by Helen Pattison, London Socialist Party
‘Hypocrisy’ was probably the most used word on the recent #BuhariMustGo protests in London. Having pledged to end the need for medical tourism, hated Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has once more left the country to seek treatment abroad, again in the UK.
Covid has exposed the deep crisis of healthcare in Nigeria. Having struggled on low wages and in dire conditions, doctors are now on strike to try and force the government to listen. They need decent pay and funding for resources.
While ordinary people worry about getting sick, getting treatment and losing family to Covid, Buhari has none of these worries. Thanks to his wealth, he can fly away whenever he wishes for healthcare, sometimes using public funds to fund the travel.
Hundreds protested in London. Socialist Party members at the protests were asked what Boris Johnson is going to do about Buhari being in London. We responded – very little. Boris Johnson can’t be trusted to stand with working-class and poor Nigerians against Buhari’s hypocrisy or corruption.
In the UK, the Tories have been responsible for the last decade of underfunding in the NHS. They tried to blame ‘healthcare tourism’ for problems in the NHS, but actually it’s a product of their austerity.
None of the problems faced by ordinary people in Nigeria – accessing education, healthcare and decent jobs – have been solved. Movements, like last year’s #EndSars against the corrupt armed wing of the police, will resurface as young people have no option but to take on the Buhari regime, and fight for a real alternative to corruption, oppression and poverty.
Nigeria: Abbey Trotsky on trial for assisting workers’ struggle
3RD MARCH 2021
Socialist Party members protested outside the Nigerian Embassy in central London on 22 February to protest against the ‘show trial’ of Abbey Trotsky – a leading member of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM – CWI in Nigeria) – that was taking place that day.
Abbey is charged with criminal conspiracy to commit a breach of the peace, unlawful assembly, assault and malicious damage. These trumped-up charges arise from solidarity action in support of striking casual/contract workers at Sumal Food Ltd on 2-3 October 2018. If convicted, he could face a jail sentence of up to 13 years.
The authorities are hoping that a prosecution will act as a deterrent for future solidarity action in support of oppressed workers.
In 2018, Abbey and DSM helped striking Sumal food workers win a 30% pay rise, a reduction in hours and the working week, overtime pay, more lenient sick leave, and the reinstatement of sacked employees.
Sumal accused Abbey of ‘inciting’ the workers against management. But it was the workers who invited Abbey to help, after the terrible role played by the rotten union leaders who collaborated with management.
The Sumal workers’ victory inspired a wave of protests for better pay and conditions among other Sumal workers and at other factories in Ibadan city in Oyo state.
Abbey was arraigned on 7 June 2019 following over three weeks of repeated harassment by the police and state secret service, known as DSS.
Between 19 December 2018 and 9 June 2019, Abbey was arrested five times by the police and secret service. Then, between 28 May and 7 June, he was forced to report weekly at the office of the AIG Zone 2 in Osogbo, Osun State, a neighbouring state.
If Abbey is convicted, the Socialist Party in Wales and England along with other sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) will be stepping up solidarity protests all over the world.
Tollgate protesters arrested and tortured
A peaceful protest called by activists on 13 February 2021, against the decision to reopen the Lekki tollgate to business was openly and brutally repressed.
This new repression, following widespread protests against police brutality last year, has unmasked the Buhari government in Nigeria as a major enabler of police brutality and repression. In fact, repression has actually increased since the end of the #EndSARS protest in October 2020.
The decision to reopen the tollgate was taken by the Lagos State Judicial panel of inquiry set up in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, last year, particularly the alleged shooting and killing by the army and police of multiple protesters occupying the Lekki tollgate.
This decision split the panel, with at least one youth representative, Rinu Oduala, quitting in protest and another, Barrister Ebun Adegboruwa, announcing he is “consulting with civil society to take a decision”.
A few days before the protest, the police authorities issued statements warning of brutal consequences. A faceless group called #DefendLagos also attempted to organise a counter-protest based on stoking sentiments alleging that any protest would lead to destruction and violence similar to that which occurred last year after state-sponsored thugs took over the streets following the October 20 Lekki tollgate killings.
Despite this, scores of protesters showed up on 13 February at the tollgate and were promptly rounded up and arrested, along with some passers-by. They were equally subjected to beatings and torture while in custody.
They were arraigned before a mobile court on a three-count charge of conspiracy, on conduct likely to cause a breach of public peace, and violation of Covid-19 rules. They were subsequently granted bail and ordered to reappear in court on 2 March.
One of those arrested is Moshood Oshunfurewa, Ajegunle (Lagos) branch organiser of the DSM and leading member of the Youth Rights Campaign (YRC). He is also the Lagos state secretary of the broad-left Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN).
He spoke of his ordeal: “Following my arrest while videoing others being arrested, I was able to secretly distribute leaflets to other detained activists right under the noses of the trigger-happy police. Some were inspired and asked questions on how to join the organisation. We were about 40.
The police were very vicious and violent towards the arrested protesters. Their agenda appeared to be to inflict as much damage as they could on us, knowing they cannot really prove any case of breaking the law against us.
They subjected us to torture. I was severely beaten in Adeniji Adele police station and sustained injury to my right eye. My phone was also damaged by the police who used their gun butts to smash the screen. Some other detainees had their phones smashed in similar manner.
Our statements at the police station were forcibly collected with the aid of blows and canes.”
See socialistworld.net for full report and updates.