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Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2002.rtf




Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2002

Political Violence, Election Rigging ...

Only The Masses Can Save Civil Rule




Ikorodu Factory Fire

Putting Profit Before Lives

On September 15, 2002 at 1.30a.m, fire struck in West African Rubber Products (WARP), Ikorodu, killing scores of workers on night duty. Days after the gory fire disaster, the scene of the horror was littered with half burnt bones and decomposed human bodies.

According to an eye witness account, fire broke out of the warehouse section of the company and roasted all workers on night duty except three workers who miraculously escaped in the preventable calamity to tell woes of what they encountered. Many workers could have escaped or rescued but there was no escape or exit route. All entrances leading to the factory were locked to prevent workers from stealing, according to the General Manager. The only expatriate supervisor on duty locked the only available exit and went home to rest promising to come back, but before he could return the damage had been done.

Though, the immediate cause of the inferno was not known, the deplorable workers' working conditions leave much to be desired. In fact, the policy of locking doors against the workers while on duty under the pretext of preventing stealing is nothing but turning the company into a prison yard where inmates cannot escape even in the face of death. The management of WARP attached no value to human lives; minimum national laws and international conventions on occupational safety and health are not observed. There are no enough ventilation facilities, no escape routes in case of emergencies and no fire equipment in spite of the fact that fire outbreaks cannot be ruled out in such a company that uses and produces inflammable materials like bathroom slippers, rubber sandals, shoe soles, etc.

On morning duty, once workers resume at 7.00a.m, it is non-stop work until 7.00p.m when workers on the night shift takes over, who will equally work under the same harsh conditions without observing a break period or allowed to even talk to the next person on the production line. Workers earn peanuts between N6,300 and N8,000 per month. They are either casual or on contract. There are many workers who have put in two to three years as casuals and any agitation for confirmation leads to termination of employment.

After the incident, nothing concrete was done by the company's management to pull down the burnt structure in order to bring out bodies trapped in the collapse building. While the General Manager claimed only 10 lives were lost, the workers' union chairman claimed that over 100 workers perished in the fire. There was no record of workers on duty, therefore, getting the correct number of workers who lost their lives could prove difficult. But 35 bodies have been recovered as at the time of filing this report.


WARP is a typical example of many multinational companies operating in Nigeria with evidence of flagrant violation of labour laws and workers' rights, negligence and apparent lack of concern for workers' general safety. In fact, this is just one out of thousands of companies, both foreign and locally owned, operating slave labour and poverty wage. Unfortunately, their nefarious activities are aided and perpetuated by Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity whose responsibility is to make sure companies comply with the laid down regulations on safety and workers' welfare. According to an eye witness, workers, neighbours and villagers who attempted to jump into the premises of the company on rescue mission were reportedly shot by the company's expatriates from their nearby residence.

We demand that the local union and the NLC should set up an independent enquiry to investigate the incident with a view to bring those found guilty to face the law and to serve as deterrent to other exploiters of labour in the country. Adequate compensation should be paid to the families and depedants of the killed workers. the victims A national campaign ought to be organised by the labour movement to tackle inhuman, slave labour conditions in the country.



Reinstate Akele And Others Now

The Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU) has renewed its call for the reinstatement of the Lagos State civil servants and trade unionists sacked by the state government.

Between February and April 2001, thousands of civil servants including several trade unionists in the employment of the state government were arbitrarily sacked

in a massive retrenchment exercise.

The retrenchment exercise was part of the policy of cuts in government spendings on social services, on education, health, jobs and housing, etc, which has been pursued by various governments in Nigeria since the early 1980s to the detriment of the living standards and working conditions of workers and the poor strata in the society.

The retrenchment exercise was also used to unjustly get rid of scores of trade union activists from the state public service particularly those who played leading role in the struggle for the implementation of N7,500 minimum wage, which culminated into a 22 day strike by the entire state civil servants between June and July, 2000.

On top of the list of trade unionists sacked and victimised is Ayodele Akele, the leader of the strike and chairman of the Council of Industrial Unions (COIU), the umbrella body of trade unions in the state public service. Others include 5 members of the union branch executive at Lagos State Electricity Board, 2 branch executives at Lagos State Development and Property Corporation, the state auditor of Amalgamated Union (AUPCTRE), among others.

The present Lagos State Government is notorious for its anti-working class policies. Since it came to power in May, 1999, it has reduced the state public service workforce by almost 50%. In its first massive retrenchment exercise, carried out in August, 1999, almost 10,000 workers lost their jobs. On 5th July, 2000, a worker, Adigun Popoola, who was a driver in the state Ministry of Works, was killed when armed policemen sent by the state government shot at a peaceful procession of the state civil servants at Alausa, Ikeja, during the strike for the N7,500 minimum wage.


To show the heartlessness and callousness of the Tinubu government, it has not paid those retrenched civil servants who had accepted their retirement or termination of the service with the state government. . Rather than paying the rightful dues of these workers, the government has been ejecting those living official quarters among them. In furtherance of these assaults on these retrenched workers, during the last May Day rally on 1st May, 2002, at Onikan Stadium in Lagos, pro-government thugs attacked the workers who had come to protest peacefully for the payment of their entitlements. A fifty-five year old retiree, Mrs. Desalu, was severely brutalised by these government thugs as a result of which she was hospitalised for weeks.

The CIU calls on trade unionists, workers, students, youth, human rights and community organisations world-wide to put pressure on the Lagos State Government to recall all the unjustly retrenched workers, stop the victimisation of trade union activists and pay all the gratuities and pensions of retirees and pensioners.

Okada Operators Demand End To Oppression By Tinubu Govt.

Governor Tinubu of Lagos State is at it again with his usual anti-poor, pro-rich policy. This time, he is carrying out an attack on the commercial motorcycle operators popularly called Okada riders by introducing a notorious and repressive edict.

The edict contains stringent and expensive conditionalities to be met before an Okada could be allowed to be used for commercial purpose in the state. The following are materials/document to be purchased by Okada operators:-

(1) Procurement of road worthiness renewable yearly N1,200

(2) Procurement of driving licence (rider's licence) for Okada riders N3,000

(3) Provision of 2 crash helmet N1,500 each

(4) Provision of reflective jacket N1,000

(5) Procurement of hackney permit N300

(6) Personal identification cards.

Tinubu and his supporters claim that the edict is to reduce accidents involving okada riders. But in outlook and design, there is much to the edict than the position presented to the public by the state government. What has hackney permit, identification cards and rider’s licence got to do with safety of Okada passengers as claimed by Tinubu administration? Road-worthiness can only be meaningful if there are good roads, which are non-existent. In reality, the main purpose for this anti-poor policy is to raise money into the pockets of Tinubu government by exploiting Okada riders.

In fact, since the enforcement of the edict on August 1, 2002, there have been incessant and arbitrary arrests of Okada riders by the police in connivance with Lagos State government agents. Many motorcycles are being detained at Lagos state secretariat, Alausa and various police stations in the state while N200 is being charged daily as demurrage until the materials/document are procured. The edict has imposed enormous hardship on the okada riders, many of whom are just managing to survive.

In short, since the advent of Tinubu administration in the state in 1999, the poor masses have been faced with series of attack and anti-poor policies. Between 1999 and 2001, more than 15,000 civil servants were unjustly retrenched while their entitlements have not been paid. In government hospitals, it is boldly written that treatment is free but in reality, treatment is not free. Drugs and other materials are purchased by patients before treatment is given. The much advertised Tinubu good roads is just a political slogan, the deplorable conditions of most roads show that this is a government by deception.

Another Tinubu's gimmick is the much popularised housing for all. Tinubu's housing scheme for the masses is a mere propaganda as no poor can afford the least of which is put at N1.2 million. Furthermore, under the pretext of keeping Lagos clean, any breakdown vehicle along the road is made to pay a minimum fine of N4,500 by the traffic agency, LASTMA. Any argument or complain will attract a special fine, while N500 is charged daily as demurrage.

Okada riders are demanding:

* Immediate abrogation of the edict

* All motorcycles detained under the edict to be released

* All demurrage and fines collected must be refunded

* Adequate compensation for all motorcyclists detained or punished under the edict

* Rehabilitation of all deplorable roads in the state.



Continued ...