The indefinite general strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress against the recent fuel price hike announced by the Obasanjo regime has been suspended after two days. The reason given by the NLC leadership was that this was because of the High Court ruling declaring the strike illegal (see below). This strike was called at very short notice early in the New Year. To the surprise of many trade union leaders this action was a massive success with only one state out of the 36 in Nigeria not observing the strike.
DSM members report: "In Lagos it has been 100% successful. For example it is 4 o’ clock in the afternoon here and there has not been a single commercial bus on the roads all day. Abuja, the Federal capital has been reportedly paralysed and even Kaduna, the Northern capital and the industrial and financial capital of this part of the country has been brought to a standstill." The extent of the strike shows that if a lead is given then a working class struggle can cut across national, ethnic, and tribal divisions that exist in countries like Nigeria.
The strike brought to the surface all the anger amongst the masses against the worsening economic and social crisis and continuing corruption amongst the elite. It is also an expression of the deep disappointment at the failure of the "democratic" regime of Obasanjo to improve the situation.
The Nigerian section of the CWI, the Democratic Socialist Movement played an important role in the movement as the report indicates. Earlier in January, the NLC leadership despite their previous attacks on the DSM invited us to attend their NEC meeting to plan the strike. Over 1000 worker activists took part in this meeting. Six national newspapers subsequently reported our role in supporting and helping to organise the strike.
The Obasanjo regime declared the strike illegal and has since ensured that this was backed up with a court ruling in their favour. As a result police arrested Adams Oshiomole, NLC President and eight other trade union leaders. Throughout the country over 83 people were arrested for organising the strike.
This has included DSM members. Demola Yaya, the Labour Organiser for the DSM and a member of the NLC mobilising committee was arrested after addressing an open air meeting in a working class community. He was subsequently released. Two students, one of them a DSM member, were arrested for organising a protest at the Agricultural University, Abeokuta against the fuel price hike. These students have been released after being charged with "civil disturbance". An appeal letter will be circulated to sections shortly on this issue.
Even more seriously police banned an open-air rally organised by the DSM on 17 January in Lagos. Fifteen armed police occupied the meeting area and refused to allow the meeting to go ahead.
Proposals for action
Despite the suspension of the strike, the CWI is calling on all its parties and organisations as well as trade union branches and activists to organise letters of protest demanding the release of all arrested trade union leaders and activists. We are also asking for pickets of the Nigerian embassies internationally to be organised early next week – and on Monday if possible. The following demands should be raised:
No to the fuel price hike
For the release of all arrested trade union leaders and activists. For the dropping of all charges against those arrested during the strike including DSM embers.
For an end to state repression. Support the right of freedom of assembly and association. No bans on political meetings.
For a party of the working people in Nigeria. For a socialist Nigeria to end the poverty, corruption and mass unemployment of the current regime.
Please send all letters of protest to the Nigerian embassy in your country.
Send copies of the letters to:
The Nigerian Labour Congress:
Please make sure that when you send copies of your protest letters you mention that you heard about the strike from the DSM in Nigeria. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and Fax: ++ 234 1 5840 288
Democratic Socialist Movement and the CWI:
Please act on this urgently,