6 July 2000
In the last two days events have taken a dramatic turn in the struggle for a
higher minimum wage in Nigeria.
On 4 July Ayodele Akele, leader of over 40,000 striking Lagos State workers
and a leading Democratic Socialist Movement member, was seized by men
claiming to be from the State Security Service (SSS). However the next day
the State denied having arrested Akele, stating that his disappearance was
an attempt to prolong the strike. Akele is Chair of the Council of
Industrial Unions (COIU) which called the strike in Lagos State.
Akele was kept in a secret venue and told that he was being held to ensure
that the strike would come to an end. Later he was informed that the
stoppage was over.
However the opposite was the case. The death of a striking worker, Adigun
Popoola, the next day enraged the Lagos strikers and, along with Akele's
abduction, reinforced their determination. Popoola was killed during a mass
protest outside the Lagos State Secretariat in Alausa. The attached article
from today's Lagos Vanguard newspaper shows how the police attempted to stop
him reaching hospital. Now four workers arrested yesterday (5 July) have
been charged with arson and accused of attempting to burn down the State
Eventually after being held around 31 hours incommunicado, Akele was
released by his captors at around 4 am this morning (6 July) on the
outskirts of Lagos. However his abduction sets a dangerous precedent in
Nigeria. This is the first time under the new civilian administration that
the seizure of an opponent of the ruling regime has not been admitted.
Nigeria could now be joining the list of those countries where activists
"disappear" or are dealt with by "death squads".
Yesterday the Lagos State Government went on a renewed offensive, singling
out the Democratic Socialist Movement, the CWI's Nigerian section, and its
General Secretary, Segun Sango, for attack. The attached Government press
release gives a flavour of the attack. However this is not just a media
campaign. Behind the scenes there is talk in government circles of how to
"deal with" Segun Sango and the DSM, a party which has been growing rapidly
in recent months.
Since the Lagos State strike began on 22 June the State Government has waged
a propaganda campaign to try to isolate the strikers. The hypocrisy has been
incredible. The State Commissioner for Information claimed last week that
the "union leaders are fighting for the elite" in demanding a 7,500 Naira
(US $75) monthly minimum, yet his monthly wage is 77,000 Naira ($770) plus
allowances and expenses. Clearly these top officials are the real elite,
fighting to defend both themselves and the capitalist system they represent
at a time when increasing numbers of Nigerians are disappointed with the
results of their first year in office.
This propaganda campaign has not worked. Indeed nationally the struggle has
spread. By 3 July workers in 12 of Nigeria's 36 States were on strike
demanding a higher minimum wage, along with the railway workers.
It is in this situation that the Lagos State government has resorted to
trying to intimidation, the same tactics the military used when Akele was
previously detained by the SSS in 1996.
Comrades are asked to urgently raise protests against this kidnapping, the
killing of Adigun Popoola, the arrest of four Lagos workers, the threats
against Segun Sango and the DSM, and declare their solidarity with the
They should be sent to:
Senator Bola Tinubu
Lagos State Secretariat
President Olusegun Obasanjo
The Executive President
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Fax: + 234 9 523 2136
Local Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions.
Copies to the DSM in Nigeria (email@example.com) and the CWI office.
Donations are urgently needed. Monies for the trade unions should be sent to
the CIU (Campaign for Independent Unionism), PO Box 858, London E11 1YG and
those for the DSM to the CWI office.
CWI Protest Letter
Statement By Lagos Trades Unions
Democratic Socialist Movement leaflet on wages.