Tuesday, 19 February 2013

PENSION SCAM SCANDAL


THE WORKING MASSES MUST FIGHT AND PROFER A POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE TO CAPITALIST LOOTING

Segun Sango
Protem National Chairperson
Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN)

In the midst of abundant human and natural resources, the vast majority of Nigeria's working masses and the poor perpetually live in abject poverty. The primary reason for this embarrassing state of absurdity is the "profit first" capitalist system which dominates the world including Nigeria. Under this unjust system, whether in advanced countries of US, Europe, Japan, etc. or stupendously resource rich but economically backward countries like Nigeria, the vast majority of the world population are kept in unstable and often difficult socio-economic conditions with only tiny fraction of the rich and the excessively rich having exclusive access to things and comforts of life. This system of absurdity is best typified by Nigeria's looting capitalist elite who reign supreme over unbelievable level of economic backwardness and mass misery.

LOOTING WITH IMPUNITY
The latest manifestation of looting with impunity is a case popularly called the "Pension Scam Scandal". As usual, in this case, a few highly placed government officials between themselves and their accomplices stole over N40billion from the Police Pension Scheme. Unfortunately for this set of looters, they were charged to court – in consonance with President Jonathan's "war against corruption!" In the spirit of "due process" another flagship of the present dispensation, those who brought this set of looters to court entered what is popularly called "plea bargaining" with the looters. Subsequently, the judiciary was invited to "impartially" dispense justice against the looters in accordance with the existing laws and laid down precedents.
The Vanguard newspaper of January 29, 2013 reported the joke that masqueraded as a judicial proceeding: "One of the eight civil servants accused of complicity in the illegal diversion of over N40billion from the Nigeria Police Pension Funds, Mr. John Yakubu Yusufu, yesterday confessed before an Abuja High Court that he connived with the others and stole only about N23billion. He was, however sentenced to two years imprisonment with an option of N750,000 fine. Yusufu who pleaded guilty to a three-count charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) begged the court to temper justice with mercy, saying he had already forfeited 32 of his choice property to the Federal Government. The accused person who was hitherto facing trial alongside a Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Atiku Abubakar Kigo and six others, made his confession shortly after the EFCC re-docked them on a 20-count amended charge".

UPROAR
This judicial sanctification of looting has provoked widespread uproar amongst all sections of the working masses across the country. Apparently fearing the political explosion which this issue can detonate if the working masses organizations like the NLC, TUC, JAF, DSM etc. should make a bold and categorical call for mass protest against this blatant act of treasury looting, the Jonathan led PDP government through its agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), immediately re-arrested and re-arraigned Mr. Yakubu Yusufu, the current chief beneficiary of the reigning "Plea Bargain", to give the impression that the government itself is so scandalized and has taken steps to right this wrong.

In addition to the mass outrage expressed by the ordinary working masses against this gigantic instance of looting, the Nigeria Labour Congress has given the official response of the organized workers to the entire show of shame. The NLC statement issued on January 29, 2013 by its Acting President, Kiri Mohammed, amongst other things stated: "We are startled at the judgment by an Abuja High Court yesterday which convicted a man who already admitted stealing N23billion out of over N40billion found to have been stolen from the coffers of the Nigeria Police Pension Fund between January 2008 and June 2011 to just two years in prison with an option of fine in the sum of N750,000 … This judgment is not in the public interest and cannot be acceptable to Nigerians who are continuously worried about their future in retirement should the judiciary continue to encourage those caught with public funds with convictions that are clearly not punitive enough for the convict to be remorseful, the judiciary will be encouraging the Nigerian people to opt for jungle justice and treat these high profile criminals the same way pick pockets are treated….We urge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately appeal against this judgment or call for a retrial, while we call on the National Judicial Council to investigate both the judge and the entire case". Several other angry Nigerians and groups have called for various stiff sentences like life jail, some even canvassed the death penalty etc. for public looters.

SPN ON PUBLIC LOOTING
For us members of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), we share the anguish and anger of ordinary Nigerians against this kind of capitalist looting. To us in the SPN even the killing of the kind of person that voluntarily pleaded guilty of having stolen N23billion from Police Pension Funds would not be sufficient to compensate the affected pensioners, if on retirement they could not receive their pensions. In fact, the SPN is fully aware that the PDP-led capitalist government of President Jonathan is nothing but an act of organized looting of public resources. It is not only this mind boggling act of looting that is on going. To underscore its pro-rich, anti-poor disposition the federal government had between 2009 and 2012 spent over seven Trillion Naira to bail out failed banks. In addition over N100 billion has also allegedly been spent on the textile sector, yet the government openly acknowledge that the industry lost over 776,000 workers. Notwithstanding payment of over seven trillion to bankers who practically looted and gambled with depositors money in their custody, tens of thousands of bank workers have been sacked by the profit-hunters running the banks! Trillions of naira are being routinely looted by a combination of the capitalist elite in and out of government. On October 25, 2012, the BBC news website gave a mini catalogue of just some on-going capitalist looting: 

"NIGERIA: 'OIL-GAS SECTOR MISMANAGEMENT COSTS BILLIONS'
A leaked report into Nigeria's Oil and gas industry has revealed the extent of mismanagement and corruption that is costing billions of dollars each year.
The report, seen by the BBC, was commissioned by the oil minister in the wake of this year's fuel protests to probe the financial side of the sector.
It says $29bn (£18bn) was lost in the last decade in an apparent price-fixing scam involving the sale of natural gas.
Nigeria is one of the world's biggest oil producers but most of its people remain mired in poverty.
MISSING BILLIONS REVEALED THIS YEAR
·  $400bn – estimated amount of Nigeria's oil revenue stolen or misspent since independence in 1960 – World Bank's ex-vice-president for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili said in August.
·  $6.8bn – the amount a fuel subsidy scam has cost Nigeria over the last two years – a parliamentary report said in April.
·  $29bn – the amount lost by the treasury in the last decade in an apparent gas price-fixing scam – leaked Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force report in October.
·  $6bn – the amount the treasury loses a year because of oil theft – leaked Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force report in October".
 
THAT IS NOT ALL
Recently, the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, told the governors of the 19 Northern States to account for the N8.3trillion that accrued to their states between 1999 and 2010. He said: "there is hardly anything to show for the huge resources at the state and local government levels. We have got a problem with our country and we all know it and therefore we do not need to be constantly reminded of it for it is an issue that we confront in our daily lives, in our schools, and our interaction with the police, in the army or SSS, customs and immigration offices, prisons, the legislature, the ministries, hospitals, in our courts and in the private sector as well like our banks, markets and not to mention, the media are daily awash with mind boggling reports on corruption all over the country. Most of us here may be wondering how and when corruption took charge of our lives?" (The Nation, January 27, 2013). 

A few days ago, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister under president Obasanjo and former vice president of World Bank, during a convocation lecture at the University of Nigeria, NSUKA, made a telling allegation that a sum of $67 billion have been "squandered" by the late president Musa Yar'adua government and the ruling president Jonathan's government. She lamented the "squandering of the significant sum of $45 billion in foreign reserve account and another $22 billion in Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007. Six years after the administration I served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one, most Nigerians but especially the poor, continue to suffer the effect of failing public health and education system as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions. One cannot but ask what exactly does government symbolize with this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources? Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources and the additional several hundred million dollars realized from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last five years? How were these resources applied, or more appropriately misapplied? (ThisDay, January 25, 2013)

THE WORKING PEOPLE MUST FIGHT TO END LOOTERS PARADISE
If the most scientific lesson must be drawn, it is that the entire capitalist system that is enmeshed in an orgy of corruption and mass looting of public assets and natural resources. Therefore, to end perpetual mass misery in the midst of an inexhaustible abundance, the Nigerian working masses and the poor must immediately, through mass struggles, commence a fight for the end of the rule of foreign and local capitalism. As have been amply demonstrated, the capitalist elite, unless removed from political power always and would always directly loot the resources that ought to be used to better the lot of the vast majority of Nigeria's population. Equally worrisome, when the capitalist elite are not busy with direct looting of the nation's treasury, their only other pre-occupation is the implementation of socio-economic policies that can only make life harder for the overwhelming majority of Nigerians. This is the primary ideological reason why they advocate and insist on private sector driven development and commercialization of basic needs and social services. Through this unjust strategy, the ruling capitalist elite of all ruling parties since 1999 have virtually sold to themselves all publicly built government houses in the Government Reserved Areas (GRA) at rock bottom prices, of course, with money directly looted from the nation's treasury. Their present pre-occupation, in concert with international capitalism, is to totally and perpetually mortgage Nigeria's natural resources in area of oil, gas, agriculture, solid mineral resources, etc. to global profit merchants in the name of seeking development.
In the post 1945 period, partly due to the radical effect of the 1917 Russian Socialist Revolution and the concomitant radicalization of the working class organizations in the advanced capitalist countries including Great Britain, Nigeria's erstwhile colonial ruler, there was a significant shift of strategy in the way the world was being ruled. Due to combination of economic necessity and working class pressure, the international capitalist elite including Great Britain were for an epoch forced to adopt the strategy of using the state as a special driver of socio-economic development and services.

Thus in Nigeria, an ex-British colony, in the first 25 years of post independence, despite all the stealing of public resources by local capitalist elite and their international backers, the country started to show signs of growth and vitality. However a combination of events has changed the situation. The world balance of forces changed as the growing decadence and eventual collapse of the former non-capitalist, but not socialist, state of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, etc., allowed the capitalists to launch an ideological offensive to falsely claim that there was no alternative to capitalism. For a time it seemed that the spectres of workers' struggle and socialist revolution were removed from international horizon and more ruthless layers of capitalist elite took over dominance in polity and economy worldwide. This led to the neo-liberal drive to hold down living standards, cut public spending and give the capitalists new sources of profit by privatising as much as possible. Under the current capitalist dispensation, fabulously oil and gas rich countries like Nigeria must exist in a state of utter backwardness and vast majority of its citizens must live in perpetual squalor so that a tiny proportion of local and international capitalist elite can live in unbelievable and wasteful splendour. Under the rule of the prevailing capitalist disorder, the Nigerian masses of the different nationalities can never live in mutual peace and harmony. This is why 300 days to its centenary; the country is being rocked by cacophonic drums of disintegration.

WHAT MUST BE DONE NOW
In its January 29 statement quoted above, the NLC "urge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately appeal against this judgement or call for a retrial, call on the National Judicial Council to investigate both the Judge and the entire case." On the surface, this proposition may sound genuine, but in reality it is absolutely hopeless to address the issue at stake. In the first instance, it totally ignores the fact that the judicial system is designed by the capitalist elite to actually protect the kind of widespread looting that is taking place in society. In this regard, the demand for a retrial is meaningless. Even the purported re-arrangement of Mr. John Yakubu Yusuf and others by the EFCC will ultimately come to nothing. If this new case is ever concluded, the accused will be set free under the bourgeois legal doctrine which says that a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime! Even in the unlikely event that Mr. Yusuf is subsequently tried and found guilty and he is sentenced to jail for life or even executed as argued by some, this cannot ever fully atoned for the mass misery and agonies inflicted on the multitude, the victims of his looting. As we have amply demonstrated above, Mr. Yusuf's loot is just a fraction of the monumental looting that is the order of the day in capitalist Nigeria. The current mass looting by capitalist elite if not combated by working people's revolutionary mass action and political alternative may later be used by pro capitalist section of the ruling elite to once again stage a military coup pretentiously as usual to fight corruption!

Consequently, the SPN urges all the working masses and working class oriented organizations like the NLC, TUC, Joint Action Front (JAF), DSM, etc. to boldly and categorically call for a day of national protest across the country against capitalist elite looting. However no matter how gigantic is the proposed mass protest, on its own, it cannot bring an end to the on-going capitalist mass looting. The January 2012 nationwide mass protest forced a section of the ruling elite in the National Assembly to conduct an investigation which subsequently revealed that tens of billions of dollars were being pocketed by highly placed capitalist officials for alleged subsidy without the supply of a litre of petrol. While nobody has been convicted for this public robbery, the presiding officers of this probe in the House of Representatives are themselves currently standing trial for allegedly receiving, demanding and collecting bribes to the tune of $3 billion. 

This is not unprecedented. The House of Reps leaders that probed the over $24 billion claimed to have been spent during Obasanjo's era on improving electricity supply while the country is still in virtual darkness are themselves standing trial for allegedly receiving bribes in the course of their probe. For these reasons, the SPN proposes that the envisaged national day of protest action against looters must be tied to a perspective of chasing out the entire looting capitalist elite from power across the country and their replacement by a workers and poor peoples' government that is committed, under working class democratic control and management, to using Nigeria's abundant human and natural resources for development and well-being of all and not just a few thieving millionaires and billionaires as under the present unjust capitalist system.
To be able to accomplish this task, the SPN urge the working masses to build a genuine working class and revolutionary trade union and a political party that is truly committed to the needs and aspirations of the working masses as different from the 'boss boy' trade unionism or the current labour party in existence which refuses to challenge the current system.

2 comments:

  1. you are invited to follow my blog

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  2. Thanks for highlighting pension scams. We can't allow anybody to play with pensioners investment. At any cost!!

    ReplyDelete