DSM leaflet for October 29 NLC rally in Abuja
DSM leaflet for October 29 NLC rally in Abuja
DEREGULATION: AFTER THE RALLIES
Labour Must Declare and Mobilise for a 2-Day Warning General Strike and Mass Protest Now!
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) supports the struggle of Nigerian working masses against deregulation and for N52, 200 Minimum Wage. Since May 13, 2009, the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) has held rallies across the country to drive home these demands. We canvass that the next line of action should be a 48-hour warning general strike and mass protest in the first instance as a bold notice of the resolve to go the whole hog to defeat anti-poor policy and fight for improved living conditions.
To the Yar’ Adua government, the deregulation of the downstream sector of oil industry has come to stay. Diesel and kerosene have been deregulated; the next on the line is petrol. The government and its apologists as usual have claimed that deregulation is the only solution to scarcity of fuel, and it will force prices downward, if not now, but in the long run. The experience with diesel and kerosene has shown this to be a blatant lie. Since deregulation was introduced, kerosene has steadily moved from about N30 to N100 and in some cases N130 while diesel rose from N40 to N110 and in some parts of the country, it is sold for N150 per litre. Thus, in fighting against deregulation of petrol, labour and pro-masses’ organizations must also categorically call for the reversal of the deregulation of diesel, kerosene, black oil and other petroleum products.
The Federal Government has also stated that the removal of subsidy, which is put at N650bn annually will enable it to invest in education, health etc. This is another blatant lie. The fact is that the government has abandoned public education and health care in line with anti-poor neo-liberal programme of privatization, deregulation, cuts in social spending, not because of lack of resources. We must not forget that in the last one decade (between 1998 and now) government has hiked the price of petrol by at least 10 times from N11 to now N65 with all sorts of empty promises to utilize money saved as a result of the hike to cushion the effect on the people by providing basic infrastructures. The reality is that the resources freed up from the removal of oil subsidy will be looted as usual by the thieving elements in the government. We must resist attempt to make the ordinary Nigerians pay for the irresponsibility of the government and gratification of the profit first interests of the private vampires, who are the oil importers.
The truth behind the policy of deregulation and other anti-poor policies of privatization is that the Yar’ Adua government is a capitalist government committed to using the collective resources of society to enrich a few at the expense of poor working class people. This is why the Yar’ Adua government is handing over all sectors of the economy like education, health, aviation etc., to private profiteers under the guise of privatization, deregulation and concessioning.
MANNER OF OPPOSITION FROM LABOUR
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have opposed deregulation and threatened to resist it should government go ahead with it because it will further compound the woes of the ordinary people. However, on part of the NLC, it is the full-scale unilateral deregulation that will be resisted; in other words, it implies partial deregulation could be accommodated; while for the TUC, what is wrong with deregulation is timing.
According to the NLC in a statement signed by its General Secretary, John Odah: “The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) wishes to re-assure workers and Nigerian people that it remains as ever before, strongly opposed to the total deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry. The Congress needs to give this assurance following the Federal Government’s unilateral decision to embark on full-fledge deregulation beginning form November 1, 2009 in spite of Congress’ warnings of the imminent dangers deregulation poses to our economy and our people.” (Guardian October 13, 2009). John Odah also stressed that the position of the NLC is devoid of any ideological leaning, arguing that its rejection of the policy is based purely on humanitarian concern, which is anchored on the desire for a decent life for the people.
This position explains the shortcomings in the approaches of Labour to the neo-liberal attacks the government has brutally unleashed on workers and poor masses in the country. The government has shown that it is unrepentantly committed to the ideology of market and neo-liberalism that is why it does not care a hoot about the adverse effects of its wicked policies on the well-being of workers, youths and poor masses. Therefore, if it is truly prepared to fight for a decent life for the people, the leadership of Labour has to embrace a coherent anti-capitalist and pro-masses ideology in the struggle against policies of deregulation and privatisation. This is in addition to leading a struggle to wrest political power from the thieving ruling elite at all levels of the government.
The TUC, in a statement by its Secretary General, John Kolawole says: “Our action is hinged on the fact that the government has not put in place any serious measure to cushion any spiral effect this hasty action would have on the already sapped citizens of the country majority of who go to sleep with empty stomachs. Things will continue in this mode because Nigerians depend solely on fuel for everything including transportation. What we had expected a caring government to have done is to first provide a functional mass transportation system such as the rail system and medium and long term measures before embarking on full deregulations.” (Guardian October 14, 2009).
Were it possible for this government and the capitalist system they operate to provide basic infrastructures, then life would have been rosy for the masses. In fact, the basic reason we are in this mess is simply the near absence of infrastructure like, refineries, roads, functional sea port, power, education, health etc. Firstly, we have been forced to import petroleum products because refineries are not working. Despite spending N1.1billion on the turnaround of the refineries by Obasanjo, the ruling elite prefers importation to making the refineries work. This is because it is far more profitable to these sharks and their government collaborators to import than to fix the existing refineries and build new ones. Therefore, for labour leaders to expect a capitalist government to do any of the above is to live in a fool’s paradise.
THE WAY FORWARD
Government has always argued that it is deregulating and privatizing because the publicly run utilities are corruptly run and it is best to hand them over to private individuals. As a matter of fact public utilities are mismanaged because they are bureaucratically run. At the same time, the banking crisis in Nigeria and the mismanagement of NITEL by Transcorp has also proved that handing the economy over to private individuals is never the solution. Therefore to really curb looting and mismanagement which has become the hallmark of both public utilities, Labour must always demand democratic running and management of the companies with elected representatives of workers. Specifically as against deregulation, Labour must demand nationalization of the oil sector and its placement under democratic management and control of elected committees of workers and representatives of the oil producing areas. Linked with public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, this can lay the basis for the provision of decent life for workers, youths and poor masses.
Ultimately the crisis confronting Nigeria working masses, like in other parts of the world, can only be resolved on a lasting basis by defeating capitalism. To achieve this, a mass based Working Peoples’ Political Party must be built in order to rescue political power from these self-serving ruling elite. Unfortunately, the Labour Party that was formed by the NLC has been abandoned by the trade union leaders, thereby giving some pro-establishment politicians who cannot find expression in their parties the chance to use the Labour Party as a platform to contest elections. It is even worrisome in Lagos, the country’s main industrial city, where the Labour Party could have grown in leaps and bounds, but for the leadership shutting its doors against workers and change seekers who want to join and build the Labour Party. It is obvious that the leadership is holding forth for another moneybag, like Femi Pedro in 2007, who will use it as platform to contest in 2011.
It is only a government formed by the working people that can guarantee massive funding and reconstruction of all the sectors (education, health, energy etc.) in order to meet the basic needs of all. This is why we of the DSM have been calling on trade union leaders, workers, youths, traders, transporters, artisans etc., to massively join and build the Labour Party in their respective communities and workplaces. We must all strive to build a fighting Labour Party that, in and out of political offices, identifies with the daily struggles and immediate demands of workers, youths and poor masses. Such party in power has to put the commanding heights of the economy under the public ownership with democratic control and management by the working people. This will ensure mobilization of adequate resources, and judicious spending of same, for provision of basic needs of all as well as infrastructural and economic development.