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Socialist Democracy March 2004

 

FIGHT PRIVATISATION AND RETRENCHMENT

From every indication, particularly the 2004 budget, it is very clear that the next three years is going to witness the acceleration of the anti-poor policies of privatisation and retrenchment of workers by the Obasanjo administration.

On plan for sale in this next phase of the privatisation programme are the biggest federal government assets and enterprises namely refineries, airways, railways, NITEL, NEPA, etc.

At the time, the Obasanjo administration has indicated that it is to retrench 40% of the workers in the federal public service. This obnoxious exercise has even commenced already with the sacking, in early February 2004 of several hundreds of workers in aviation sector, such as Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority and Nigeria Airspace Management Agency. Over 2000 workers have just been retrenched in NEPA this March.

With its policy of privatisation and deregulation, the Obasanjo led PDP government at the national level, has continued to sell public enterprises to super-rich individuals and corporations especially, both local and foreign. Same exercise is going on in states controlled by ANPP and AD. What are the reasons given by government for the sales? "Public enterprises are corrupt and inefficient. If they are sold to private individuals, they will become efficient, profitable and provide the services they are originally meant for".

It is true that the public enterprises are corrupt and inefficient. But private enterprises are no exception. Because of inefficiency and corruption, for instance, big private companies internationally have collapsed in the recent time, Enron in USA, Parmalat in Ital, just to mention a few. In fact, the chairman of Parmalat, Calisto Tanzi, is presently in prison for corruption. In Nigeria, many private banks and industries have become distressed, bankrupt and collapsed over the years. The chairman of Bank of the North, Alhaji Bulama is currently standing trial for allegedly stealing N40 million from the bank. This shows that corruption and inefficiency is not peculiar to public enterprises.

CAPITALISM: CAUSE OF CORRUPTION AND INEFFICIENCY

Corruption and inefficiency is a function of the mode of management and control of enterprises, whether publicly or privately owned. In the present circumstance, the root cause of corruption and mismanagement is the capitalist mode of production and management. While public enterprises are supposedly publicly owned, few private capitalist individuals are appointed by capitalist governments to run them. These individuals are friends and family members of the ruling class. They engage in awarding fat salaries and allowances to themselves, while keeping the wages of workers low. They also engage in awarding contracts to themselves with inflated cost. In fact, they don't carry out the contracts at the end of the day and they cannot be questioned or prosecuted.

What is needed is a democratic control and management of all public enterprises by the representatives of the working people in these enterprises. Only this arrangement can checkmate looting and improve planning for efficiency.

GOVERNMENT DOUBLE STANDARD

While government's claim is that all publicly enterprises will be sold, in actual fact, only the ones that are viable and can yield fast profit are being sold. Those with huge liabilities like Nigeria Railway Corporation and Airways are having only their most profitable operations such as public relations and landed property being contemplated for sale. In this sense, privatisation is nothing but the looting of public assets in the interest of rich corporations and individuals.

RETRENCHMENT

To maximise profit and recoup money invested in buying the enterprises, owners of the now private companies will drastically reduce the workforce and in fact, hire casual workers that can be fired without compensation all to maximise profit. Workers in corporations like NEPA, NITEL, NPA, FAAN, Nigerian Airways, LSWC etc, should buckle-up to fight against sales of these corporations to private individuals, as it will mean sooner or later, losing their jobs when the deal is sealed.

But the fight is not only for workers and unions in these threatened public enterprises. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) needs to mobilise the entire labour movement against the privatisation and retrenchment policies of the government through mass rallies, industrial actions and mass protests. But first of all, the NLC leadership will have to stop its support for the anti-working class privatisation programme and the NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole, should withdraw immediately from the government National Council on Privatisation.

DEMOCRATIC WORKING CLASS ALTERNATIVE

It is clear that the capitalist ruling class cannot bring laughter on the faces of the poor working masses but only pains, misery and poverty. The only option left to the working people is to get organised under a political platform to wrestle political power from the present political vampires and transform society along socialist lines.

The trade union and NLC should demand and fight for:

  • No to the sale of public utilities like NEPA, NITEL, NPA, FAAN, Nigerian Airways, LSWC, etc.

  • No to the retrenchment of workers of any company.

  • For a management board of public enterprises to comprise of government, elected representatives of union and workers of the enterprises with equal number of representation.

  • For a workers, peasant and poor peoples’ government

  • No to the World Bank and IMF policies

  • For total repudiation of all foreign debt.

  • Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under workers' democratic control and management

  • For a socialist world devoid of exploitation and imperialism.

 

 

Socialist Democracy March 2004