Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Be Steadfast, Victory is Possible!!

  • We say no to School Privatisation
By Abiodun Bamgboye (Abbey Trotsky)

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Oyo State Chapter, strongly supports the strike and struggle of workers and retirees in Oyo State over non-payment of salary and pension arrears. The workers are owed salaries for six months while retirees have been denied their pensions for more than a year.

We also support the demand for reversal of decision to sell public schools, adequate funding of the education sector including payment of living wages and other incentives for educational workers and withdrawal of trumped-up charges against the State Chair of NLC and 6 other labour leaders.

Also brought to our notice is the ugly development that some Principals in not fewer than 19 Secondary Schools in Ibadan have been recently issued queries by state government over the protest of secondary school students on June 6, 2016 against the planned privatisation of schools.

The SPN condemns and rejects this planned victimisation of the affected principals and calls on the leaderships of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) to include in their demands the immediate withdrawal of the so called queries given to the affected principals.

It is our belief in SPN that despite the decline in the federal allocation, the Oyo state government has the capacity to pay workers in the state and still implement projects capable of bringing meaningful improvement in the condition of living of the people of the state. This position has been confirmed in a recent report of allocations received by states across the country from the federation account between June 2015 and May 2016. According to this report which was published in the June 13, 2016 edition of the Vanguard newspaper, Oyo state received over N84billion over the period yet the Abiola Ajimobi led government owes workers six month salaries. This is wicked and inhuman!

This shows that the impression often given by the government that its N5.2bn monthly wage bill services only the salaries and allowances of public workers in the state is false. By the calculation of workforce in the state, the wage bill of workers must not be higher than N3bn. This shows that only a few, who are political office holders, share over N2bn per month among themselves. Even at that, N84bn federal allocation in the last one year is equivalent to an average of N7billion per month which is more than the claimed N5.2bn wage bill. This has shown that all the excuses of Ajimobi for not paying salaries are blatant lies.

Yes, there is a decline in monthly allocation compared with previous years, nevertheless, the SPN holds that, there is enough to pay salaries and pensions and implement some developmental project and social services. The reason why Ajimobi has not paid salaries and pensions to workers and retirees could only be as a result of a self-serving resolve to maintain the outrageously high salaries and allowances as well as opulent lifestyle of the political office holders.

Even if the government denies receiving N84bn in a year, we still hold that the state has enough resources for salaries, pensions and developmental projects. Workers should ask the governor to scrap his security votes and also stop corrupt practices, wastages and inflation of contracts, high cost of governance in order to free up resources for developmental projects and wellbeing of workers, masses and students.

Against this background workers must remain steadfast in this struggle for payments of all arrears of salaries and pensions. They must also be determined to defeat the anti-poor policy of school privatisation. Ajimobi wants to finally take education out of the reach of students from poor and working class background. Already many students find it extremely difficult to pay N1, 000 fee imposed by the state government while many students could not sit for WAEC and NECO this year after the government stopped paying for the examinations.

The privatisation of schools will make the situation much worse for the poor masses as high fees will be introduced while many teachers will lose their jobs or placed on a poor condition of service. We must say no to this wicked policy and insist that trumped up charges against labour leaders for resisting the policy be dropped.

We say kudos to workers for the two mass protests held and the gathering in great numbers at the NLC secretariat. This is despite the fact that many are fasting and many have to walk long distances due to inability to afford transport fare. This shows iron resolve to win this struggle. We also commend the NLC and NUT executives for quality leadership provided so far since the struggle started. They must continue to organise various mass activities including congresses and protest marches particularly in places like Ogbomosho, Saki Oyo and other strategic towns outside Ibadan. This will help to dispel and defeat some of the government campaign of lies with a view to retain the mass support that the on-going struggle enjoys.

We also commend the labour leaders for making sure that discussion and debate are held among the congress of workers before any decision is taken on the strike. Workers must also continue to insist that this culture and tradition of democracy must be sustained!

Also important for workers and labour activists is the need to draw the necessary political lesson from this struggle. We should note that about 26 states under various governments led by both the APC and PDP have refused to pay workers under the guise of decline in federal allocations. This is because both parties are anti-poor and self-serving such as other pro-capitalist parties like Accord and SDP which are offshoot of the PDP. This is why workers need their own party that represents their interests and aspirations. The Labour Party, originally formed by the NLC but hijacked by political merchants, has become an anti-poor party and a dustbin of anti-poor politicians, who cannot get ticket in PDP or APC.