Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




To us in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the recent pro-rich anti-poor policies being implemented by Yar’Adua government, such as the proposed hike in fuel prices and jumbo pay rises for political office holders across board, etc did not come to us as a surprise.

In an article titled: Reject Money Bags, Capitalist Politicians, (Socialist Democracy, February 2007 edition), we had amongst other things stated: “The past 8 years have been nothing short of the legitimisation of public treasury looting by those in power under the guise of privatisation. Therefore, the next set of rulers should be expected to be more brazen and rapacious in the act of treasury looting. This phenomenon will certainly compel the ruling class to impose unprecedented adverse socio-political policies on the already impoverished overwhelmed masses and the poor.”

Our prognosis has been brutally confirmed!

Last week, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) approved an over 100% increase in remuneration packages and allowances of lawmakers, judicial and public officers nationwide. According to the new jumbo pay, a Senator’s basic annual salary has been increased from N993,697 to N2,484,242 while that of a member of the House of Representative has gone up from N794,084 to N1,985,212.52, a member of a State Assembly will earn the same as members of House of Representative. In addition, allowance for accommodation has been increased to 200% of basic annual salary. Other increased allowances are: vehicle maintenance allowance increased from 30% to 75% of annual basic salary; entertainment allowance has been increased from 30% of annual salary; utility allowance has been increased from 20% to 30% of annual basic salary. In addition, each legislator is to earn 25% of the annual salary as Personal Assistant. Another 25% of annual basic salary as a wardrobe allowance; domestic staff allowance will be 75% of basic annual salary; recess allowance, 10% of annual basic salary; while constituency allowance of legislators at national level will be 250% of their annual basic salary. In addition to the above, every Senator or House of Reps member will receive 300% of their basic annual salary as furniture allowance, which is expected to be paid at the beginning of their tenure.

Apart from several other fabulous allowances, including outright purchase of cars for members of the Assembly, at the end of their four-year tenure each member of the Assembly will earn 300% of their basic annual salary as severance gratuity pay. Meanwhile, each member of National Assembly is entitled to a car loan equivalent of 400% of their annual salary. This supposed loan is to be repaid back within a period of six years, even though the life span of their tenure is four years each. Various fabulous sums have also been approved as estacode or daily travel allowances for every approved trip. Meanwhile, there are other special privileges that are not monetised, which government will provide in kind for the legislators, these include provisions of special assistant, security, medical treatment and legislative aides.

News of these despicable proposals has provoked immediate anger. It is breathtaking that the RMAFC justifies these huge increases because “in general, the economy has been highly inflationary since the last remuneration package came into effect. In 1999, the rate of inflation was only 6.6 per cent. It rose to 6.9 per cent in 2000 but by 2001, it had reached an all-time high of 18.9 per cent. Up to the end of 2005, the rate of inflation (17.9 per cent) never went back to a single digit level.” Really it is one law for the elite and another for the rest of us. When has ever the government or an official body recommended that workers’ wages keep pace with inflation?

However, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) leadership’s reaction to the recent jumbo pay rises for all political office holders in the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary lamentably still habours the illusion that the Yar’Adua capitalist government can be made to serve the interest of the working people and the poor in general. This is the meaning behind the NLC’s reaction in a statement signed by its president, AbdulWahed Ibrahim Omar: “We strongly believe that political office-holders should appreciate the imperative of sacrifice and altruistic service rather than continue to make huge financial demands, which undermine the development process.”

Against this outrageously bloated pay rise awarded to top members of the ruling elites, the NLC leadership needs to go beyond merely stating, “what is good for political office holders is good for workers” . The NLC leaders need to demand an immediate outright increment in wages and allowance being paid to the ordinary worker so that their wages can also keep pace with prices. On our part, we suggest a basic minimum wage of N50,000 with increment to match the rate of inflation and without a single retrenchment. The jumbo pay rise for political office holders was not an accident but rather, a conscious policy by the capitalist ruling elite. And going by their stiff opposition to the recent demands for a modest pay increment by teachers across the country, the self-serving ruling capitalist elite should therefore be expected to oppose any meaningful increment in the wages of ordinary workers across the country.

Consequently, the DSM calls on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) leaders to immediately demand a specific figure as the new minimum wage for workers. We equally demand that the trade unions, in conjunction with LASCO, issue a two-week ultimatum on government and private employers of labour within which to effect a new pay rise for ordinary workers. In its reaction to the jumbo pay, the NLC leaders have stated, “what is good for political office holders is good for workers”. This position will be meaningless without coming up with a specific figure for living wage backed by an ultimatum showing that Labour is immediately ready to battle for implementation of its demands in this regards. It is only within this context that the NLC leaders can expect the ruling elite to take them serious.

The period of this ultimatum must not be based on expectations that the capitalist ruling elite will grant a decent pay for workers. Rather, the period of the ultimatum should be used to immediately commence mass mobilization of rank and file workers and the poor in general in society with posters, mass leaflets, workplace meetings and mass rallies in all major cities. It must be known from the beginning that the Yar’Adua capitalist government, together with the capitalist parties in government and opposition, will outright reject this just demand as outrageous and capable of bankrupting the economy. Therefore, Labour leaders across board must from the beginning prepare for a drawn out struggle as a result of the certain resistance of the capitalist ruling elite towards this just demands. Labour leaders should note that no amount of verbal opposition to the recent jumbo pay award would deter members of the capitalist ruling elites across the ruling parties from collecting their new jumbo pay. Consequently, labour’s central firepower should be directed to fighting for an immediate increment in workers wages and allowances instead of fighting a futile battle to reduce the opulent life style of the ruling elites.

In awarding themselves the jumbo pay rise, the ruling elite among other things took into consideration the money being daily made from sales of crude oil internationally. They equally underline the high inflation rate which prevails in the country. However, as expected, they are not prepared to bring this income into consideration as regards the need for pay rise and improved living conditions for ordinary workers. Therefore, Labour and LASCO agitations and struggle for a new minimum wage must be no less based on what an average working class family requires for the proper upkeep, healthcare, and education of their dependants in contemporary Nigeria. The various revelations emanating for probes of different sectors of economy have shown that there are huge resources that could be used to better the lots of Nigerian masses and put the economy on the path of steady growth but for the monumental corruption and mismanagement by Nigerian capitalist ruling elites.

Labour however, must recognize that the prevailing relatively good opportunity to fight for a wage increment would not remain there indefinitely. If there is a sharp or drastic reduction in the price of crude oil internationally, members of the self-serving capitalist ruling elites will seek to transfer the burden of the reduction in incomes onto the back of poor working class who incidentally has made no substantial gains from the current oil boom.

As we in the DSM have always argued, the current jumbo pay rise awarded to members of the ruling elite, side by side with proposal to hike fuel prices, are merely the two latest examples of why the organized trade unions and the working masses in general must create a serious working class political alternative, a working peoples’ party, that can end the prevailing rule by the capitalist elite. If this task is not commenced immediately with all the seriousness it deserves, the 2011 general election will be a greater farce than the widely criticized 2007 general elections. This is because those currently benefiting from the current jumbo pay and other anti-poor pro-rich policies, will never willingly give up their privileges. They should in fact be expected to use all tricks and crookedness to retain power at all cost.

Here, the jumbo pay rise is a form of consensus among the capitalist ruling elite. The coming period will witness more rapid anti-poor pro-imperialist policies. Privatization or the sharing out of public properties to private capitalist interest will be deepened. Consequently, when the next elections come, those that have looted public resources through various capitalist policies cannot be expected to fold their arms and letting power slips from their hands. So, no amount of electoral reform being promised by Yar’Adua would make the plain looters currently holding sway in the corridors of power to concede genuinely free and fair elections, come 2011 or whenever.

Segun Sango
General Secretary
This article was republished in the Guardian newspaper, Lagos, on Sunday August 31, 2008