We called this press conference to state the positions of the United Action for Democracy (UAD) on the Global Financial Crisis, its implication for our country’s foreign reserves trapped in the Western imperialist banks; and to popularize the campaign for the repatriation of the foreign reserves for meaningful social development.
1. Events in the last six weeks of the global crisis of capitalism manifesting in the bankruptcy and collapse of western imperialist banks and cartels have confirmed the correctness of our consistent campaigns against the neo-liberal economic policies adopted by successive regimes in our country. The economic agenda of the Nigerian State since the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP) in the 80s and its reform policies of Vision 2010, NEEDS 1 & 2, and Vision 2020 rest squarely on the neo-liberal paradigms authored by the IMF, World Bank and WTO. Thus, there must be genuine concerns and demand by patriotic Nigerians on the fate of Nigeria’s foreign reserves of $63 billion idling (or probably missing) in the distressed US economy.
2. The Nigerian State would soon be compelled in dictates to the IMF-World Bank’s “interim measures” to bail out the distressed banks, and thereby plunder the so-called foreign reserves, with some shares of it looted and laundered into the accounts of the Iboris, Odilis, Igbinedions, Yar’Adua’s rent collectors, etc. Nigerians may soon witness another rehearsal of Fela’s reminiscence of “oil money missing, missing; and enquiry don close”.
3. Few months before the bubble burst in the Western banks, the Nigerian Stock Exchange market has been collapsing because there were never real investments to back up the manipulated claims of the previous booms in the market. The effect is that investors’ money is trapped with heavy losses. But the likes of the Obasanjo’s Transcorp and other crashing cartels would be the beneficiaries of the reserves in the guise of bailing the distressed sectors out; while the Yar’Adua lame-duck presidency would pass the costs of the capitalist greed to the ordinary people in form of hike in the prices of petroleum products. Nigerians do not deserve to suffer, and its reserves should not be used to rescue those who have been swindling them through privatization and concessioning of public enterprises, and pseudo foreign investments.
THE POSITION OF THE IMPERIALIST IDEOLOGUES ON THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS
In an apparent disguise of the real magnitude of the crisis, leading capitalist and US economic ideologues such as Gary Becker (1992 Nobel winner in Economics and a professor of economics at the University of Chicago) have admitted even in their begging arguments that: “although it is the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, it is a far smaller crisis, especially in terms of the effects on output and employment. The United States had about 25% unemployment during most of the decade from 1931 until 1941, and sharp falls in GDP. Other countries experienced economic difficulties of a similar magnitude. So far, American GDP has not yet fallen, and unemployment has reached only a little over 6%. Both figures are likely to get quite a bit worse, but they will nowhere approach those of the 1930s.
Defending the emergency measures adopted by the US Government, Becker stated that: “the main thrust of the new banking law allows the Treasury Secretary to purchase bank assets up to $700 billion in order to increase the liquidity of the banking system. These assets are of uncertain worth since there is essentially no market for many of them, and hence they have no market price. The government hopes to create this market partly through using auctions, where banks would offer their assets at particular prices, and the government would decide whether to buy them.
Even in trying to conceal the failure of Global capitalism and its inevitable demise, Professor Becker shot himself in the foots by saying: “Although I admit to having greatly underestimated the severity of the current crisis, I am confident that sizable world economic growth will resume before very long under a mainly capitalist world economy”.
On 11th October 2008, The Independent of UK reported that the Washington’s hosted IMF Conference of world's finance ministers and central bankers has consented to a “bank rescue plans” geared towards: “an internationally coordinated cut in interest rates and a pledge of billions of dollars in assistance from the IMF for distressed economies”. The paper further exposed the capitalist frauds when it reported that: “The unparalleled turmoil in the world's financial markets has pushed America and the world's other leading economies to agree to a programme of part-nationalisation of their banks that would have been considered unthinkable a few months ago”. To underscore the magnitude of the crisis, The Independent stated: “the official action is designed to match the scale of the crisis. It has witnessed a destruction of wealth unprecedented in human history: some $25 trillion – that is $25 million-million – wiped from the value of the world's stock markets so far this year, and $4.6trn (£2.7trn) of that in the past week alone”.
Beyond the $700 billion bail out to its banks, the US Government is adopting other desperate measures. British Government talks of £500 billions. However, the revelation by The Independent that the “West's banks are so weak that they will not even lend to each other for a day” is instructive of why our country’s foreign reserves should be repatriated immediately. For instance, the Paris Club (we never borrow money from) knew when to drain Nigeria
with the corrupt indulgence of Obasanjo-Okonjo Iweala in 2005 of over $12.4 billions in the pretence of foreign debt cancellation questionably owed to it. Nigerians must insist that this is the time to ask questions on the $63 billions; because in all the meetings of the imperialist looters of G7 and G20, Nigeria and other underdeveloped countries are never a part, decisions are taken and imposed on them.
THE PEOPLE’S ALTERNATIVE TO THE GLOBAL CRISIS
Concerned Nigerians (including comrades’ journalists) and patriots all over the world have inundated us with dispatches on what should be the demands by the working people. The UAD largely shares most of the concerns, and this informed the demands we make below. Therefore, we urge LASCO, ANSA, NSF 2008, and the Labour movement to commence immediate mobilization around these demands:
1. Major investment in public infrastructure: Yar‘Adua’s Independence Day Speech said that Nigeria has $63billion in foreign reserves (sitting in US banks). This money should be used for massive investment in public services, hospitals, schools, roads and rails, electricity generation and distribution. THE MONEY MUST NOT BE USED TO SERVICE THE SELFISH INTEREST OF THE FEW SUPER RICH INVESTORS IN THE NIGERIA STOCK EXCHANGE.
2. No charges for public services: There should be free education at all level, including books and meals. Free health care for all, including medicines. Proper access to safe water and electricity for all. Chapter 2, paragraph 18 of the 1999 Constitution states that: “Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy, and to this end, Government shall provide free, compulsory and universal primary education, free university education, and free adult literacy education”. We believe that Nigeria has the capacity to invest heavily on public education and primary health care if its resources (human and material) are free from the hostage of the neo-liberal global order.
3. No Fuel Price Increases Now and at all times: The starting point is to build more refineries and proper maintenance of the existing ones so that oil can be refined locally and not imported at world market prices; and available at affordable prices. LASCO should meet urgently and declare a warning strike against the impending fuel hike.
4. Increase the minimum wage to at least ₦50,000: The ruling elites have awarded themselves jumbo pay increase of over 250% in the last one year in the face of untold hardships confronting Nigerians. NLC and TUC should meet immediately under a joint negotiating committee to demand a new minimum wage. Section 16 of the 1999 Constitution states that “Government shall ensure a national minimum living wage”. Nigerians must rally behind Labour to insist that the wages of the political office holders should be immediately abolished and its demand for wage increase negotiated alongside the minimum wage for the working class.
5. Stabilisation of Basic Food Prices: Nigerians must resist the unbearable cost of living.
6. Pay the Teachers Promptly and Adequate Funding of Education: Teachers in all the states should be paid their increments in the TSS from 1st January 2009. States must ensure adequate funding of the public schools, while private schools’ teachers should be paid the full public sector salaries.
7. No to Privatisation: Nigeria is not for sale. All privatisation of parastatals should be stopped. State owned enterprises should be run to provide basic services, while all privatised public industries such as NITEL, NPA, etc should be returned to the state without compensation.
8. No to Corruption: Proper investigation of all cases of alleged corruption. Those found guilty to return all the funds, banned from public office for life, and a minimum jail term of 25 years. Anything short of these corrective measures amount to diversion and deception by EFCC and ICPC.
It is imperative in the light of the present crisis for LASCO, ANSA, and parties of the Left to join forces in crystallizing a Working People’s Party as the fighting political platform, both for electoral contests, and the reversal of the anti-people neo-liberal economic policies. Only a working people’s party committed to the people can ensure the full realization of the above demands. The apathy that greeted the recently held LG elections in Lagos State has once again conclusively demonstrated that the ruling cliques irrespective of their political coloration cannot deliver on the expectations (“dividends of democracy”) of the people.
ABIODUN AREMU TAIWO OTITOLAYE
Convener General Secretary