by Kunle Wizeman Ajayi
With radical placards, fists lifted high, and solidarity songs, informal sector workers organised under the banner of the Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria (FIWON) stormed the gates of the Lagos State House of Assembly chambers on Thursday 10th December to protest against the recent ban on mini-generators that Nigerians popularly call “I-BETTER-PASS-MY-NEIGBOUR” and against other anti-poor people policies and practice like the planned hike in electricity tariff; slave labour; mass importation of unskilled labour, and; toll fees.
FIWON as well demanded the strict enforcement of the local content laws to stop the current hazardous situation where private companies bring “unskilled and semi-skilled foreigners” from far away countries like “China and India as well as Togolese workers” to perform the work of “certified welders and fitters, construction workers such as tillers, plaster of paris (P.O.P) technicians, masons, carpenters, etc.”
The federation called on the Federal Government agencies such as the police and the immigration service to put a stop to this. FIWON noted that while some foreign companies have tried to comply with the local content bill laws by “training and re-training local personnel to perform these technical, high skill and low skill jobs, local employers such as the Dangote Group and even some state governments have preferred to import workers”
While addressing workers after submitting petitions and protest letters to the Legislators, Comrade Gbenga Komolafe, the FIWON General Secretary said ‘workers need to take their demand to the streets and register their grievances at all times.” He posited that the ban on the mini-generators showed that the government is insensitive to the plight of the poor while protecting the rich. “Available records show that the current supply of electricity is just 1.6% of the estimated 200,000 megawatts needed to power the country.”
He countered Nigeria Customs’ reasons that the mini-generators causes “air pollution and destruction of our lungs and breathing system” by saying that the heavy diesel generators used in banks, factories, and other big settings are much more hazardous to the health of the populace as they emit much more carbon than the small petrol generators’ engines”.
In all, the union called on the Federal Government to make electricity work first while “stepping up the awareness about the dangers of using the mini generators in confined places to minimize the health hazards associated with carbon emissions in such circumstances.” The union also demanded for social security for the informal workers as enshrined in Section 16 (2d) of the Nigerian constitution. Social security includes “social pension for informal workers above 60 years, state supported pension contribution, maternity care for working women, comprehensive health insurance as well as care and support for the disabled.”
Socialist Workers League (SWL) supports the struggle of the informal workers who constitute a large section of working class-people. We commend FIWON for organising and mobilising against the ban on mini generators. This goes way ahead to show the character of the APC/Buhari government’s real class stance. Their reforms will at best benefit the rich. This explains why the big generators that emit more carbon are untouched while the poor man’s ‘I-BETTER-PASS-MY-NEIGHBOUR’s” set must be banned.
Informal workers, and indeed all workers, have a greater task to struggle for- a system without greed and oppression like capitalism. A system that will not only guarantee true social security for everyone, but equality, solidarity, and freedom! This is a socialist system, built on working class-people’s power and solidarity!!