Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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Socialist Democracy

Newspaper of the DSM

Trade Unions



21st December 2003




The Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU) condemns in its entirety the brutal attacks and arrest of workers of Mikano Nigeria Limited and labour leaders by armed policemen.

The incident took place in front of the company's premises in Ikeja, Lagos, on Thursday 19th December 2003 while labour leaders from the National Union of Shop and Distributive Employees (NUSDE) were addressing the workers who were protesting against appalling and oppressive working conditions in the company, including the refusal of the company management to allow workers to belong to a trade union.

In addition to an unknown number of workers, the national president and general secretary of NUSDE, Bright Anokwuru and Sule Babatunde, were arrested and are being detained at Area G police command in Ogba, Ikeja. Anokwuru is also the national auditor of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Journalists who were at the occasion to report on the workers' protests were equally brazenly assaulted by the police.

We in the CIU believe that organisation of peaceful protests and belonging to trade unions by workers are basic democratic rights. The fact that under the present civil rule in Nigeria, workers and trade unionists who try to exercise these rights and journalists who are performing their legitimate duties are still often subjected to callous harassments and brutalisation by state security forces exposes the utter hollowness of the so-called democratic regime in the country.

Since the return to civil rule in May, 1999, scores of labour activists have been victimized and sacked from their jobs by governments at all levels for fighting for the rights and welfare of their members, for decent wages and against retrenchment.

A notable case is that of comrade Ayodele Akele, the former chairman of the Council of Industrial Unions in Lagos State civil service who was witch-hunted out of the state civil service in 2001 by the Tinubu administration in the state because of his leadership role in the struggle for the implementation of the minimum wage agreement of year 2000. In January 2002 and July 2003, several labour leaders were arrested for addressing mass rallies and organizing picketing in protest against the hike in the prices of petroleum products. Six activists, including Dagga Tolar, publicity secretary of CIU, are also standing trial for participation in a rally organised by the United Action for Democracy on 3rd December 2003 against the policies of the Obasanjo regime.

The new Trade Union Bill proposed by the Obasanjo regime and presently before the National Assembly which seeks to give the government power to de-register trade unions, reveals unambiguously the growing intolerance of the ruling class in general, and Obasanjo government in particular, to the mass and popular opposition to their anti-poor, pro-rich neo-liberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, incessant hike in fuel prices, retrenchment of workers and the so-called pension reform.

The CIU calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all the detained workers of Mikano Nigeria Limited and labour leaders. We demand for an end to the attacks on the democratic rights of workers, journalists and the oppressed strata by the police, private employers of labour and the Obasanjo regime.

We call on the leadership of the trade unions and the NLC to organise a comprehensive programme of mass mobilisation, including the holding of mass rallies, protests and strike actions to put an end to the current spate of attacks on working people's living standard and democratic rights. The relentless nature of these attacks shows that the strategy of labour leaders to avoid mass struggles against the government and the employers and to seek to dissuade the latter simply by what they call dialogue is false and counter-productive and can only continue to worsen the deplorable conditions of the working people. What is needed to put a stop to these insane and multi-faceted attacks from the bosses is a comprehensive programme of mass action and resistance organised and led by the trade unions and the NLC.

Finally, the CIU calls on the leadership of the labour movement to put forward an alternative working class economic and political agenda fundamentally different from and completely opposed to the anti-poor, pro-rich, pro- imperialist, neo-liberal market policies of the Nigerian capitalist class and their IMF and World Bank masters, and to commence the building of an independent mass working people's political party which will mobilise the urban and rural poor to take political power on the basis of this working class agenda. Only this approach can bring an end to the vicious cycle of ruling class attacks, mass poverty and unending misery which working class people face on a daily basis.


General Secretary, CIU