Labour Unions Must Uncompromisingly Oppose This Daylight Robbery
The Nigerian government is hell-bent in taking Nigeria to an economic road to perdition with its rabid implementation of neo-liberal policies. The latest in the phase is the privatization of the state-owned oil refineries. If allowed, this policy will further worsen the already unbearable living conditions of the majority. It will imply the fate of working and poor Nigerians being determined by the profit interests of few capitalists. This therefore bring to fore the need for the labour movement, especially the in-house unions and the labour centres (NLC and TUC) to oppose this daylight robbery consistently and with organized mass actions
According to Benjamin Dikki, the Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) in Guardian newspaper (28/06/2014), government has concluded all arrangement to privatize the refineries, safe for the opposition from labour unions, especially National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers’ Union (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN). He further stated that the labour unions “want to be stakeholders in the privatization process” and that National Council on Privatization (NCP) has conceded some shares of the privatized firms to workers.
This to us in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is an attempt to buy working people’s long-term interests for a pot of mess. SPN calls on leadership of labour unions including NUPENG, PENGASSAN, NLC and TUC not to accept this fraudulent arrangement, as this will be jeopardizing the interests of the working people in the name of being stakeholders and partners in a gargantuan economic racket. . Rather than being partners with government in this privatization fraud, labour movement should declare civil mass actions including strike and mass protests, if government should go ahead with its plans.
Labour unions should not repeat the error made during the privatization of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), whereby labour unions were duped by the government in the name of worthless engagement and resolution of labour matter. We believe that the central labour matter is that workers and their unions must oppose privatization in principle as well as in action. Privatization of the electricity companies has neither improved electric power supply, nor has it led to improvement in the working conditions of workers. On the contrary, things have actually gotten worse. Aside power generation and supply dwindling in spite of huge profit the private buyers are making, thousands of jobs have been regularly axed by the private buyers. Many retrenched workers are still denied their entitlements, while many workers are currently working as casuals. In the face of all this failure, the private buyers, with direct support from government have hiked electricity tariff by more than 100 percent since the privatization in November 2013.
Therefore, it will be criminally shortsighted to believe against reality that privatization of the refineries can bring different outcome. It will be another monumental failure, with the working people paying the price. Subsidy fraud in which billions of dollars were looted by private businesses in conjunction with politicians and top bureaucrats reflects the fraudulent character of Nigeria’s capitalist class. Privatization of refineries will mean massive retrenchment of workers, casualization of labour, and deregulation of fuel prices, meaning pricing of fuels out of the reach of the poor and working people. On the other hand, it will mean concentration of wealth in the hands of a few rich. Selling a token of shares to workers will not halt these situations. It will on the contrary mean workers’ name being used to rubberstamp this mother of corruption that privatization entails.
We in the SPN call on labour unions to maintain a principled, consistent and uncompromising opposition to privatization of refineries, and privatization in general. Labour unions should demand public ownership and running of the refineries under democratic management of elected representatives of workers, communities, consumers and relevant professionals. While we agree that public corporations have been run aground, we contend that this is a product of the bureaucratic and undemocratic running of these public corporations. This has meant top bureaucrats in conjunction with corrupt politicians and their private sector accomplices turning these corporations to private cash cows. They are the ones have that milked these corporations dry, and they, acting along with their global capitalist backers, are behind the privatization project. With democratic public ownership and management, it can be possible to run the refineries in the interests of the working people, who are in the majority. It will also liberate the huge wealth being cornered by bureaucrats, corrupt politicians, big businesses and multinational corporations, for the improvement in living conditions of the majority.
Ultimately, labour movement need to build a political alternative to governments of privatization at all levels by crystallizing the formation of a genuine working people’s political platform with a clearly socialist program