The Socialist 16 October 2004 |
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'Solid' General Strike Shows Fury At Elite
NIGERIA'S FIFTH general strike since June 2000 stopped the entire country
when the four-day stoppage started on 11 October. This protest was again
provoked by a jump in fuel prices.
Robert Bechert, CWI
Fuel price rises hit the Nigerian masses hard. Kerosene is used to
transport people and goods, do the cooking or even generate electricity. Why
should they, living in an oil-producing country, have to pay more for fuel
when the world price goes up but the cost of oil production has not?
This new 25% increase was imposed less than 48 hours after the High Court
decided that the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC - the main trade union
federation) was not entitled to call strikes. Immediately the state-owned
National Petroleum Corporation jacked up fuel prices by 33%.
The anger is not just at the price rise increases but against the elite who
are looting the country's wealth, especially its oil. People are disillusioned
with the rule of President Obasanjo and other capitalist politicians since
civilian rule was restored in 1999.
While Nigeria's economy has stagnated, the elite have continued to loot and
thoroughly rigged the 2003 elections to ensure they stayed in power. Finance
Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank vice-president, gets
$247,000 a year, one of the world's highest paid ministers in a government
intent on neo-liberal measures.
Every general strike since June 2000 was solid and was followed by Nigerian
workers, small shopkeepers, market women etc. As the Financial Times
commented, the unions have become "the country's most high-profile opposition
This struggle has now become a test of how far the Obasanjo government can
go in dismantling workers' and trade union rights.
Since 2000 previous general strikes only won, at best, partial victories.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM, Nigerian section of the CWI) has
worked for a real mobilisation especially by creating joint strike/action
committees in the workplaces and communities, both to organise the struggle
and as the means for the masses to sustain themselves in a longer struggle.
The DSM has played a prominent role in organising the struggle in Lagos,
Nigeria's largest city, and elsewhere. In many communities DSM members have
organised meetings to build support for the struggle and to initiate
5,000 copies of the DSM's paper, Socialist Democracy, sold out within four
days of publication and had to be been reprinted.
(See the text on the DSM's website:
While building the present strike, the DSM argues the need to build a
socialist movement capable of forming a workers' and peasants' government.
That government should break with capitalism and begin to plan the use of
Nigeria's vast resources to serve peoples' needs not private profit.
European Social Forum meeting on Africa
This ESF seminar will include a speaker from the Campaign for Democratic and Workers' Rights in Nigeria.
7-9pm, Saturday 16 October 2004, Congress House, Great Russell Street (Tottenham Court Road Tube)