Workers and the popular masses have suffered a continued massive attack on their living standards. This cannot continue, we have to build a mass popular campaign led by the labour movement to significantly reverse the massive increase in inequality. The alternative is a continued rise in abject poverty and destitution that will lead to increasing numbers of people to turn to individual solutions, that is crime and insecurity. We welcome the two day warning general strike next Tuesday and Wednesday as the first step of a mass campaign.

The economy has grown massively since 1999, so the wealth created by the workers each year is now at least three times higher in real terms. However, we also know that workers are much poorer now and the minimum wage will only buy a fifth of the amount it could in 1998.

Despite popular or received wisdom, the economy is not in crisis. Working and ordinary people may be reeling from the effects of the recent neo-liberal measures imposed by the Tinubu government, but rich pickings are still flowing to the elite. The economy has actually grown steadily at around 3% for the last three years. As a result it is expected to double in size over the next 18 years. Unless we change the situation all the benefits will continue to flow to the rich elite.

Most Nigerian banks are doing so well that they have volunteered to give their staff substantial pay increases. Polaris Bank, for example, doubled their staff salaries in July. The following graphs shows the rapid growth of the Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index, especially since April 2020, since when it has tripled in value and is now standing at record levels. This shows the confidence of the private sector in Nigeria.

In the first half of this year the monthly FAAC meetings shared more oil money to the Federal and state governments than in any year since 2013. In the first six months of this year they shared 18% more than the first six months of last year. The oil income is expected to grow in the coming months by another 50% due to the ending of the official rate of exchange. Governors have more than enough money for them to follow the banks and give all their staff a decent pay increase. In addition, in mid-August, the Federal Government announced a N5 billion relief package for each state, including the federal capital territory (FCT).

We welcome the general strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) next Tuesday and Wednesday as the first step of a massive campaign against the rise in the price of petrol (and so the general cost of living), for a decent minimum wage and a reversal in hike of tuition fees in universities. These  are steps that will make a difference to millions – not just a few sacks of rice distributed to the supporters of politicians. We also need the trade union leaders to take action in each state to ensure that palliatives are translated to real benefits for the workers and not just distributed to the governors supporters.

Federal workers in ministries received a N40,000 increase early this year, this was later extended to FCT workers. This needs to be extended to all public sector workers, as a minimal first step. This was demanded by the Chair of Kwara State in their May Day address. In mid-July, the governor of Imo State, approved the increase of minimum wage of workers in the state to N40,000, a similar increase was announced by Edo State.

The governor of Lagos directed the general hospitals to offer ante-natal and birth services — both normal and C-section — for free. He also increased the salaries of state workers by 20% from the beginning of 2023.

The fact that various governors are making concessions to working people with little or no mass pressure shows that the ruling elite are really weak and afraid. The news of military coups overthrowing civilian autocracies in nearby African nations has penetrated the cobwebs of their consciousness. Now is the time for working people to organise and press for much more.

We welcome the call by the NLC for a general strike next Tuesday and Wednesday. But this can only be the first step of a massive sustained campaign of real trade union action. We call on all our members and supporters to actively support this strike. They should contact their local trade union branch officers and their state NLC offices to find out what is being organised locally and help to popularise this action.

  • Strike and protest on Tuesday and Wednesday!
  • For a decent minimum wage for all!
  • Reverse all hikes in university tuition fees!
  • Reverse recent fuel price increases!
  • Pay arrears of salary and pensions in relevant states!
  • End “no work – no pay”; pay the ASUU strikers & others from last year!

Biodun Olamosu, National Secretary, Socialist Labour


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