No Retreat No Surrender
Salaries of workers in 18 states have been owed in some cases for up to 7months. These states are: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers and Zamfara. Nigeria Labour Congress has seized the bull by the horns, calling for an indefinite strike in those states, except where there are concrete agreements signed to pay by returning governors.
This action by NLC is based on a resolution reached by the first National Executive Council session of Congress after the election of the Ayuba-led National Administrative Council in March. The NEC had constituted a task force of teams to cover each of the six geopolitical zone to asses non-payment of wages as a violation of workers’ rights and coordinate a fight back by the concerned state councils
SWL supports the workers in this fight for the basic rights of wages. It is utterly condemnable that governors, legislators and other bosses in government continue to draw huge amounts as salaries and emoluments, live ostentatious lives with fleets of jets and helicopters and coughed up hundreds of billions of naira for elections recently.
There is no justifiable reason for workers to be denied their wages, which are inadequate for them and members of their families to live qualitatively in the first place. There has been a report of a worker’s (Mr. Owolabi Ojo) attempted suicide in Osun state as a result of this awful situation for example.
With the collapse oil prices by up to 50% of prices in the world market, dwindling state revenues has been attributed to the supposed inability of some state governments to pay salaries. The fluctuation of oil prices, worsened by the global economic crisis is a confirmation that the capitalist system is not sustainable.
Capitalism is based on the ruthless exploitation of labour and natural resources for profit and not for the improvement of human life, worldwide. Workers across the world have to fight and are fighting against the devastation of this inhumane system. It is however not enough to fight against capitalism. We need to overthrow it and build socialism, a system based on cooperation, solidarity and the all rounded development of persons as against the worshiping of profit.
The struggle of Nigerian workers for payment of wages and for a living wage is part of this global struggle of the international working class. Capitalism is an international system with the bosses and states/governments bound by their common primary interest: exploiting the working class. It can thus be overthrown only with worldwide revolution led by the working class which is the international movement of the exploited poor toilers whose labour creates wealth.
But in fighting for international socialist revolution, with which alone we can bring a final end to our being exploited and oppressed as workers, we must never lose sight of the fact that the immediate enemy is at home: the local capitalists and their apparatus of intimidation and brainwashing. Apart from the general characteristics of the bosses everywhere as exploiters, in different countries, there are peculiarities which must guide our strategy and tactics.
The ruling class in Nigeria is one which has no focus, blinded by immediate gratification. This is why the country which is one of the 10 biggest exploiters of crude oil has not been able to refine enough petroleum to meet domestic needs. The fuel consumption in the country is estimated at 305,000 barrels per day. The four refineries in the country have a combined capacity of distilling 445,000 barrels per day which is more than enough. But they operate at just 22% capacity meaning they refine just 97,900 barrels per day of petroleum products per day.
So called “fuel subsidy” which has breed corruption with trillions of naira pocketed by several is supposed to bridge the gap of 207,000 barrels per day. But it became a cesspool of fraud. As the House of Representatives Investigation Panel into the fuel subsidy in 2012, which was meant to placate the working masses after the January general strike and mass protests that year showed, not less than $1.1bn of “subsidy” money ended up in individuals pockets without any fuel being supplied with this.
Therefore, the fall in revenue as a result of the fall of oil prices globally should not be taken as an excuse for the failure to pay salaries. Indeed, the obvious attempt at using it as an excuse to increase pump price of petroleum products should be resisted. The non-payment of salaries is thus primarily a result of corruption in high places and total disregard for the lives and wellbeing of workers.
Capitalist politicians always rip off the working masses. They “earn” too much and enrich themselves through corrupt practices. Government officials must earn no more than the average worker. They are supposed to be public servants, but are actually masters that make life unbearable for us, the poor, who comprise the immense majority of the population and whom they claim to represent.
The fight for wages must include demands for a drastic scaling down of the official pay of government officials and the curbing of their corrupt self-enrichment. The current fight for payment of backlogs of salaries must also be a first step towards a mass campaign for an upward review of the present paltry sum of N18,00 to not less than N52,250 as hitherto demanded by the trade unions.
Non-payment of wages, the payment of slave wages, the fuel crises, worsening state of the economy and the generalised attacks against working people’s living standards all have the same root: the terminal crisis of capitalism, a system which has become a burden on humankind’s progress.
But, capitalism will not come to an end just because of this or any subsequent crisis. It will find ways around its wobbling and fumbling pathway, by hook or by crook. It has to be overthrown through the organised self-conscious activity of the working class. There must be no retreat no surrender until the backlog of wages are paid to workers. We must equally struggle without ceasing until capitalism is vanquished by workers’ power to bring this sort of heartless reality which we live in different forms every day to a final end.