Nigerian elections: PDP goons booted out

After 16 years of gross misrule and shameless corruption, on 28 March the Nigerian people finally kicked out the useless People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a cabal of thugs, murderers and thieves, following the 2015 Presidential, National Assembly, Governor and State House of Assembly elections. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and the world’s 13th largest crude oil exporter, yet inequality, unemployment and poverty are widespread and growing. Despite consistently high oil prices and economic growth at 6.5% of gross domestic product from 2008-2013, Nigeria’s oil income has been declining sharply due to blatant looting, putting pressure on state finances, foreign exchange reserves and the currency (naira). Despite manipulation and violence against polling units, officials and voters, as well as ballot-snatching and next day re-polling, the Nigerian people queued for hours determined to get rid of the PDP. It was a historic result being the first time the opposition had defeated the incumbent, who immediately conceded, avoiding a bloodbath.

Elections 2015

President Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) lost to his main rival General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – a former military ruler. The APC won the majority of presidential votes, with Buhari receiving 15.42 million votes (53.96%), to the PDP’s 12.85 million votes (44.96%) out of 29.4 million total votes cast, a 42.7% turnout. The APC also secured the majority of the seats in the National Assembly by winning at least 60 out of 109 seats in the Senate (55%); at least 214 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives (59.4%) and 19 of 29 state governorships to the PDP’s 7.

Violence and fraud meant elections were postponed in a few states. The PDP has blatantly rigged every election since the end of military rule in 1999. Due to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s attempts to improve voter identification and verification there was no evidence this time of centralised systematic fraud. Nevertheless election-related violence occurred all over the country, especially in the southern oil-rich states where attempts at massive rigging and blatant fraud were successful in returning PDP goons to local government, pending opposition appeals. There were over 80 deaths in 113 election-related incidents since January, including 30 people killed on polling day. The real scale of the PDP defeat is therefore greater than the official results indicate.

However, a series of failures including failure to tackle Boko Haram terrorism, plus exposure of government callousness following the kidnapping of the ‘Chibok girls’, and unparalleled corruption scandals, meant that the writing was on the wall for months preceding the poll. The PDP had tried to avoid the inevitable by first postponing the elections for six weeks using Boko Haram as an excuse. The APC is a coalition of four parties, including former PDP defectors, carpet-baggers and opportunists, formed to break the PDP stranglehold on Nigerian politics.

PDP’s legacy

Nigeria earns over $200m a day from oil sales. Yet at least 60% of the population (102 million people) live on below $1.25 per day (political manipulation of figures means that real poverty levels are hard to determine: the World Bank claimed last year it was as low as 33%). Significant numbers live just above that poverty line: in 2010 Unesco reported that 92% lived on less than $2 per day. National averages conceal high regional disparities, with 90% of the poorest people in the north. Life expectancy was 52 years in 2013, rising from 47 in 1990. 27 million suffer from Onchocerciasis (river blindness), which can lead to blindness. One million Nigerians are blind. 300,000 people die of malaria every year. 30 million suffer from hypertension. Four million are diabetic. Nigeria has the second highest HIV burden behind South Africa at 3.6% of the population. There have been limited improvements in infant and maternal mortality. The main causes of infant deaths are pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and neonatal causes compounded by under-nutrition and preventable diseases, about which PDP did nothing; most of the work was done by external aid agencies. In 2011, 36% of children under five were stunted; in the north 54% of children are stunted. There has been no major improvement in basic health or economic indicators since 1999 when PDP came to power, despite sky-high oil prices.

Foreign interests (IMF, World Bank) dominate the economy. In 1999, imperialist oil corporations urged Nigeria to sell its refineries. No new refineries have been built and the four existing decrepit refineries, now privatised, operate at less than 50% capacity, meaning Nigeria needs to import refined petroleum products from imperialist countries. Public sector workers and contractors are in salary arrears due to recent falling oil revenues and a looted treasury. There is weak electricity supply despite massive financial assistance (over $30bn), to the privatised power sector cartel. Total electricity supply as of 25 May is less than 1,400 megawatts (MW), down from 5,000 MW 30 years ago. By May 2015, Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves had fallen to $29.8bn from $62bn in September 2008. Between 2009 and 2014, 84 stock broking firms (N22.6bn), power companies ($1.3bn) and eight banks ($2.6bn) were bailed out due to massive home-grown fraud and not as a result of the global capitalist crash as was claimed.

A gulf exists between the value of oil production and the revenues remitted to the state, a $24.3bn discrepancy in 2012, plus a hole of $30.8bn in the balance of payments account in the same year. $1bn is stolen every month. An estimated $20bn-$50bn was stolen between January 2012 and July 2013, as exposed by Nigeria’s former central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, who was subsequently sacked. There is also a persistent monthly gap of $1.5bn in import/export data – $26bn in 2012-2013. Massive nationwide protests in 2012 of 10 million people forced the government to back-down on an attempt to withdraw a fuel subsidy. Investigation revealed that the so-called subsidy was a massive racket via which the treasury was looted. Some looted funds ended up in British banks. No one has been prosecuted for this massive theft. Britain and the US have backed the PDP thieves throughout the last 16 years. There is no mystery to Nigeria’s poverty. Good riddance, PDP.

Charles Chinweizu

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 245 June/July 2015

Nigerian Elections - Time to demand a fairer society

Nigeria’s presidential and general elections are scheduled for 14 February. The People’s Democratic Party has been in power since 1999. The dramatic drop in oil prices on the world market, and the escalating insurgency of Boko Haram mean these elections may be the first real opportunity for an opposition party to win. The All Progressives Congress (APC) is the main opposition party. However, many people from the northern states most affected by the insurgency will not be able to vote due to displacement. The Independent National Electoral Commission is considering excluding Boko Haram-controlled communities in northern Nigeria from receiving permanent voter cards. This will negatively impact on the APC, which has strong support in the north.

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Nigeria erupts in protest / FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

After years of pressure from the IMF, on 1 January 2012 the Nigerian government  removed a fuel subsidy paid to oil importers, causing fuel prices to rise by 117% overnight, from 65 to 141 naira per litre of petrol. The cost of food and transport nearly doubled. In response thousands of Nigerians took to the streets on 2 January, under the banner of Occupy Nigeria; by day four their numbers had swelled to 100,000. Nigerian trades unions called an indefinite strike starting 9 January. On 16 January the strike was called off after the government decided to keep the subsidy but at a reduced rate, which will still raise the price of petrol by 49%. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

The mass protests are about far more than the subsidy. Protesters want an end to the monumental corruption in the oil sector, and the resignations of President Goodluck Jonathan, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank Managing Director, and Petroleum Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke, a former executive director of Royal Dutch Shell.

Over 10 million people, Muslims and Christians, protested across the country and around the world. This solidarity was particularly noticeable in Kano, in the north, where the Christmas Day bombings of churches and government buildings by the Islamic group Boko Haram killed 43 people. Christians protected Muslim protesters at prayer from police attempting to disperse demonstrations and vice versa. It suggests that, despite continuing Boko Haram attacks (on 20 January, an attack on eight government buildings in Kano left at least 170 people dead) and reprisals in the south, where mosques have been bombed and over 10,000 Muslims have fled southern cities, the attempts by elements of the ruling PDP to use Boko Haram to sow religious division have had only limited success so far.

On 5 January, soldiers seized protest sites in Lagos and strategic cities on the pretext of preventing ‘misguided elements unleashing violence’. Earlier soldiers, police and vigilante gangs dispersed demonstrators using beatings, tear gas and live bullets. At least 20 protesters have been killed by police and hundreds arrested.

Poverty and suffering

According to UNESCO, in 2010 92% of Nigeria’s population of 155-159 million lived on less than $2 a day, with 71% on less than $1. Most poverty alleviation programmes, worth billions of naira, are mere direct transfers of cash to politically-selected beneficiaries. 41% of children under five have stunted growth due to acute malnutrition.

15 million Nigerian children perform hazardous work in mines, fisheries and agriculture or work as street vendors, and many girls are forced into commercial sexual exploitation. Many parents cannot afford to educate their children. Unemployment is 50% and youth unemployment at least 71%.

Local authorities have delayed increasing the minimum wage – from which businesses with fewer than 50 employees are anyway exempt – to 18,000 naira (£70) a month. An estimated 80% of Lagos’s 10 million workers are in the informal economy.

With no reliable electricity, most people rely on kerosene for cooking, and petrol to power generators for electricity, and for transport. Any fuel price increase will lead to more unemployment and poverty. Remittances from the US and EU diaspora, worth 4% of GDP, have fallen due to the capitalist crisis. Meanwhile the elites live in stupendous opulence and corruption is rife – for example, Nigeria’s public debt, wiped out in 2005, had mysteriously risen back to $35.3bn in 2010 despite booming oil prices. No wonder Nigerians have had enough.

NLC betrayal

The protests were more widespread and angry in the north, the poorest part of Nigeria, especially in Kano. State-wide curfews and a heavy security presence were imposed. Meanwhile in the south eastern oil-rich state of Bayelsa, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) organised no street protests ‘to prevent hoodlums from causing trouble’. 3,000 people held a pro-government counter-rally in the capital Yenagoa. In oil-rich southern Cross River state, market unions, taxi drivers and owners of petrol stations refused to strike. In south western Ondo state, the NLC pulled out of protests on 12 January over ‘fear that the protest might be hijacked and lead to a breakdown of law and order’, after NLC chairman Bosede Daramola met with ‘concerned’ state officials. Northern NLC leaders called on workers to ignore the NLC national leadership and continue with the strike, to no avail.

The NLC has played a dubious role  – calling a strike when it looked like the Occupy protests were gaining steam, then engaging in ‘fruitful’ negotiations with the government and calling a two-day break on Friday 13 January to allow protesters to ‘rest, restock and get re-energised’. NLC President Abdulwaheed Omar had said ‘we will continue with the strike until the government reverts back to 65 naira.’ Yet on 16 January the NLC called off the strike ‘to save lives and in the interest of national survival’.

In the past, the NLC was targeted by Nigeria’s dictators, its leaders arrested, tortured and assassinated. This left the road clear for opportunists to rise to the leadership. Hence, for example, former NLC President Adams Oshiomhole is now Governor of Edo state. Oshiomhole supported the subsidy removal. The NLC represents 4 million workers – out of a workforce estimated at nearly 51 million in 2010.

Oil corporations support corruption

Despite being Africa’s biggest oil producer, Nigeria imports refined petroleum products for domestic use, as only four refineries have been built since oil was discovered in 1956. The refineries were running at 11% capacity in 2009, down from 25% in 2008. Nigeria imports 59m litres of petrol daily while domestic consumption is only 35m litres. The cost of a litre of petrol is actually 40 naira.

The government has argued that the ‘subsidy’ benefited only profiteering oil importers and that part of the money saved could provide ‘safety nets for poor segments of society’ and to invest in infrastructure. But no one seriously believes that the National Assembly has the interests of the poor at heart.

Shell in Nigeria – a living hell / FRFI 216 Aug/Sep 2010

FRFI 216 August/September 2010

Shell in Nigeria – a living hell

Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell has operated in Nigeria since 1956 and has the largest foreign interest in Nigerian oil. The oil, drilled on land, in swamps and out at sea, is serviced by a network of mostly 40-year-old pipes that criss-cross the land and have made the lives of the people in the Niger Delta, where the industry is concentrated, a living hell. In the last 50 years an estimated 1.5m tonnes of oil have been spilled, the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez disaster every year. There are currently 2,000 official major spill sites, plus thousands of smaller ones waiting to be cleared up. In 2009, Shell admitted spilling 14,000 tonnes of oil, but blamed the victims, saying 98% of all its oil spills are caused by vandalism, theft or sabotage by militants. Local communities and environmental groups blame the rusting pipelines and storage tanks, semi-derelict pumping stations and old wellheads.

Shell operates in over 100 countries, but 40% of its oil spills occur in Nigeria. In addition, the practice of gas flaring is widespread in the Niger Delta. Only Russia flares more gas. Gas flaring produces thick plumes of smoke, releasing over 250 toxins including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, dioxin, benzene and methane. Nigeria accounts for 23 billion cubic metres of gas flared annually, equivalent to 30% of EU gas consumption, more than enough to meet the energy needs of Nigeria and the neighbouring countries. Gas flaring in Nigeria contributes more greenhouse gases than the rest of sub-Sahara Africa combined. As well as contributing to global warming, it produces acid rain that pollutes rivers and ponds, and damages vegetation. It also damages human health, causing respiratory illnesses, asthma, blood disorders, cancer and chronic bronchitis. For the 31 million people who live in the Niger Delta region, life expectancy has fallen to around 40 years. Deadlines for phasing out gas flaring have been ignored by the oil companies, despite a Federal High Court of Nigeria ruling in 2005 ordering that gas flaring be stopped because it violates fundamental rights to life and dignity. For a company like Shell that collaborated with the South African apartheid regime, the right to life and dignity means nothing; they would rather pay the insignificant fines than invest in the infrastructure needed to stop gas flaring.

And so in 1990 the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) began organising for political, economic and environmental justice. 300,000 people marched against Shell in 1993, where writer and MOSOP leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa stated ‘The march is against the devastation of the environment. It is against the non-payment of royalties. It is anti-Shell. It is anti-Federal Government, because as far as we are concerned the two are in league to destroy the Ogoni people’. Shell and the Nigerian government unleashed a murderous onslaught against the peaceful protesters. Soldiers and the Mobile Police Force (known as ‘Kill and Go’) were sent to the area, where they used Shell’s helicopters, speed boats and buses, and were paid ‘field allowances’ by Shell. This repression resulted in 2,000 Ogoni dead, 30,000 made homeless, and countless others tortured and raped.

In 1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other MOSOP leaders were framed and murdered by the Nigerian state, with Shell and the British High Commission colluding with the dictator General Sani Abacha. Shell was involved in bribing two witnesses, and told Saro-Wiwa’s brother in a secret meeting that they could help get him freed if they stopped the protest campaign abroad. Last year, after 13 years and numerous attempts by Shell to have the case thrown out, the lawsuit Wiwa v Shell was due to be heard in a New York court. Shell quickly reached a $15.5 million settlement to end the lawsuit. Shell reported earnings of $4.8 billion for the first quarter of 2010.*

Repression continues in the Niger Delta region to this day. Armed resistance by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta resulted in a 28% drop in oil production between 2006 and 2009, after which a ceasefire was agreed, only to be abandoned after three months because the Nigerian government refused to consider demands for local control of resources and land.

David Hetfield

* For more details of the evidence see www.shellguilty.com/evidence/ and www.shellguilty.com/learn-more/human-rights-abuses/

Nigeria: Imperialist thirst for oil devastates a nation / FRFI 192 Aug / Sep 2006

FRFI 192 August /September 2006

Decades of anger and frustration in Nigeria have exploded into war between the people, and their government and the oil multinationals, ChevronTexaco, TotalFinaElf, Agip and Royal Dutch Shell, who have grown fat on the exploitation of Nigeria’s resources. Charles Chinweizu reports.

British multinational Shell is the major foreign operator, through a joint venture with Nigeria’s state oil company, NNPC, controlling about 50% of Nigeria’s oil. 95% of this is extracted from the southern Niger Delta region, where the war is concentrated. The fightback has reached a more militant and organised phase. Resistance groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force and the Martyr’s Brigade, have emerged, calling for an end to ‘the criminal exploitation of the Niger Delta protected territory, in collaboration with imperialist Great Britain and the dubious occupation Nigerian state’.

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