THE numbers of Nigerians living in poverty, in the midst of vast oil riches, has risen to nearly 61 per cent.
Poverty has risen sharply in Nigeria, with over 100 million people living on less than a $1 a day, despite the country’s economic growth and its vast oil wealth.
Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has reported that 60.9 per cent of Nigerians in 2010 were living in ‘absolute poverty’ – this figure had risen from 54.7 per cent in 2004. The bureau predicted that this trend is going to continue.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, cannot even refine its own oil for petrol – its vast oil wealth is merely exported by the major oil companies, who enjoy a double killing when Nigeria has to pay to import the refined petrol product.
While foreign oil companies make enormous profits out of this process, the job of the Nigerian government and state is to guard imperialist investments, through oppressing and suppressing the Nigerian masses, and actively working to keep them in a state of permanent poverty.
In return for this service to imperialism the top ten per cent are allowed a minor share in the oil wealth.
Even the NBS was able to see the explosive contradiction of a situation where the oil-based economy goes from strength to strength producing vast riches, while the Nigerian people get poorer and poorer as they are pushed to the limits of subsistence survival.
The number of people in poverty reached 17.1 million in 1980; by 1985 it was 34.7m, by 1992 it was 39.2m, by 1996 – 67.1m; by 2004 – 68.7m; and by 2010 – 112.47m.
There could be no greater indictment of imperialism and its Nigerian servants than these figures.
They also shine a very bright light on the achievement of the Libyan government of Colonel Gadaffi which used Libya’s oil wealth to create a country and a nation that enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa, far surpassing even South Africa, whose Black majority enjoy both bourgeois democracy and extreme poverty, a combination that seems to go hand-in-hand.
For the imperialists the very existence of the Libyan Jamahiriya was an affront, a major threat to the vast wealth that it steals from both the Nigerian and South African people, so Libya was bombed into submission, for the moment, and its leaders butchered. It remains a matter of life and death for imperialism to keep the Nigerian people in the most abject poverty.
It is this ever-sharpening Nigerian contradiction of enormous oil wealth produced by a nation of paupers that produced January’s general strike.
Millions went on strike, and the army and police forces could neither control nor defeat this powerful revolutionary movement.
The ruling class had to rely on the country’s reformist trade union leadership. It began what it called ‘a fight to the finish’ with the government and then recoiled with fear at the enormous response of its members and supporters, and all of the oppressed to its call to arms. In panic it sought to halt the revolution that was emerging, with a rotten compromise. In reality it created what will be a brief breathing space while the Nigerian workers reflect on what has happened.
The urgent lesson from that recent battle is clear. The Nigerian workers are much stronger than the government and the military but require a really revolutionary leadership to win the struggle.
A section of the Fourth International – the ICFI– must be built in Nigeria at once to lead the struggle, and end imperialist domination by establishing a workers and small farmers government that will expropriate the oil companies and hand over the oil wealth to the people.