COVID-19 Crisis in Nigeria: State Repression and the Left


Report by the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (RSV), Nigeria [Sympathizing section of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT)], 13th April, 2020.




The whole narrative of COVID-19 in Nigeria has done nothing but express the chaotic nature of living in every sense. It has showed the deep crises of the Nigerian left as well. This telling revelation would not be so visible were the lock downs not imposed. Following the partial lock down declared by the Federal government several state governments have imposed partial or total lock downs in their states. As earlier mentioned in our statement the rate of state repression, domestic violence and gender based violence has spread like wild fire. The number of casualties attributable to these now exceed the number of deaths recorded from corona virus (13 deaths so far while COVID-19 has caused 10 deaths). Crime rates have also soared with gang feuds now dominating the scene. In Nigeria gang feuds are usually a cover for armed robbery, and burglary.


It should be expected that in a country where almost half the population live in abject poverty lock downs without substantive palliatives would bring revolts. It also means that the common citizens would go into crime because people who eat from hand to mouth have been cut from sources of livelihood. Distribution of palliative and stimulus packages have been scant, it is hard to say whether one percent of Nigerians have gotten any relief packages despite reports of billions been donated to subdue the pandemic. This is because of the utterly corrupt Nigerian bourgeoisie and their minions who would rather split the funds amidst themselves than convert it to much needed relief for the people.


An interesting development is formation of local vigilante and community self defense groups to halt the activities of marauding raiders although these groups limit the scope of their intervention to fighting gang robbers and cultists, they have not been seen in any coordinated attempt to resist the lock downs.


However, the general confidence level amongst Nigerians for the ruling elite and the Buhari government is seriously waning, thus we can expect more revolts from various quarters of the citizenry. Today's presidential speech has indicated a two week extension of the lock downs. One can only expect such developments to deepen with time.


The acutely parasitic corruption of the Nigerian bourgeoisie has become a byword. Further they are confused and have begun to take critical steps to ensure their own survival like bringing in a group of medical personnel from China. At the same time too, like the imperialists they mobilize all available attention for COVID-19 so as to surreptitiously execute attacks against the people. These attacks range from hikes in tariffs such as electricity which is to begin on April 1; removal of subsidy for oil products and forced implement of the oppressive Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), an austerity scheme meant to narrow the earnings of civil servants etc. There has been dilly-dally over whether or not to provide free supply of electricity for citizens for two months but after privatizing the power sector years ago, the distribution companies still claim they need the approval of the presidency to supply tariff-free electricity in this period.


The importation of Chinese medical personnel has sparked serious discontent amidst the people, the killings for enforcing the lock downs more. Now the Nigerian government is in a frenzy to dance around for more attention by releasing lines for which undue aggression of state forces can be reported. The Minister for Health has just recently challenged the Chinese ambassador over racist treatment of Nigerians in China. Again all of these have been happening for years if not decades, so why is the response coming now?


As earlier stated the Left in Nigeria is in deep crises, while virtually all of the Left forces in Nigeria support the lock downs the inability to have a joint plan of action spells out underlying discord. The virus could have even made this discord more acute. Unsurprisingly, centrist and reformist tendencies of CWI like the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) support the lock downs and travel bans. Sadly, more radical petit bourgeois movements such as the Take-It-Back (TIB) movement also support the lock downs and travel bans. These leftists limit their criticisms to the collapse of the health sector and the failure of the government to distribute stimulus packages. While these positions are obviously correct they are lack practical way forwards since the people who should fight for these demands are under lock down. They defend the lock downs either with the bourgeois science of "isolation" or they invoke solutions from an imaginary scenario where trade unions are controlled by socialists. They say that lock downs implemented by trade union bureaucracies would be more progressive than one imposed by the government. Either ways they support lock downs and call for state of emergencies altogether.


The governments relaxed the lock downs during Easter periods and these leftists were the first to attack the move claiming it was to the end that more people will be infected so that they can embezzle more money. At most they are of the position that the pandemic must blow over before they begin action despite the fact that there are already brewing issues. One of which is the on-going indefinite strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) who joined them because of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). It is very much likely that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) will follow suit after the pandemic since they have been expressing loudly certain grievances with the fact that the IPPIS might have extended to them.


Although some bodies like Pan-African Consciousness Renaissance (PACOR) are now calling for a stoppage of the lock downs as they say it is Eurocentric, that is, it doesn't fit the realities in Africa. Yet there are lots of ideological inconsistencies with their position as a whole. Some individual activists have also pushed forward the same claim that the lock downs are not fit for the economic and infrastructural setting of Africa. We think that more of the organizations supporting the lock downs now will oppose it in the nearest future or the ones now opposing will it become popular and replace the traditional ones, at least for the current period. It is also possible that these left forces are pushed into action by random uprisings of the people themselves. We hope to collaborate on joint actions should any of the scenarios come into place.