As a measure to enforce the takeover of Transmission Company of Nigeria, part of the assets of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), by Manitoba Hydro International Ltd, a Canadian firm, the Goodluck Jonathan government has deployed armed soldiers to the headquarters of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) since Friday, July 20, 2012. As against the position of the Nigerian Army that this constitutes a "routine exercise", this is part of deliberate strong-arm tactics being employed by the anti-poor Jonathan regime in its blind drive to completely sell off the PHCN to private sharks.
The Democratic Socialist Movement joins the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in the call for immediate withdrawal of the troops deployed to the facilities of the PHCN.
The electricity union has called for the full payment of the 25 percent pension and gratuity deduction before the transfer of the company to private profiteers and rejected the argument of government of 15 percent as basis for the payment hinged on the fraudulent argument of the Pension Act, which is not tenable. Aside the fact that gratuity was not abrogated in the Pension Act; the 25 percent deduction is a collective contribution of workers for several years. We hold that the struggle for full implementation of pensions and gratuity must be linked to mass resistance against power privatization.
NLC anti-privatization protest in 2011, photo: DSM
This latest onslaught is the continuation of government’s neo-liberal agenda to hand over essential public assets to imperialist hawks. Contrary to the naïve expectation that privatization will bring the desired improvement in electricity generation and distribution both of which have collapsed over the past decades due to mismanagement by the corrupt bureaucracy running the power sector, this will definitely not be the case.
In reality privatization will see electricity priced beyond what the vast majority can afford. A foundation for this has already being laid with the recent hike in electricity tariff which government ministers and spokespersons have justified as an action meant to guarantee ’profitability of investment’ in the power sector.
On the basis of the profit-seeking logic of capitalism, electricity supply will not be determined by peoples’ needs but those who can pay. This would mean several residential communities in the big cities and rural areas populated by working class people and the poor would on this logic be put at disadvantage. Private companies that would be in charge of electricity distribution after privatization should be expected to be readily prepared to market electricity to industrial areas and rich residential communities where profit is assured instead of poor communities. The case of rural communities which has concentration of poor people promises to be more tragic. Even when government was in charge of the power sector, several rural communities have not been electrified over 5 decades after independence! In a situation where profitability would determine supply and availability of electricity, this would mean the continuous consignment of several rural communities to stone-age conditions.
We urge NUEE and the NLC to demand the nationalization of the power sector under the democratic control of elected representatives of the electricity union, consumers and the broad layers of the working masses that can implement a genuine plan to electrify the country. This is a total opposite to the current messy quagmire in which PHCN as a public corporation is administered by an unelected management, without any democratic control by the workers’ unions, consumers’ bodies and community associations, who use the opportunity of being on the boards of these public corporations to amass personal wealth and cripple them in order to sell it to themselves.
We call on electricity workers to reject the ongoing exercise by government to unbundle the PHCN and embark on mass layoffs. We hold that the only clear and genuine working class strategy in the struggle against privatization is for the leadership of both the NLC and NUEE to reject privatization in its entirety and build a nationwide mass movement to fight for the nationalization of the power sector under the democratic control of the working people themselves. This entails running electricity supply as an essential social service with the activities of PHCN under the democratic control of communities’ associations, workers’ unions in the sector and electricity consumers.
The planned privatization of the power sector is a new attempt by the same political parasites in power to hand over the public assets of PHCN to themselves. Vice-President Namadi Sambo owns Manyatta Engineering Services Ltd which has gotten the contract to build 330/132 Kv power transmission lines and Umuahia sub-stations; Senator Okon Aribena (owner of Arik) is the contractor handling Aloji Power Station; Roseline Atu nee Osula reportedly fronts for Obasanjo as MD Ziglasses and Obasanjo himself owns Sun Electric based on his farm town, Ota.
To further confirm the fact that the privatization of power will not translate into better power supply, since 2005, 20 private power companies have been issued licenses, yet none of them has so far been able to add a single megawatt of electricity to the national power grid. This includes Geometric Power Ltd located in Aba owned by Professor Barth Nnaji, the current Minister of Power!
NLC anti-privatization protest in 2011, photo: DSM
Pentascope, a private company which took over the management of NITEL completely wrecked it, without payment of arrears of pensions and gratuities to NITEL pensioners ( this is a warning to electricity workers!) and Rusall, a Russian firm which has gotten its license revoked through a court action at the Supreme Court for wrecking APSCON, a privatized aluminum factory.
Therefore, the military clampdown on electricity workers gives a peep into the post-privatization scenario wherein there will be mass retrenchment of electricity workers and non-implementation of pensions and gratuity. We call on rank-and-file electricity workers not to for a minute sustain illusions in any "benefits" of privatization exercise as being advocated by government but build democratic strike committees to resist takeover of their workplaces. We call on the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) to break from further illusions in negotiations on the privatization of the power sector and build a nationwide mass movement in the workplaces across zones and the states to resist the planned takeover of PHCN facilities.
We hold that no amount of "industrial relations negotiations" between organized labour and government over the privatization of the PHCN can guarantee the best interests of the workers in the power sector. On this basis, we demand that the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to immediately withdraw from the National Council on Privatization and build a nationwide mass movement among electricity workers and the entire working masses in general for the full implementation of pensions and gratuities, total resistance against power privatization and against the hike of electricity tariff hike.
We call on the leadership of NUEE to also link the ongoing struggle of electricity workers against power privatization with the struggle against hike in electricity tariff hike. This is necessary in order to forestall the isolation of the struggle of electricity workers. Electricity workers can only win by building mass support among the broad layers of the working masses for their struggle by leading mass resistance against attacks on power consumers, which the electricity tariff hike represents. Therefore, we call on the leadership of NUEE to undertake mass actions through their zonal and state branches with mass production and distribution of leaflets and pamphlets, clearly explaining the basis of the struggle of electricity workers and linking it with rejection of electricity tariff hike.
We call on both NUEE and the NLC in particular to embrace a clear-cut genuine democratic socialist alternative and build an encompassing mass movement against privatization and other neo-liberal capitalist attacks and fight for the nationalization of the power sector and other commanding heights of the economy under democratic working class control. These neo-liberal measures including the latest attempt to hand over oil wealth to imperialist capital through the Petroleum Industry Bill need to be resisted by the NLC and the TUC as against current support being given to the Bill by the leadership of the labour movement. We call for mass actions, sit-ins, occupations and strike actions against all these neo-liberal attacks and also demand that the NLC and TUC to call a ONE-DAY WARNING GENERAL STRIKE NOW against the planned power privatization, mass layoffs in the banking sector, non-implementation of N18,000 minimum wage, electricity tariff hike, etc.
It is only through a revolutionary overthrow of the current iniquitous capitalist arrangement in which tiny ruling elite steal the collective wealth at the expense of millions of working and oppressed people, which holds no future but a journey of mass misery, job losses and unemployment, that can democratically redistribute the collective wealth of society to meet the needs of all. Therefore, the mass resistance against these neo-liberal attacks needs to be linked with the building of a mass-based and democratic working people’s party armed with a clear socialist programme that will bring into power a revolutionary workers’ and peasants’ government that will place the commanding heights of the economy under democratic workers’ control. This would enable the democratic drawing up of a plan to use all Nigeria’s resources to begin the transformation of the lives of the majority. Such a democratically-run planned economy will be under the control of elected representatives of workers, youth, students and professionals as against the horrible experience of the bureaucratic economy of the former Stalinist states of the Soviet Union as well as contemporary failure of capitalist state –run enterprises, which is exemplified by the failure of PHCN, NITEL, NNPC, etc.
The building of such a mass genuine pan-Nigerian working people’s party will require the reclaiming of the trade unions from pro-capitalist bureaucratic leaderships at all levels and rebuilding them as fighting mass organizations democratically controlled by the rank-and-file.
As an important step in this direction the DSM has come up with the initiative of a party called the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) which puts forward a clear democratic socialist programme. We call on workers, youth artisans and oppressed people as well as left and socialist organisations in struggle against neo-liberal attacks to join the SPN in building a mass fighting socialist political alternative to all the pro-rich parties (ACN,PDP, CPC, etc.).The SPN will seek to spearhead the building a nationwide mass movement from below against power privatization and neo-liberal measures like the PIB in pushing for immediate political transformation of Nigeria from the current capitalist nightmare of mass poverty amidst plentiful resources into a democratic socialist polity that can meet all the essential and genuine needs of society.