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2 May 2017
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) felicitates with workers on this occasion of Workers Day, a day which has its origin in workers' struggle in the late 19th century for an 8-hour working day and decent working conditions. This year's May Day is taking place at a period when the working masses and poor are suffering due to the harsh economic conditions engendered by the global crisis of capitalism and the anti-poor neo-liberal policies of past and present governments at all levels. Rising and high cost of living, mass sack and joblessness, unpaid salaries of workers and pensioners, poor wage, lack of basic infrastructure, looting of public funds have all worsened the plight of the working masses.
The Buhari-led anti-poor government, like the other governments at other levels, has continued to pay poverty wage to workers while political office holders earn mind-boggling jumbo salaries and allowances. President Buhari and the All Progressives' Congress (APC) claimed to be offering change, whereas the old order and contradictions that has held this country down still remains.
The N18, 000 minimum wage came into being in 2011 and is supposed to be reviewed 5 years after, but the government has refused to review it despite the fact that inflation put at 17% has seriously eroded workers' salaries while political office holders live in opulence. This inequality will get worse so long the trade union leaders refuse to challenge the ruling class with a mass movement and a working class political alternative that will liberate the vast majority. The Labour leaders must abandon their strategic alliance with the capitalist ruling elite and be united in a struggle that will mobilise the working people for mass actions and general strikes to demand payment of backlog of salaries and pensions and force the government to review the minimum wage upward in line with inflationary trend.
To add insult to injury, despite receiving poverty wage, workers in most of the states are paid fraction of their salary while retirees are being owed several months of pension arrears. Their respective governors claimed that there is no money to pay workers but there are funds to pay jumbo salaries to political office holders and their hangers on. Despite some improvement in the country's revenue as a result of the recent rise in crude oil price and at least two different bailout arrangements, the situation has not fundamentally changed. This is because upon receiving their monthly allocations and bailout funds, the governors, in addition to direct looting, prioritize servicing bank debts, their business collaborators and political office holders who get paid first and the left-over crumbs are then rationed to workers.
The SPN salutes workers and retirees across the states of Nigeria who have embarked on mass protests and strikes to challenge the criminal policy of non-payment of salaries and pensions. Unfortunately, their efforts were not matched by the national leadership of the labour centres with real actions that can defeat the state governments. In some instances, workers fighting to end unpaid salary were isolated because the national labour leadership failed to unify and intensify the struggle through well mobilized mass actions and general strikes. The struggles for payment of backlog of salaries and pensions, against casualization/contract staffing and for a N56, 000 minimum wage are one and the same. Linking them together is the best way to build maximum unity among all categories of workers. Indeed, unless the recalcitrant state governors and many private sector employers are challenged by a tumultuous struggle over the non-payment of workers' salaries and pensions, it is unlikely they would be ready to implement any new minimum wage.
Therefore on the occasion of workers days, the SPN calls on the national leadership of the NLC, TUC and ULC to launch a more energetic campaign that will include mass rallies and a 24 hour general strike and mass protest to revive the struggle for payment of backlog of salaries and pensions being owed workers and pensioners in about 20 states of the federation, to oppose casualization and contract staffing and to start the fight for a review of the national minimum wage to at least N56, 000 without retrenchment.
Since the last May Day and now, the factionalisation of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) which began in 2014 has led to the formation of a new labour centre known as the United Labour Congress (ULC) and headed by Joe Ajaero. For us in the SPN, while it is desirable to have a single labour centre for all workers because it could allow for unity of actions and struggles, we equally believe that individual industrial unions have the democratic right to form or join a trade union federation of their choice. Especially where a labour union or centre becomes so bureaucratized and continually betrays workers' struggles, organizing under a new platform may become an absolute necessity for the interests of workers to be better defended.
However, we do not also think that labour centres or even unions can simply be formed by leaders without appropriate democratic discussions among the generality of workers. Rather we think that, where it becomes an absolute necessity, the formation of a new trade union federation must be on the basis of the need to promote and defend the interest of workers and the poor masses, and a product of democratic decisions of the rank and file workers. This is the only way a new labour centre can be different from the one it broke from. As things stand today, both the NLC and ULC are working at cross purposes instead of uniting to jointly wage struggles to protect workers' jobs and interests. For us in the SPN, we hold that if the labour leaders in both NLC and ULC are genuinely interested in workers and the poor masses, they would not have any problem coming together in a united struggle to uphold and defend the interest and rights of the working people.
If the current disunity persists, it is the government and capitalist ruling elite that will benefit. We therefore call on activists and rank and file workers not to allow the division between the trade union officialdom to stand in the way of joint struggle. There should be no hesitation to form joint action committees at local, state and other levels of the NLC, TUC and ULC affiliates to jointly fight for their members' collective interests.
Since, the advent of this administration, over 3 million jobs have been lost, tens of factories have closed down with many others operating below 40% capacity.
Since the power sector was largely privatized in November 2013, a policy that the ruling class claimed will resolve the crisis in the sector, power supply has become more epileptic while consumers are extorted on a mass scale through estimated billing. No doubt, privatization due to its profit-first nature and incapacity of the operators has totally failed to revive the power sector. We hold that it is only by placing of the sector under public ownership and open, transparent and democratic management by workers and consumers can massive investment and uninterrupted power be guaranteed.
Price of cooking gas has moved up from N2800 to about N5, 000 even though gas is produced in Nigeria. The Nigerian government and the oil and gas companies are in an unholy alliance in line with their exploitative motive to make gas and kerosene so expensive. Staple food like rice and garri are priced beyond the reach of the poor. The health sector is in disaster while the only response to this state of decay is for Buhari and other members of the ruling class to embark on regular health tourism thereby wasting millions of dollars of public resources to resolve their private health problems while the poor and the working masses left to die in droves. Education sector is no different as many poor families are finding it very difficult to send their children to school. Government at all levels do not only fail to invest in mass housing but are also busy engaging in land grabbing policies that has rendered over 2 million people homeless since the return of civil rule in 1999. The recent occurrence is the violent displacement of the people of Otodo-Gbeme riverine community by the Ambode-led government.
Given the fact that class interest between the super-rich/capitalist and the poor/workers is irreconcilable, anybody who believes that the Buhari government or any capitalist government will defend the interest of the working class is living in illusion.
Hence, workers must come to the realization that for Nigeria to move forward sustainably devoid of the socio-economic and political crisis presently witnessed, there is the need for mass struggle and a mass political organization of the working class to be built to challenge the pro-rich parties and the capitalist system. But building of a mass party of the working class is not enough, it has to be built on socialist programs alongside a democratic structure that allows workers and the poor to own and build the party. Such a socialist programme will, among other things, include a struggle against neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation etc., and the nationalization of key/major sectors of the economy placed under the democratic management of the working people as a means to end corruption, profligacy, inefficiency and mismanagement. This is the only way human and natural resources can be planned to meet the needs of all as against the profit of a few.
If you agree with the above, join the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) was formed by working class activists and socialists in the absence of a mass working class party to defend the socio-economic and political interest of the working masses. We are calling on workers, traders, students, youth, artisans, transporters, the unemployed etc., to join the SPN and become active in it. Together with building the SPN, socialists and activists call on labour to form and build a mass working class political party that will not only defeat the pro-rich parties (APC, PDP, Labour Party etc.) but work towards developing the country to meet the needs of all.