Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
Perspectives 2002.rtf (170k)
Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2002
Political Violence, Election Rigging ...
The recent period has witnessed an upsurge in political violence as a result of unbridled rivalry between the different factions of the capitalist ruling elite in different parts of the country. During the same period, the so-called Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC) conducted a national voters' exercise which was riddled with fraud and incompetence, preparing the ground for massive rigging in the coming elections.
Hardly a day goes these days without an incidence of political violence in one part of the country or the other. All this shows that as the next elections draws nearer, the various gangs within the ruling class are becoming even more desperate and are prepared to use any means either to retain power or to get access to it in order, in most cases, to be in the best position to loot the public treasury.
While the December 2001 murder of Chief Bola Ige, the former minister of justice and attorney-general of the country, has attracted the greatest publicity, in reality, dozens of lives have been lost in and 100 lives respectively were lost in Plateau and Bayelsa states alone during clashes between rival factions during the election primaries of the People Democratic Party (PDP). In some cases, the violence and killings are perpetrated by state-sponsored militia groups such as the Bakassi Boys in the south-eastern states like Anambra and Abia. In some of the states in the northern part of the country, which had introduced the Sharia Islamic legal code, state-backed Sharia enforcement vigilante groups are also being used to intimidate and harass groups and individuals who are opposed to policies of the government. In the south-west, the capitalist politicians are also playing the card of Yoruba nationalism, and would not hesitate to use a group like the OPC against their political opponents. With this trend of violence, it is very clear that the next election will be far from free and fair if everything is left to members of the ruling elite.
Without the positive, correct intervention of the working masses and the labour movement, the elections will be characterised by massive rigging and widespread violence, similar to the electoral crisis of 1963/64 and 1983 which paved way for military interventions on both occasions.
It shows why the working class and the labour movement must act now before the nation is plunged into another round of vote rigging, orgy of political violence, and possible return of military dictatorship.
Thus, the DSM calls on the trade unions, students' unions, NANS, NLC and the NCP to set up grassroot, local, popular and democratic committees to monitor and police the elections in order to ensure free polls. These committees will also ensure that the ranks of workers and youth are not divided and used for selfish purpose by the rival groups of capitalist politicians as it used to be the case in the past.
Beyond this, the renewed wave of political violence and election rigging confirm the inherent instability and insecurity of lives which capitalism means for the Nigerian working masses. The masses will continue to be confronted with the problems of mass poverty, political violence and instability, so long as neo-colonial capitalist rule prevails in Nigeria. Hence, a lasting solution to these monumental problems lies in ending capitalism and replacing it with a workers' and poor farmers' government with a socialist programme which will make the real needs of the overwhelming majority of society and not the greed of a small rich minority the basis of governance. And to achieve this objective, the workers movement, the NCP, labour and youth activists must take as a priority the building of a mass, independent working people's party which will serve as the tool for the actualisation of this historic objective. It is only in this way that the working masses can begin the process of real change, the desire for which informed the struggle against military dictatorship between 1984-1999
A Major Victory For NCP
On Friday, November 8, 2002, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against the Federal Court of Appeal judgement of 26th July, 2002 which had declared as illegal and unconstitutional the guidelines used by INEC for the registration of political parties.
It will be recalled that it was these obnoxious guidelines that INEC used to disqualify the National Conscience Party (NCP) and many other political parties during the last registration exercise. NCP and four of the parties took INEC to court to challenge the guidelines. The Supreme Court ruled, in agreement with the Court of Appeal, that while INEC has the power to publish guidelines, it cannot issue guidelines that violate sections of the 1999 constitution which deal with party registration.
The judgement is no doubt a big victory for the National Conscience Party (NCP) and the other parties which jointly institute the court case. It is indeed a victory for the Nigerian working people who for long had been denied an independent political platform and voice of their own by the capitalist ruling class. The major lesson from this victory is that it pays to struggle consistently and persistently, and that if we fight we can win.
THE CHALLENGES BEFORE THE NCP
But this victory also poses a lot of challenges for the NCP. In a sense, this is the real beginning for the building of the party. While the party has a lot of potential support and the national chairman, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, is very popular among the downtrodden working masses, a lot of political and organisational work still needs to be done.
Chase Out All The Capitalist Rogues
The political situation in Nigeria in the past three months has been dominated by the move by National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, to impeach President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday, August 13th, 2002, at an emergency sitting in Abuja, adopted a resolution calling on the president to resign within two weeks or face impeachment for alleged constitutional breaches. The president was also accused of running the affairs of government like a dictatorship. As at the moment, 32 allegations were listed against the president by the House of Representatives.
In reaction, President Obasanjo, his supporters and some other commentators described the impeachment move as uncalled for, ill-timed and capable of destroying the so-called nascent democracy in Nigeria.
To us in the DSM, President Obasanjo does not deserve to stay a day longer as Nigerian president as a result of the innumerable economic and political atrocities which his government has committed against the Nigerian working masses in the past three years. Equally, the members of the National Assembly have for the past three years been primarily preoccupied in fighting for their own selfish interests in the past three years rather than the well-being of the electorate who elected them into office.
Therefore, rather than defending or backing either the president or the National Assembly, we in the DSM call on the Nigerian working masses to demand for the resignation of both President Obasanjo and members of the National Assembly and the holding of immediate elections on a genuine multi-party basis. Instead of supporting one faction of the ruling class or the other, the labour and trade union movement must provide a lead and mobilise the working masses to chase out of office all these capitalist rogues in the corridors of power.
The Obasanjo presidency has clamped down on the basic rights of people, and implement numerous pro-rich, anti-poor policies of privatisation, trade liberalisation, currency devaluation, increment in price of petroleum products, removal of subsidy on social services like education, health care, transportation, etc, leading to a chronic state of high unemployment, poverty, homelessness, starvation for the poor, toiling masses, etc. As a willing tool in the hands of forces of global imperialism and their local agents, he has implemented policies which have left the Nigerian poor, toiling people in a state of uncertainty, hopelessness, poverty, starvation, destitution and despair. Only government contractors and others close to the corridors of power have benefitted from the so-called dividends of democracy.
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
But contrary to their claims, the impeachment move against Obasanjo by the lawmakers was not motivated by any altruism, or the interests of the larger society. In fact, the present National Assembly has been as pro-rich and anti-poor as the Obasanjo presidency. It has also proved to be no less corrupt and inept. It is largely an assembly of capitalist rogues and looters, who, just like Obasanjo and the executive, have preoccupied themselves with the act of money-making rather than law-making.
It would be recalled that on its inauguration, the first assignment carried out by the National Assembly members was to award to themselves a 'paltry' sum of N5 million each as furniture allowance! Following public outcry, the allowance was (officially) reduced to N3.5m, only for it to be exposed later that the members actually collected the originally demanded N5m and had only pretended to reduce the money to N3.5m in order to shield themselves from public outcry. This was at a time when all states were busy retrenching workers and labour leaders due to their claim of inability to pay N5,500 minimum wage! So, while governments of various states were claiming not to have money to pay to workers above N5,500 and while the Obasanjo federal government itself could not yield to the demand of the NLC for a N20,000 minimum wage, senators and House of Representatives members, the now true defenders of "peoples' democracy'' were busy lining their pockets fraudulently with millions of naira under one nomenclature or the other.
It would also be recalled that on 11th September 2002, while the controversy over the impeachment issue was still raging, the senate resolved to nullify the reports of both the Kuta and Oyofo panels which had found some leaders of the senate guilty of inflation of and non-execution of contracts running into millions of naira and pardoned all those found guilty in the spirit of 'reconciliation'!
The National Assembly and its leadership have never opposed privatisation of public assets, commercialisation of social services, oil industry deregulation and other anti-poor policies of Obasanjo regime. It also passed the undemocratic and unconstitutional 2001 electoral bill, which is designed to prevent the participation of popular, pro-working people political parties in the electoral process and exclude the masses from power. In essence, what we have is a National Assembly whose members are political contractors and whose major disagreement with the presidency is on the terms of trade.
In fact the major reason behind the impeachment bid is the struggle for supremacy between the various factions of the capitalist ruling class in general and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in particular as the 2003 general and presidential elections draw nearer. It is instructive to note that many of the misconducts listed against Obasanjo, such as the massacre at Odi in November 1999, took place two to three years ago, without any opposition or condemnation by the National Assembly.
FOR INDEPENDENT WORKING CLASS ALTERNATIVE
Based on the above analysis, DSM calls on the working masses and the labour movement not to support either the presidency or the National Assembly, the two sets of capitalist rogues, who are involved in the imbroglio.
Instead, the working people should demand for the resignation of both Obasanjo and the National Assembly. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), National Conscience Party (NCP), trade unions and students' unions should organise mass struggles, strikes and protests to force them out of office should they refuse to quit. In this respect, we call on the leadership of the NLC, especially the NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole, to stop its present romance with the Obasanjo administration and, instead, champion an independent working class economic and political agenda for the labour movement.
As alternative, we call for earlier elections on a genuine multi-party basis with all political parties, including NCP, being allowed to field candidates. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be immediately re-composed to comprise representatives of all political parties.
A SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE NEEDED
What the impeachment crisis has once again revealed is the rottenness and failure of the entire Nigeria's neo-colonial capitalist economic and political structures in general and the 4th republic in particular.
The Obasanjo regime, state and local governments and all the capitalist parties are creating conditions for another military intervention through the mass disenchantment and disillusionment caused by their acts of massive looting and plundering of the nation's resources, political violence, retrenchment of workers, non-payment of salaries and pensions, implementation of numerous pro-rich, anti-poor policies of privatisation, trade liberalisation, currency devaluation, increment in price of petroleum products, removal of subsidy on social services like education, health care, transportation, etc, with the concomitant high unemployment, mass poverty, and homelessness.
Hence, the present crisis once again underscores the need for the labour movement to struggle to end the neo-colonial capitalist system and to put in power a workers' and poor peasants' government with a socialist programme. Such a government will put into pubic ownership the commanding heights of the country's economy under the democratic control and management of the working people and use society's resources to provide for the basic needs of the society. This approach is the only way by which the working masses and society in general can get out of the present capitalist rot and bring an end to corruption, money politics, political violence, mass poverty, insecurity and instability. Only this type of arrangement can bring an end to corruption and capitalist misrule by basing economy and governance on the real needs of the masses and the larger society rather than the selfish interest of a minority class of the super-rich as it is presently the case.
To actualise the above programme, labour and youth activists must consider, as a matter of immediate priority, the building of a mass independent working peoples' party which would be different in orientation, programme, policies and method from the pro-rich capitalist political parties. The NCP, NLC, NANS and other working peoples' organisations should organise a conference at which the strategy and method for the emergence of such a party would be discussed.
Don’t Kill Amina Lawal
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) joins several women, labour and youth activists and organisations both in Nigeria and internationally in condemning in its entirety the judgement of the Upper Sharia Court in Funtua, Katsina State, which confirmed the death sentence, by stoning, earlier passed on a nursing mother, Mrs. Amina Lawal, by a lower Islamic sharia court in the state, on the allegation that she committed adultery.
We equally condemn the death sentence, by stoning which an Upper Sharia Court in New Gawu, Niger State, passed on Ahmadu Ibrahim (male, 32) and Fatima Usman (female, 30) who were also found guilty of alleged adultery.
These cases are coming after the case of Safiyat Hussain, the nursing mother in Sokoto State who was equally condemned by stoning but who was later freed by a sharia court of appeal on 18th March, 2002, as a result of local and international pressure. These death sentences are not only barbaric, dehumanising and antiquated, they amount to gross and monumental violation of the democratic rights of the victims. In particular, they represent vicious attacks on the rights of women. We therefore unequivocally call for their immediate reversal.
THE RIGHT OF RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS
The DSM supports and defends the rights of religious believers, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to practise their religions. We fight against discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, ethnic origin or race. In this sense, the right of Muslims to practise those aspects of sharia which pertain to worship, mode of dressing, naming of children and other personal matters must be respected.
At the same time, socialists, labour and youth activists, and working people’s organisations like the trade unions, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and National Conscience Party (NCP) have a responsibility to uphold people’s democratic rights to life and human dignity, and to oppose violations of these rights and any policy and action which dehumanises and demeans ordinary working people.
STATE AND RELIGION
In particular, we demand that religion should be a personal affair and should be separated from the state. This is even more imperative in a multi-religious society like Nigeria. The failure to adhere to this principle by successive capitalist governments in Nigeria, both military and civilian, is one of the main reasons for the rising wave of ethnic and religious conflicts in the country, particularly since the beginning of the introduction of sharia law by some states in the northern part of the country from year 2000. In all, about 10,000 lives have been reportedly lost to ethnic and religious violence since military rule ended in May, 1999.
All post-independent constitutions of Nigeria, including the current 1999 Constitution (chapter 2, section10) forbid the adoption of any religion as state religion by any level of government. In reality, all sections of the ruling capitalist elite, both christians and muslims, have never adhered to this principle because of their selfish personal and political calculations. Every year, governments at all levels spend billions of naira to promote religious causes, including sponsoring pilgrims to Jerusalem and Mecca and building or sponsoring of the building of mosques and churches. About two years ago, President Obasanjo commissioned a church inside Aso Rock, the seat of government. In a sharia state like Zamfara State, the state radio station refused paid adverts from churches and christians are forbidden from taking alcohol and to interact freely with women in public. All these actions create room for suspicion and allegation of state’s bias for a particular religion, thus fuelling religious and ethnic conflicts.
SHARIA CRIMINAL CODE
The bourgeois politicians who introduced the sharia penal code with severe punishments such as stoning and amputation for crimes like stealing, prostitution or so-called adultery argue that these type of harsh law and punishments are necessary to curb the increasing wave of crimes in the society. Even, some sections of the working masses both within and outside the sharia states, perturbed by the violent crimes and social decadence which pervade society, genuinely support the penal code in the belief that it is the solution to these problems. The penal code is also informed by the false idea that the harsher the punishment the lesser the crime rate.
But all these views are erroneous. Crimes, violence, prostitution and other social vices are products of worsening mass poverty and unemployment, which are engendered by the Nigeria’s crisis-ridden neo-colonial capitalist economy. Only the abolition of the causes of endemic poverty, the provision of decent living, full employment with a living wage, free and qualitative education and medicare and adequate housing for all can lead to the eradication of crimes.
This explains why the DSM always campaigns against and calls on the labour movement and the NLC to organise mass struggles against privatisation of public assets, commercialisation of social services, retrenchment of workers, non-payment of wages and pensions and other anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist policies which fuel mass unemployment, hunger, homelessness, destitution and general mass poverty. Above all, we call on the working class to organise to overthrow capitalism, the principal root cause of endemic mass poverty, misery and ignorance, and to transform society along democratic, socialist lines through the coming to power of a workers’ and poor farmers’ government. It is only this type of arrangement that can guarantee decent living for all and eradicate crimes.
On the contrary the floggings, amputations, stoning and other harsh sentences being used in the sharia states will on the long run fail to reduce or eliminate crimes. Since the early 70s, armed robbery has been punished by execution in Nigeria. But this has failed to reduce armed robbery. On the contrary, violent robberies have continued to escalate due to worsening economic crisis and huge youth unemployment.
A POLITICAL DIVERSION
In reality, the introduction of sharia by the capitalist politicians in some of the northern states was a deliberate strategy to seek cheap popularity by using religion to divert the masses’ attention away from their failure to provide the basic necessities of life, jobs and social security for the populace. In the same manner, the capitalist elite in the southern part of the country are hypocritically pretending to be championing the interests of their people, through agitation for resource control.
AN ANTI-POOR LAW
Most importantly, the DSM opposes the sharia penal code as presently enacted and practised in these states because it discriminates against the poor working people in general and poor, marginalized women in particular. Since the introduction of the code, several poverty-stricken peasant farmers and traders have had their limbs amputated and incapacitated for life for allegedly stealing items like cattle, goats or hen. Many ordinary workers and traders have been flogged and humiliated in public for consumption or sale of alcoholic drinks. All those who have been sentenced under the code have been poor working masses, women and men. These include Mallam Jangbedi, the peasant whose arm was amputated in Zamfara State allegedly for stealing a cow, Safiyat, Amina and Ahmadu, to mention just a few of the poor victims.
In contrast, the capitalist politicians and top civil servants who enacted this degrading and inhuman penal code continue to get away with brazen acts of fraud and the looting of several millions of naira from public treasury. In the same Zamfara State, a top official of the state hosuse of assembly was indicted for stealing an official car and selling it for N2.1 million. Though he was found guilty by a sharia court, his hand was not amputated. A member of the assembly explained to journalists that the reason for this was that the official’s offence was not stealing but betrayal of public trust! In addition, these rich elements have relationships outside marriage without having to suffer the indignity of being dragged to court or sentenced to death by stoning. Surely, if anybody truly deserves to be sentenced to death, it is these corrupt and rich elite who embezzled public funds which ought to have been used to provide jobs, education, food and healthcare for the populace.
In addition, we oppose some of these sentences because they attack individual freedom, particularly the right of women to marry partners of their choice. In the case of Fatima Usman, for example, she was dragged to court because she refused to marry the man that her father wanted to force on her and instead entered into a relationship with Ahmadu Ibrahim. We believe that women, like men, should have the right to enter into free and voluntary marital and sexual relationships.
Debasing Women For Profit Sake
On 7th December, Nigeria will host the Miss World "beauty" pageant in Abuja, the federal capital. Private interests as well as the government are investing millions of dollars in this programme. Among the leading personalities behind it is the wife of the president herself, Chief (Mrs) Stella Obasanjo.
Socialists are opposed to this programme. This is essentially because modern day beauty contests are one of the means by which women's oppression is perpetuated. The concept of beauty pageants view women not as complex persons, but primarily as sexual objects which exist only in relation to the male desire. No doubt it has been associated with rise in cases of sexual harassment.
Organisers of the contest are desperately trying to make the contest appear as modern and not sexist by stating that some of the contestants are studying for degrees, and that some have professional jobs, etc. This may be true but it is a token gesture to try and claim that it is not just looks that determine the winner. The question to ask is why are all the contestants of a certain height, no more than size 10 and generally look the same?
The reason for this is that these contests are increasingly linked to the need of the multinational corporations to sell their products and boost their profits through the use of women for advertisement. A certain "acceptable"
image of women is therefore being promoted. Models are getting thinner as the pressure is on from these industries for women to look a certain way. While women are made to debase themselves, the multinational companies and show promoters like Silverbird and Ben-Bruce rake in millions of dollars and smile to the bank.
There was an advert in the Nigerian dailies in July last year promoting the sale of a brand of car. A car and a lady was used in the advertisement. The caption of the advert is: "
if you want it open she will take off her dress; covered, she will put on her dress". Also the fast food chain, Tantalizer advertisement says: "Have you tantalised her lately". This contest and all these adverts promote the idea that there is some "ideal"
body image which women must aspire to, and that they are to behave in a submissive manner. In particular, this gives young men a completely false and dangerous idea of how women should look and behave.
The resources which will be wasted on this jamboree would have been more productively utilised by investing in education, skill acquisition, provision of jobs with decent pay, childcare facilities, healthcare, and other social services in dire need of resources. This would have contributed in reducing the rate of illiteracy, unemployment, prostitution and crimes among women.
But this cannot be possible under capitalism, a system which puts selfish, private greed above public interest. This is why the working people as a whole, and working class women in particular, must see the need for real change, the overthrow capitalism and introduction of a democratic socialist arrangement. Through this, the process towards ending the oppression of women can be started.
Meanwhile, the Miss World show is being threatened by boycott by many of the expected participants. The planned boycott is to protest against the death sentence on Aminat Lawal by the Sharia court in Katsina state for allegedly committing adultery. Among the contestants who are planning to boycott the event are those from Denmark, Kenya, South Africa, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, France, Belgium and Costa Rica. Miss France was quoted as saying- ' when a woman faces the most agonising death, there are more important things in life than winning a crown for being beautiful'.
Ivory Coast Slides Into Civil War
Ivory Coast, the world largest producer of cocoa, has been plunged into a civil war. This followed a mutiny by soldiers opposed to the government of president Laurent Gbagbo. As at present , the 'rebels' are controlling the northern and central parts of the country.
Since the beginning of the crisis, many lives have been lost including that of former military president, Robert Guei. Thousands of people, particular foreign plantation workers, have been turned into refugees. It was widely reported that Guei was killed by troops loyal to the President Laurent Gbagbo for his alleged leadership role in the crisis.
For almost three decades after independence from France, Ivory Coast used to be viewed as a model of stability in the West African sub-region which is renown for military coups, civil wars and general political instability. But that was until 1999 when late Robert Guei overthrew Henri Bedie, the successor to Hoeuphet Boigny, the country's founding president, in a military coup. Before then, Boigny ruled the country for almost 33 years, that is 960 to 1993 when he died.
The present crisis could, however, be traced to the year 2000 presidential elections. The popular candidate then, Allasane Quattara, a former prime minister and a muslim from the northern part of the country, was barred from contesting by the then military president, late Robert Guei, based on the allegation that he was from Burkina Faso. His disqualification was not unconnected with the fact that late Robert Guei wanted to succeed himself by contesting the election. Since that time, the crisis in the country has increasingly assumed ethnic and religious dimension. However, the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, a christian from the southern part of the country, defeated Guei. An attempt by latter to declare himself the winner led to a mass uprising and the military dictator was forced to flee.
The crisis is similar to the June 12 crisis in Nigeria when the Babangida military junta annulled the presidential elections won by M.K.O. Abiola, a member of the capitalist ruling elite from the Yoruba south-west. The incident plunged Nigeria into political crisis and led to rise in ethnic conflicts. The break out of civil war along ethnic and religious line in Ivory Coast should serve as a warning to the Nigerian working people. It shows how the country can be plunged into interminable and fratricidal conflict when a so-called civilian capitalist government fails to solve the socio-economic crises facing society.
France and Nigeria have sent troops to the troubled country allegedly to protect their citizens and 'democracy'. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also vowed not to allow the 'rebels' to truncate civil rule and has resolved to send a military force to Ivory Coast to maintain "peace" and prevent the government of Laurent Gbagbo from being overthrown by the rebel soldiers.
Socialists oppose the sending troops to Ivory Coast by ECOWAS and the imperialist powers like France and US under the pretence of 'protecting' civil rule. It is only the working people of Ivory Coast themselves that can protect civil rule and solve the crisis facing the country. Imperialism and the Ivorien ruling class are only fighting to protect their own selfish economic and strategic interests in the country and the sub-region.
The labour movement in Ivory Coast should work to ensure that the working people, youth, students, etc, are not divided along ethnic and religious line or to support any of the warring factions of the ruling class. Instead, the working people should organise themselves and fight for economic and political demands that can unite the working masses. Above all, they need to struggle for the formation of an independent working people's party that will serve as a tool for fighting against capitalist attacks on the masses, for workers' unity and the transformation of society along socialist line through a workers' and poor peasants' government.
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.
ATTITUDE OF MULTI-NATIONAL COMPANIES
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.
NON-PAYMENT OF ENTITLEMENTS
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.
US: "Living Conditions In Decline"
The General Secretary of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Segun Sango, recently visited the United States. During the tour, he met several labour, youth and anti-globalisation activists and spoke on the situation in Nigeria and the African continent in general. In this interview with Demola Yaya, he narrated his experience during the tour.
Socialist Democracy (SD): The United States is the world's dominant economy and now the sole super-power. What are the effects of these on the conditions of the American working class?
Sango: On the average, the quality of life of the US working class is generally higher than those of the working class of even Europe and most especially, the third world countries. This can be glimpsed from the type of housing, education, healthcare and general access to socio-services such as telephone and internet. For instance, almost every comrade I visited at home has a computer with full internet services. This, of course, is just an aspect of the condition of the US working class.
Beneath this seeming easy life lies a ruthless exploitation of most US workers. Compared with their forebears, the current generation of US working class suffers worse working condition. Most workers and youths spend their virtual lives barely struggling to be able to maintain their basic living standard. A typical feature of capitalism is most brazenly manifested in the US in an obscene manner. For example, 0.2% of household controls 40% of household wealth while 40% of household controls 0.2% of wealth. In a society where wealth is more equitably distributed, it should be possible to increase the present living standard of the American working class ten times while at the same time reduce the needless agonies and stress they have to go through under the prevailing unjust capitalist order.
SD: The 11th September, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US was an important turning point in the global political situation. The Bush administration and other world capitalist rulers have since launched a "war on terror"
in response to that event. A year after 11th September, what is the mood and attitude of various layers of US society to this issue, particularly with the determination of the Bush regime to wage war against Iraq?
Sango: The 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington was a major turning point in global politics. In one respect, the terrorist attack shows vividly how a good cause can be ruined by a wrong methodology. By attacking the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the organisers of the 9/11 calculated that they were striking at the heart of US imperialism. In reality, the overwhelming majority of the casualty of the attack were working class elements. On top of this, the US and capitalist leaders internationally have also capitalised on this counter- productive attack to further tightening the noose of political oppression against the world working class movement.
Capitalising on the revulsion of the working class people internationally, the Bush administration together with its counterparts internationally had in the wake of 9/11 attack, initiated or promulgated a wide range of legislation, all which variously seek to further derogate from the democratic rights of the working people. It was against this background that the Bush administration, with its imperialist allies, launched the war against Afghanistan.
The then prevailing atmosphere also contributed to discourage combative working class actions in defence of class interest. However, all these are beginning to change now. The clearest manifestation of this can be seen from the growing anti-war movement building up against the US planned war on Iraq. There have also been crucial industrial disputes and actions involving teachers, long shore men, firemen, etc in US. There is a growing awareness among the working class elements that waging a war on Iraq will only deepen the danger of terrorism, and far from eradicating it. Significant layers of anti-war elements are also demanding that the huge amount usually spent on instruments of mass destruction be invested in socially beneficial ventures.
SD: While you were in the US, an important labour dispute involving port workers on the western coast of the US took place and President Bush in fact had to invoke an anti-working class labour law, the Taft -Harley Act, to force the workers back to work. What is the situation in the US labour movement?
Sango: The situation within the US generally mirrors what is happening in labour movement internationally. It is a situation where virtually most labour leaders hold the believe that there is no alternative to the capitalist system. Most of the time, their efforts are always directed at proposals which only tend to resolve the problem of capitalism at the expense of the working class interest. Because of this, the consciousness of average working class elements lags behind their objective conditions even when compared with their European counterparts. Nonetheless, there are indications that more and more workers will be compelled to take actions in defence of their interest in the coming period with or without the enthusiastic backing of their official leaders.
That President Bush was forced to invoke an anti-workers act to enforce a temporary truce between the workers and the employers of the port sector is an indication of the restive mood and the fear of workers’ potential power by the American ruling class.
SD: You also visited some university and college campuses. How is the student movement in the country?
Sango: As an organised political movement, the students' movement in tertiary institutions does not exist in the US. Most students' unions or organisations that I encountered were largely creations of the school authorities. This state of affair to me partially reflects the relative privileges of the students in the past period. Things are beginning to change now. A greater number of students now have to take up employment in order to sustain themselves in school. More and more students are beginning to grumble about the growing nature of school fees with a lot graduating with huge debts.
In a few of the universities that I visited, comrades of our sister organisation, the Socialist Alternative (US section of CWI) were beginning to build campaign for 'Tuition Free Education'. The more this kind of struggle goes, the higher the chances of having independent and politically active student movements developing in US schools.
SD: What level of awareness and interest about events and issues in Africa did you observe during the visit?
Sango: There were lots of keen interest shown by workers and students about happenings in Africa and events in the world but as usual, very little meaningful report can be found in bourgeois or capitalist press. For this reason, awareness of the comprehensive situation in Africa and the rest of the world is usually low.
SD: What are the role of socialist activists in the US and the challenges they face having to work in the world's most dominant capitalist nation?
Sango: As I indicated earlier, the living condition of the working class element in the US is not as desperate as those of their counterparts in Africa and most of the Third World countries. Of course, within the framework of the available wealth within the US society, the conditions of the workers can be greatly improved than what entails at the moment. However, against the worldwide right wing shift in the post Stalinist era, most workers and youth are forced to accept their conditions under the false notion that there is no alternative to the inequities of capitalism. Operating in this kind of environment, the socialists in the US and the advanced capitalist countries in general are waging a very difficult battle at this stage.
Here in Nigeria for instance, the evidence of utter failure of capitalism daily steers you in the face. In the US, a significant majority of the working class are able to afford certain degree of decent living standard which encourages, in the absence of a revolutionary alternative, a false notion that capitalism is not incurably bad. But as these relative conditions and living standard come under greater attacks and onslaughts of the capitalist sharks, anti-capitalist consciousness will become a greater phenomenon and in the same ratio, the activities of socialist activists will become more rewarded. The various anti-global capitalist protests which started in Seattle in 1999, the growing opposition to the US imperialist proposed war on Iraq, etc. are pointers of the more objective favourable situation which could develop in the coming period.
SD: Most of Nigerian youth will want to go to US by any means, what are the conditions of life for the immigrants in US?
Sango: Contrary to the false impression that regards immigration to the US as automatic solution to problem of poverty, life for most immigrants to the US is to say the least, very difficult. Most of the time, most of these immigrants have to keep a minimum of two highly exploitative but poorly paid jobs to make ends meet. A significant layer of them live in worse accommodation than they left behind in Nigeria. Of course, if any immigrant is able to save and bring back to Nigeria a sizeable amount, then, such immigrant can hope to live a semi-decent life in Nigeria. But, there are two problems always mitigating against this scenario. One, it is always difficult, if not totally impossible to acquire a sizeable fortune outside day to day expenditure and maintenance given the kind of jobs which most of these immigrants are forced to do. Secondly, the intractable nature of the economic crisis in Nigeria also means that little or no honest business can thrive. Thus, there exists very little chance that these immigrants can be able to voluntarily come back to Nigeria and hope to work and live in peace. Meanwhile, they remain a largely alienated and unintegrated lot in the US. Except there is a social change in both Nigeria and the US, they will remain trapped in their forced exile.
No To Bush’s War Against Iraq
For Working Class Actions To Remove Saddam Dictatorship
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Nigerian affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), calls on the Nigerian working people and youth to oppose the planned military action by the US and its allies aimed at overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.