nigeria comes 2nd after South Africa,[67] in terms of trade union density, measured in number of days not worked due to labour disputes and strikes.

The challenge, which the foregoing poses for labour is to have a policy to resist encroachments on labour rights, on the basis of the principle of an injury to one is an injury to all.

Some of the most pressing attacks on labour rights include the following:

  • S. 15 of the Trade Unions Act, which prohibits trade unions from applying its funds, directly or indirectly, for political objectives.
  • S. 30(6) of the Trade Unions Act, which prohibits strikes or lock outs in any essential service. The definition of ‘essential services’ in S. 9 of the Trade Disputes Act is so broad that it embraces almost all sectors of the economy – persons employed in civil capacity in the armed forces of the Federation; persons employed in any enterprise engaged in the production of any materials for use in the armed forces of the Federation;  any enterprise in the private or public sector connected with the supply of water, electricity, power, fuel, sound broadcasting, postal, telegraphic, cable, wireless or telephonic communications; ports, harbours, docks, aerodromes; transportation of goods, persons, or livestock, by road, rail, sea, river or air; hospitals, burial of the dead, sanitation, cleaning, disposal of night-soil and rubbish; outbreak of fire, teaching, banking, Nigeria Security Printing and Minting, Central Bank of Nigeria, and so on.
  • S. 42(1)(A)&(B) of the Trade Unions Act, which has the effect of depriving striking workers of the right to picket. The abrogation of the right to picket is contained in the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act of 2005, which provides as follows:
    • S. 42(1)(A) No person shall subject any other person to any kind of constraint or restriction of his personal freedom in the course of persuasion;
    • S. 42(1)(B) No trade union or registered Federation of Trade Unions or any member thereof shall in the course of any strike action compel any person who is not a member of its union to join any strike or in any manner whatsoever, prevent aircrafts from flying or obstruct public highways, institutions or premises of any kind for the purposes of giving effect to the strike.
    • The provisions of S. 42(1)(A) and (B) of the Trade Unions Act have the same effect as the judgment of the judicial arm of the House of Lords in the case of Taff Vale Railway v. Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (1901) wherein the court held union funds liable for damages arising from strike actions.

 

  • The ILO[68] has noted that labour laws in Nigeria lack any statutory protection against unfair dismissal or statutory severance pay, even though unfair dismissal may constitute trade dispute and the National Industrial Court has, on some occasions, awarded severance pay as additional compensation to unfairly dismissed workers[69].

Declaration on Political Party

Nigeria has witnessed governance by bourgeois politicians, either at the centre or at the state levels. All they can afford to give Nigeria is unprecedented poverty and insecurity.  There is a need to build a Socialist Labour Party or parties, based on the mass of the working class and its allies. It is not sufficient to have a labour party. It is imperative to have a labour party (or parties) that would openly and unapologetically:

  • Be the voice of workers and the poor in the legislature
  • Declare support for the day-to-day industrial struggles of workers and wider issues being fought in the communities and nationally, and
  • Declare socialism as its ideology. The unprecedented degree of social conflicts and insecurity in Nigeria today means nothing but the inability of the capitalist system to take society forward. The pervasive and excruciating poverty in Nigeria today shows there is a vacuum which only a socialist party can fill, based on a programme of eliminating economic inequality and making majority of human beings in the society – the poor – the ultimate beneficiaries of any government policy. Such a party will not be enslaved to maintaining the existing social order; it will work to campaign for the need to carry out a system change based on the masses stamping their feet on the sand of history and demanding change.

I am aware that the issue of workers’ participation in politics has always been a source of division for Nigerian workers. But such division is, in my opinion, healthy. Workers or unions that agree on forming parties to participate in ‘partisan’ politics may co-exist with those that are averse to the idea. Workers or unions that choose to form parties based on a socialist agenda could also co-exist with those that may only prefer to form a party/labour party that does not openly declare socialism as its ideology. Regardless of the choice of particular workers and unions, individually or collectively in groups, Joint Action Committees (JACs) could always be formed to wage struggles, whenever they arise, on industrial or wider issues, at any level, locally or nationally.

Three key tendencies have emerged in the attempts and experiences of organised labour to be involved in electoral politics, as follows:

  • In the 1950s, during the anti-colonial struggle, the central labour organisation, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, merely affiliated to the NCNC, instead of undertaking the formation of an independent workers’ party. Though Chief Fagbenro Beyioku, speaking for the conservatives who opposed workers involvement in politics, raised the option of the TUC forming an independent workers party, it was widely perceived that the goal was just to get the TUC to break from NCNC, as nothing was done by the conservatives to initiate the formation of a workers’ party[70].

 

  • In 1983, labour’s attitude, as symbolised in the May Day Address of the NLC President, was a call on workers ‘to vote for only pro-labour politicians in all the political parties’[71].

 

  • Since the 1960s, socialist intellectuals and labour bureaucrats have laboured to form socialist and labour parties. Examples included The Socialist Workers and Farmers Party (SWAFP), the Nigerian Labour Party, the Working People’s Party, etc. The common bane of those efforts and sacrifices was that the parties lacked mass base of support among rank and file workers.
    • As Prof. Olorode observes, the current Labour Party today serves mainly as the platform for all manners of politicians who lack a labour background to contest after they have lost out in the nomination process in the main bourgeois parties. Politics of exclusion and lack of commitment to working class programme tend to be the bane of parties formed mainly by union leaders[72].

The objective we seek to achieve by giving the above historical outline of organised labour’s attempts at ‘partisan’ political party involvement is not to lament or bemoan the past. Rather, it is to allow us to note that any current efforts are not strange. What we need to do is to draw lessons from past experiences.

First, the successes of the Labour Party in winning some seats in the 1964 elections, the victory of the former President of the NLC, Adams Oshiomhole, as Governor of Edo State, the fact that Dr. Mimiko won the Governorship position in Ondo State on the platform of the existing Labour Party, no matter its weaknesses, all show the potentials that exist for a Party built on:

  • the mass of the rank and file workers and the other poor strata, and
  • a program of defending the interests of the poor and the working class.

Second, there is always a need to build an independent workers party or parties, which could enter into electoral alliances or form joint action committees with other radical or pro-labour parties or organisations. Labour deserves to have an independent political party to politically support struggles on industrial and other wider issues, rather than having to lobby ‘friendly’ politicians (whose primary loyalty is to their bourgeois parties) at critical moments. The experience of encouraging workers to vote for ‘pro-labour candidates in all parties’ also tends to strengthen ethnic/regional consciousness and divide workers along the ethnically-based bourgeois parties[73].

Third, trade unions and labour leaders have ‘ready-made’ national structures and mass base of social support, based on traditions of labour struggles, which the ordinary politician lacks. Labour candidates therefore stand a better chance of success in elections than other politicians, provided the party can demonstrate practical commitment to the cause of all the poor strata, including students, traders, unemployed, farmers, and so on.

Fourth, in order to avoid domination of the party by top union leaders, efforts should be made to win the support of the rank and file union membership for the formation of workers party, through referendum and adoption of a resolution to that effect at unions’ special congresses. Such an approach will ensure a steady source of funding for the parties, through direct union-funding, apart from contributions by individual workers.

Fifth, the trade union movement has a duty to embark on a campaign for law reform for the abrogation of all anti-labour provisions and laws, particularly, S. 15 of the Trade Union Act, which prohibits the trade union from applying its funds, directly or indirectly, for political objectives.

Sixth, the trade union movement has a responsibility to canvass for constitutional amendment and law reform such that public sector workers who seek to contest elective offices only need to apply for ‘leave of absence’ rather than the Constitutional and statutory requirement of having to resign 30 days before the date of election[74].

Seventh, the Nigerian labour movement should learn from the process leading to the formation of the British Labour Party. The agitation for a distinct labour voice in parliament, in recognition of the ‘class war’ was initiated, not only by a few individuals within the society as a whole but also within the trade union movement. The decision of the TUC to establish a labour Representation Committee (LRC) followed a motion sponsored by only two unions. The motion called on the Leadership of the TUC ‘to devise ways and means for securing the return of an increased number of labour members to the next Parliament’. Mortimer[75] however notes that the decisive factor in strengthening the trend towards support for independent labour representation was not a product of ideological debate but a product of the judgment of the judicial bench of the House of Lords (the highest court in the UK), which made unions and their funds liable for damages arising out of strike actions.That judgment immediately raised concern that labour ought to be represented in Parliament so as to change the law and restore trade union immunity against claims for damages arising from strike actions.The particular case in point was the case between Taff Vale Railway v. Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. The Railway workers went on strike in 1900. The House of Lords gave its judgment in July 1901. The Labour Party emerged in 1906 by virtue of the name adopted by the MPs elected under the platform of the LRC. The existence of multiple draconian provisions in labour laws in Nigeria makes it imperative for a labour party that is committed to the cause of the workers to emerge to change the law, as part of the first steps.   

 

 

 

Conclusion

The purpose of government should be the protection of the poor and the vulnerable members of the society. Beyond this, there is no justification for the existence of the social institution called ‘Government’. This protective function of government is in the nature of a trust, a contract. As long as this obligation is fulfilled by government, whatever law or policy made by government is binding. However, the moment government fails to protect the wellbeing of ordinary people, the people have the right to oppose the government and its policies. Such policies automatically lose validity, worthy of being observed only in the breach while the government itself loses legitimacy. This is the essence of Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution – the right of association and peaceful action to protect interests. Section 40 of the Constitution is the only constitutional safeguard against governmental tyranny, state terrorism, despotism and totalitarianism. It is therefore a constitutional right to protest peacefully to bring about social changes. It is those who make peaceful change impossible that make violent change inevitable. The Nigerian masses will need to reinvent and adopt the elements of the 1776 American Declaration of Independence when the revolting colonies which later on constituted the USA broke away from the suzerainty (hegemony) of Britain declared, inter alia, as follows:

“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these aims, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers on such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness”

Any person, any party, any social class automatically loses the right to continue to rule the moment it cannot guarantee the welfare and security of the people. This is the implication of S. 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. Section  16 (1) (b) goes further to prescribe that government shall control the (national) economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.

Section 14 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution states that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government derives all its powers and authority.

Finally, in response to those who argue that President Jonathan is merely implementing the programme upon which he campaigned and was elected, it has to be made clear that Section 224 of Nigeria’s Constitution does not permit any political party or candidate to implement any policy or programme that is at variance with constitutional provisions. It states:  ‘the programme as well as the aims and objects of a political party shall conform with the provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution’. Chapter II of the Constitution mandates government to own and control the major sectors of the economy so as to maintain the capacity to provide for the wellbeing and socio-economic rights as the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.

On the ground of Section 224 of the CFRN, 1999, labour can legitimately insist that the proposed charter for development is the basis to measure the performance of any government or to call for fundamental political and social change.

I thank you all for your attention.

Femi Aborisade

 

WHERE WE STAND!

INDEPENDENT WORKING CLASS ACTION

In a capitalist society like Nigeria, workers create all the riches yet very few workers benefit from their toil. Only a tiny minority of capitalists control and enjoy this wealth while the majority suffer exploitation and poverty.

This is a consequence of capitalism, an economic system that puts profits before people’s needs. We want a completely new society in which the workers collectively seize control and democratically plan production and distribution for the benefit of all – not just for an elite few.

REVOLUTION NOT REFORM

The parliamentary way to socialism has historically proved futile and so has reformism. The only viable road to socialism is the revolutionary overthrow of the present system led by the mass of workers. The state machinery in the form of the parliament, the army, the police and judiciary are designed to defend the interests of the ruling class. Through mass collective action, workers can smash the state machinery and replace it with true workers’ democracy. This will be based on workers councils with delegates accountable to workers themselves, not parliament.

INTERNATIONALISM

The key to a successful revolution lies in international solidarity with other workers around the world. There is only one international working class exploited by international capital. To emphasize national unity instead of class unity holds back working class struggles. The experience of Russia demonstrates that socialism cannot survive in one country. In Russia it led to state capitalism and Stalinism. In Eastern Europe and China similar systems were later established by Stalinist parties.

AGAINST OPPRESSION

We oppose all tendencies, which turn workers against workers. We are against sexism and the oppression of women, tribalism, religious sectarianism, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination. These misdirect workers from the real roots of exploitation and imperialism and weaken their collective strength. We advocate ethnic equality and support the rights of minorities to organize and defend their rights. We support all genuine national liberation movements.

THE REVOLUTIONARY WORKERS MOVEMENT/PARTY

A revolutionary movement/party is a spear in the hands of workers. It brings together the most class conscious workers to spread socialist ideas and collective action. Through patient arguments and practical organization in the daily class struggle, we can win workers to our politics and the fight for a socialist society. Activity to build such a movement/party has to be based on the mass organisations of the working class. We have to build a rank and file movement within the trade unions.

 

WE STAND FOR SOCIALISM FROM BELOW.

JOIN THE SOCIALISTS!

TOGETHER WE HAVE A WORLD TO WIN!

Socialist Worker is a publication of the Socialist Workers League (SWL) a member of the International Socialist Tendency. To receive Socialist Worker each month, write to: socialistworkersleague@gmail.com

If you would like to join the Socialist Workers League (SWL), visit us online at www.socialistworkersleague.org or http:socialistbulletin.wordpress.com or send your details to:

PO Box 4, Cappa-Oshodi, Lagos.

Name:

Address:

Workplace/union/school:

Email:

Mobile:

 

Editor-in-chief: Femi Aborisade


[1] (C. Ake, (1989). ‘Africa and the Political Economy Approach’ in Ihonvbere, J (ed.). The Political Economy of Crisis and Underdevelopment in Africa, Selected Works of Claude Ake. Lagos: JAD Publishers, p. 43)

[2] (Resolutions of the ITF’s 41st Congress. Available online at www.itfglobal.org/congress/resolutions.cfm accessed on 22 May 2012)

[3] W. Rodney. (1973). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Dar-Es-Salaam: London and Tanzanian Publishing House. Available online at http://www.blackherbals.com/walter_rodney.pdf as at 10/05/12, p. 8.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[8] Rodney, Op.cit.

[9] Cited in M. Watts (2009). ‘Crude Politics: Life and Death on the Nigerian oil Fields,’ (Working Paper No. 25). Washington DC: Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA, available online at <oldweb.geog.berkeley.edu/ProjectsResources/ND%20Website/Nig…> accessed on 22 May 2012.

 

[10] ‘Capital Loss and Corruption: The Example of Nigeria: Testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, 19 May 2009, available online at www.house.gov/apps/list/hearing/financialsvcs…/ribadu_testimony.pdf  accessed on 22 May 2012.

[11] African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), 2008, paragraph 427 p.142.

[13] B. E. Aigbokhan (2008). ‘Growth, Inequality and Poverty in Nigeria’. Addis Ababa: Economic Commission for Africa. (ACGS/MPAMS Discussion Paper No. 3).

[14] The NBS defines ‘Relative Poverty’ as the level of living standards of the majority in a given society.

[15] NBS (2012). The Nigeria Poverty Profile 2010 Report. Press Briefing by the Statistician-General of the Federation?Chief Executive Officer of the National Bureau of Statistics, Dr. Yemi Kale, at the Conference Room, 5th Floor, NBS headquarters, Central Business District, Abuja, on Monday, 13 February 2012 (Available online at http://resourcedat.com/resources/The-Nigeria-Poverty-Profile1.pdf as at 16 May 2012.

[16] NBS defines ‘Absolute Poverty’ as the ‘minimal requirements necessary to afford minimal standards of food, clothing, healthcare and shelter’. ‘Subjective Poverty’ refers to the proportion of the population who consider themselves to be poor based on ‘self-assessment and sentiments’. ‘Dollar-per-day’ refers to the World Bank’s Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) index, which defines poverty as the proportion of those living on less than US$1 per day poverty line. According to the NBS, the current dollar rate is US$1.5.

[20] (B. A. Garner (Ed.)(1999). Black’s Law Dictionary (7th ed.). St. Paul, MINN: West Group; R. P. Buckley (ND). “Re-Envisioning Economic Sovereignty: Developing Countries and the International Monetary Fund”. p. 267, cited in S. V. Sander (2011), ‘The meaning of economic sovereignty: categorising sovereignty and the development of an un-stretched concept’ (available online at 10021391-3953.pdf (student.statsvet.uu.se/modules/student/…/visadokument.aspxid=3572; and  http://www.londoninternational.ac.uk/perspective p. 23. (Accessed on 14 May 2012).

 

[21] Cited in Ajakaiye, Ajakaiye, D. O. (1984). Economy-wide Effects of Privatizing and Re-organizing Nigeria’s Public Enterprises: Some Critical but Neglected Issues.  Ibadan: NISER.

 

[22] p. 289, cited in (UNCTAD (2009). Investment Policy Review: Nigeria. New York and Geneva: UN. Available online at http://archive.unctad.org/en/docs/diaes/diaepcb2008_en.pdf (at p. 3) and accessed on 20 May 2012.

 

[23] Swanson, D. and Worlde-Semait T. (1989). Africa’s PEs Sector and Evidence of Reforms. World Bank Technical Paper No. 95.

[24] Similar findings were made by (UNCTAD (2009). Investment Policy Review: Nigeria. New York and Geneva: UN. Available online at http://archive.unctad.org/en/docs/diaes/diaepcb2008_en.pdf (at p. 3) and accessed on 20 May 2012.

 

[27] (UNCTAD (2009). Investment Policy Review: Nigeria. New York and Geneva: UN. Available online at http://archive.unctad.org/en/docs/diaes/diaepcb2008_en.pdf, pp. 7 & 11, accessed on 22 May 2012.

[28] Id.

[29] Waters, 1995:3-4, cited in Aborisade, F., (2002). Globalization and the Nigerian Labour Movement: A Critical Introduction. Ibadan: Centre for Labour Studies (CLS) and Movement Against Privatization (MAP).

[30] US National Security Strategy, 2002, p. 17, available online at http://merln.ndu.edu/whitepapers/USnss2002.pdf accessed on 23 May 2012.

[31] Ibid., pp. 6 & 32.

[32] Cited in S. V. Sander, S. V. Sander (2011), ‘The meaning of economic sovereignty: categorising sovereignty and the development of an un-stretched concept’ (available online at 10021391-3953.pdf (student.statsvet.uu.se/modules/student/…/visadokument.aspxid=3572), p. 4. Joseph Stiglitz is an American Professor of economics and was former Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank

 

[33] Nigeria National Planning Commission, (2004). National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS).  Abuja: National Planning Commission, Nigeria.

[34] Ibid., p. Xi.

[35] Ibid., p. 52.

[36] Ibid., p. 59.

[37] Ibid., p. 87.

[38] Ibid., p. 77.

[39] Ibid., p. Xi.

[40] Ibid., p. 24.

[41]  Went, 2000 (Went, R. Globalization: Neoliberal Challenge, Radical Responses. London: Pluto Press with IIRE, 2000, cited in F. Aborisade (2006), op. Cit.

[42]  Snooks (2000:12), cited in  cited in F. Aborisade (2006), op. Cit.

[43] D. Harvey. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

[44] F. Aborisade (2006), op. Cit.

[46] P. Collier & A. Hofler (2002). ‘Greed and grievance in African Civil wars’mimeo,World Bank, cited in Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Arvind Subramanian (2003: 14). Addressing the natural resource Curse: An Illustration from Nigeria. IMF Working paper number WP/03/139.

[47] Cited in J. Okei-Odumakin (2012). ‘FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL: MYTHS, REALITIES AND THE WAY FORWARD’ paper presented at the symposium organized by Socialist Workers League On Tuesday 21st February, 2012 @ Lecture Theatre, Faculty Of Arts, University of Ibadan.

[48] Id.

[49] The Nation, online version, 12 February 2012.

[50] Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Arvind Subramanian (2003) Addressing the Natural Resource Curse: An Illustration from Nigeria. IMF. (IMF Working Paper No WP/03/139), p. 14.

[52] Op. Cit., supra, p. 4.

[53] Owolabi M. Bakre (2009).  Looting by the Ruling Elites, Multinational Corporations and the Accountants: The Genesis of Indebtedness, Poverty and Underdevelopment of Nigeria’, School of Accounting, Finance & Management, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom.

[54] S. 15 sub section (5), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, CFRN, 1999.

[55] Op. Cit.

[56]  cited in the Vanguard, 27 August 2009: 33.

[58]  (Fajana, S. (2010).“Collective bargaining in the oil sector”, Paper delivered at a workshop organized by Total E and P branch of PENGASSAN, Novotel Hotel, Port Harcourt, (5 June).

[59] L. Ndikumana & J. Boyce (2011). Africa’s Odious Debts – how foreign loans and capital flight bled a continent.  Zed Books. The authors show in reality that based on inflow and outflow of capital from Africa, Africa is indeed, a net creditor to the rest of the world (see http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137261/lamp195amp169once-ndikumanajames-boyce/africas-odious-debts-how-foreign-loans-and-capital-flight-bled-a).

 

 

[60] The pioneer industry scheme is limited to 69 listed industries. (See Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act, CAP 179, LFN, 1990).

[61] UNCTAD (2009). Investment Policy Review: Nigeria. New York and Geneva: UN. Available online at http://archive.unctad.org/en/docs/diaes/diaepcb2008_en.pdf pp.35, 114, 32 and 33.

[62] Ibid.

[63] World Bank (2008). Doing Business Database.

[64] The selected countries, in terms of the degree of how liberal the labour regime is, were: Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Ghana and Morocco.

[65]  UNCTAD (2009), op. Cit. Pp. 37 &38.

[66] ILO (2006) LABORSTA Database.

[67] The selected countries, based on the volume of trade union density, in an ascending order, included Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.

[68] ILO (2000). Termination of Employment Digest. Geneva: ILO.

[69] Cited in (UNCTAD (2009). Investment Policy Review: Nigeria. New York and Geneva: UN. Available online at http://archive.unctad.org/en/docs/diaes/diaepcb2008_en.pdf p. 39, accessed on 22 May 2012.

 

[70] F. Aborisade (1992). Nigeria Labour Movement in perspective. Lagos: The Effective Company, p. 17.

[71] Id.

[72] O. Olorode (ND). ‘Trade Unions and the Political Process: The Quest for Democracy in Nigeria’.

[73] NLC (2007). Nigeria Labour Congress Policy Document, available online at http://www.nlcng.org/policydoc.pdf. Accessed on 19 May 2012.

 

[74]  Ss. 137 & 182, CFRN, 1999 for disqualification factors for Presidential and Governorship candidates respectively; S. 107, Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) for disqualification grounds for contesting an Area Council election.

[75] J. Motimer (2000). ‘The Formation of the Labour Party: Lessons for Today’. Available online at http://www.socialisthistorysociety.co.uk/MORTIMER.HTM. Accessed on 19 May 2012.

 

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!

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: