With this new series of articles on Nigeria we plan to publish over the next few weeks news items on Nigerian Trade Unions disputes. We have received a series of articles from our Nigerian worker correspondents over the last few years and we are now making them available to our readers. Most of the news items are taken from the Nigerian Marxist journal, Workers' Alternative. They give a clear feeling of the militant mood of the Nigerian working class.
STRIKE NEWS: WORKERS ON THE MOVE!
In recent times there has been a rising incidence of workers' strikes in the country. This reflects the pent-up anger within society and the growing combativity of the Nigerian workers, who have been subjected to serious exploitation and oppression in the past period. The rising strike wave also reflects the desire of the Nigerian workers to defend their right to life, as their living standards are constantly under attack under this unjust system.
Following the killing of a dockworker by the Police sometimes in August over some frozen fish, the dockworkers' Union at Apapa Wharf embarked on a strike action. The workers were bent on ending the insane killings and harassment of their colleagues by the Police over the period; the pent-up anger was so enormous that the policemen involved had to flee. Moving swiftly to diffuse tension, the Police Authorities claimed that they had killed the policeman involved! However, there is no way of verifying this claim, as the Police were bent on covering up the issue. As a mark of solidarity, workers at the other Lagos docks joined the strike action embarked upon by the fellow workers. This action reflects the traditional militancy for which the dockworkers are known.
Departmental Shop workers also out on strike!
In another incident departmental shop workers in John Holt, U.A.C., Leventis, etc went on strike recently, to protest their starvation wages. Workers were protesting the non-increment of their salaries for quite sometime now. According to them their take home pay is nothing to write home about and this in spite of continued profits declared by the employers. The strike action seems to have been put-off for now.
Oyo and Lagos Transport workers on strike
In Oyo State commercial bus drivers went on strike and a protest march following the death of one of their members who was killed by a Policeman at a check point, following his refusal to comply with the demand for a twenty Naira bribe. The Police called it an "accidental discharge", and claimed that it had nothing to do with bribe collection; a claim the workers refuted. In Lagos the bus drivers also went on strike to protest the attempt by the transport touts to stage a come back, a plot the Lagos State government is involved in.
Public sector workers protest
In Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, etc, the public sector workers organised public protests against corruption under the Military State Administrators and demanded the removal of some top State officials who were notorious for their anti-worker stand and who incidentally were king-pins in the corruption scandals. There was also a lot of jubilation over the removal of some of the State Military Administrators, although they were merely transferred to other States by the Abubakar regime.
Okitipupa Oil Palm workers on 5-day strike
The mood for action was equally infectious at the Okitipupa Oil Palm Plc (OOPC) when its workers (members of the Agricultural and Allied workers' Union) embarked on a 5-day strike action from August 28 to September 2 1998, over non-payment of 3-month salary arrears. The strike, which was total, stopped production work at the Oil mill and at the farm estate at Igbotako, Ilutitun, Ikoya among others. Under the pressure of the strike action the management was forced to respond to the strikers' demand, by negotiating with the Union leaders, and agreeing to pay the arrears though in instalments, before the month runs out. The management had earlier said that there was no money at all.
Lagos State Tanker Drivers take strike action
The fuel tanker drivers once again, in a span of two months, went on strike, in September, this time to protest the killing of two of their colleagues by the Lagos State special 'security' outfit "Operation Sweep" operative at the Alimonsho area of Lagos. The killing was as a result of the driver's refusal to give a bribe to the men of Operation Sweep. In the process they shot and killed the driver and his assistant on the spot. This was not the first time this kind of barbaric action has taken place; there are numerous instances. The workers' strike forced the Lagos State Government to immediately order the arrest of the operatives involved in the killings, which is not the usual practice. However, the strike lasted for some days and the regime seized upon this incident as a means of explaining the fuel shortages. But this is their normal practice. In the days and weeks after the workers had called off their strike there has also been a fuel shortage, and whose fault is that? It is not the fault of the workers who had ended their strike but the fault of the regime, who were planning a fuel price increase and the owners of the stations who want to profit from such an increase.