Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Nigeria victim of fraud shock

  Was Nigeria the victim of a 419 fraud, or advance fee fraud?

We’re shocked, shocked we tell you to find that an African country appears to may have been the victim of a scam. Our faith in capitalist enterprises seeming not to be models of virtue, rectitude and probity in their dealings with capitalist states has been deeply shaken. To take advantage of a government like that goes far beyond the pale.

For new readers to SOYMB, let it be noted that the above is sarcasm. Capitalism as a whole is a cut-throat social system that would leave seventeenth and eighteenth pirates gasping at its audacity.

‘ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A London judge on Monday overturned an arbitration award that would have required Nigeria to pay $11 billion over a failed gas project, finding the contract was obtained through fraud.

The High Court ruling by Justice Robin Knowles reverses the award to the British Virgin Islands-based Process & Industrial Developments Ltd. over the 2010 gas deal. The payment would have dealt a massive blow to Nigeria’s ailing economy.

The judge said although he did not accept all of Nigeria’s allegations discrediting P&ID and the contract, “the awards (of the contract) were obtained by fraud … and the way in which they were procured was contrary to public policy.”

Knowles said three things showed the case as an “irregularity”: P&ID providing evidence it knew was false in a witness statement, the company’s bribery or corrupt payment to a Nigerian civil servant and the company’s ”improper retention” of Nigeria’s legal document which it received during arbitration.

P&ID in 2017 secured the compensation award, which originally was $6.6 billion but is now estimated to be $11 billion with accrued interest. The company’s main claim in the arbitration was for loss of profit for the 20 years the agreement covers.

The contract signed with Nigeria's government in 2010 was for the company to build a gas processing plant in the south eastern port city of Calabar. The project collapsed not long after it was signed, and P&ID took the Nigerian government to arbitration, alleging a breach of contract.

Nigerian officials said the contract was signed under questionable circumstances while late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was critically ill and Goodluck Jonathan, his deputy, was acting president. Officials accused P&ID of bribery and corruption in securing the contract and during arbitration, which the company denied.


Saturday, October 28, 2023

Workers have no country


Foreign Minister Pandor made a similar sttement last year: ‘As South Africans, we find similarities in our past with the Palestinians, and now I remember the funeral of Shereen Abu Akleh and what happened to her coffin. It reminds me of the gravesites that we had to carry out under the persecution of the apartheid soldiers’ (South Africa calls for holding Israel accountable for ‘inhumane conditions’ Palestinians live under, Middle East Monitor, 17 June, 2022).

In May that year Nokuthula Mabaso, an Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) leader was buried following her assassination in front of her children. She was the third activist of the shack dwellers’ movement to be killed in less than two months.    To date, 24 Abahlali activists have been killed.   Members of AbM are thus well acquainted with the state as a coercive machine of class oppression and likely know the fairytale Freedom Charter adopted by the ANC in 1955 envisaged a post-Apartheid South Africa where ‘The police force and army… shall be the helpers and protectors of the people’, ‘the right to be decently housed’ enshrined and ‘Slums shall be demolished …‘.   AbM are credited with starting UnFreedom Day, which coincides with the official South African holiday called Freedom Day, the orthodox annual celebration of the country’s first non-racial democratic elections of 1994. On the 16 August 2012 17 workers were killed and 78 wounded by the police in the Marikana Miners’ Massacre, the most lethal use of force by South African security forces against other workers since 1976. Worse still, former President Mbeki’s support for alternative remedies such as vinegar rather than antiretroviral drugs saved the state’s funds at a cost of at least 300,000 lives. 

And ‘More than two decades after South Africa ousted a racist apartheid system that trapped the vast majority of South Africans in poverty, more than half the country still lives below the national poverty line and most of the nation’s wealth remains in the hands of a small elite’ (NPR, 2 April, 2018) led by billionaire Ramaphosa.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Republic of Congo higher fuel costs due to IMF


In the Republic of Congo, diesel prices have risen by 25 percent in October, marking another increase following a hike in January. Similarly, since July, the pump price of gasoline has also surged by 25 percent.

Authorities in Brazzaville attribute the soaring fuel prices to recommendations made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2019 under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF), which provided financial assistance to the Republic of Congo, grappling with a severe economic crisis and unsustainable debt (more than 80% of the GDP). Among the IMF-recommended reforms was the removal of fuel subsidies.

However, the Congolese branch of What You Pay coalition (PCQVP) vehemently opposes these fuel price increases.

"We have the right as an oil-producing country to sell petroleum products at lower prices in our nation. Why are we asked to sell these products at the same price as on international markets? Are we not capable of refining petroleum products for our domestic consumption to eliminate the need for subsidies? If we can refine oil for our local use, then subsidies will vanish," said Brice Mackosso, deputy chairman of PCQVP coalition.

"We believe that the fight against corruption in the oil sector will bring sufficient revenue to the State's budget. We call for the prohibition of petroleum product exports. We urge the government to consider a report from the ITE of Congo and the International ITE Secretariat on fiscal modelling, showing that the Republic of Congo loses about $1 billion annually due to high costs, tax prices, and the threshold of high costs" added Brice.

The Congolese government has implemented a series of measures to mitigate the impact of potential inflation, which would be particularly detrimental to the population. However, the Congolese civil society believes that the of addressing this crisis remains the fight against corruption.’


'It was during this period of beating about the bush for economic direction that the IMF and the World Bank joined in the fray. They came along with a novel package that was going to miraculously propel African economies to the highest degree of development. This new policy was the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). This SAP idea condemned the previous method of development as unworkable and maintained instead that making structural changes, including the expansion and re-orientation of production, was the only way forward. African nations were to put the production of “non-traditional exports” and tourism into a higher gear. Thus in a country like Ghana where the traditional exports were mainly cocoa, timber and gold, under the SAP crops like pepper, pineapples, yams, maize, and oranges were to be turned into cash crops and exported. SAP also stipulated that private capital was to be the “engine of growth” and that “governments have no business doing business”. It did not however take long for the people to understand that they were once again fooled by official policy. Hardship and suffering increased a thousandfold. The masses had been moved from the frying pan into the fire.’

From the Socialist Standard October 2001


Pity the Continent

If ever a continent cried out for justice, for help and, more, for Socialism, it is Africa, a land of 30 million square miles, 54 nations, a thousand languages and 642 million people; a land geographically as rich in diversity as it is in fauna and flora; a land organically as rich in oil and coal as it is in gold and diamonds, and yet, paradoxically, the poorest continent on Earth.

For over a hundred years a spectre has haunted Africa — the demon of world capitalism that sees Africa only as a source of profit, cheap commodities, a gullible market for western exports and an easily exploitable population ruled by corrupt leaders.

The age of overt colonialism may have gone, when the European powers raped and carved up Africa, each with vested interests backed up by huge armies, but now there are new colonists who can do ten times as much damage with the flick of a pen — the World Bank and the IMF.

In ten years, loans given by the IMF and the World Bank have tripled Africa’s debt burden to $180 billion — a figure that represents more than Africa’s aggregate net income. Debt repayments currently stand at $11 billion a year — a staggering four rimes more than what Africa spends on health and welfare.

Since the mid-1980s, African governments have repaid the IMF $2 billion than they have received in loans — a system that is so severe that every adult and child in Tanzania and Zambia owe their nations' external debtors twice their yearly earnings.

African governments secure loans unwittingly to the detriment of their respective nations because they believe this is the only way to domestic stability. Most are forced into accepting loans on terms and conditions regarding policies they would not have hitherto adopted: the privatisation of state-owned industries, the introduction of new constitutions and drastic reductions in public expenditure which hit health and education programmes the hardest.

In the past ten years about 30 African nations have come to regret the acceptance of IMF and World Bank advice. Living standards have dropped by two per cent annually, while unemployment has quadrupled to 100 million, with real wages falling by 30 percent. Africa is now worse off than it was 25 years ago. The June issue of New African declared that "the average African has 10 percent less food to eat than twenty years ago”.

The Guardian (20 July) reported how "in myriad cases, bank projects, supposedly targeted at the poorest of Africa’s poor, not only increased inequality and hunger, but exacerbated ethnic conflicts . . . Across Africa, projects funded by the bank have become synonymous with financial mismanagement, environmental degradation, the displacement of vulnerable populations and corruption”.

Eighteen African nations are amongst the world's poorest 20, 30 amongst the world’s poorest 40. Africa with eight times the land area of the USA and twice its population has only one percent of world trade, while American capitalists are top of the world trade league. In 1991, the total GNP for Africa south of the Sahara, excluding South Africa, was $204.7 billion — only slightly higher than that of tiny Belgium with a population of 10 million. Within six years 300 million Africans will be living below the subsistence level.

Myth of overpopulation

Africa has a population of 642 million. Considering Africa is three times the size of China, it has one sixth the Chinese population per square mile. Yet some experts point to African overpopulation as one of its problems. This is pure fallacy. While 50 percent of Africans are undernourished, it is widely known that the continent is capable of sustaining a population several times its present size were Western farming methods applied there.

While millions were dying in the Ethiopian famine eight years ago. the Ethiopian government were exporting thousands of tonnes of lentils to the West. In 1991, Zimbabwe was forced, by the World Bank, to sell one million tonnes of surplus grain to meet debt repayments. A year later a drought hit southern African cutting Zimbabwe’s grain output by 60 percent, with disastrous effects.

If anything, the problem facing Africa is western capitalism. Shortages of food and overpopulation do not even enter the equation. Guy Arnold, writing in New African in September believes "an enormous deception has been practised upon Africa since I960. It is that all the interference by the World Bank, the IMF and the Paris Club has been for Africa’s advantage".

"Africa", Arnold says, “ is not at all interested in such donor prescriptions, but is obliged to accept them because it is heavily in debt and debt is a primary instrument of control."

This is an intrinsic fact of capitalist society: the wealthy control the poor.

Africa is a land of plenty and only Socialism could truly release its productive potential to the benefit of its people. For a hundred years the West has carved up Africa, diseased its flesh and drained its life-blood. Reforms and loans will only ever be the sticking plaster over the gunshot wound.’

John Bissett

From the Socialist Standard October 1994


Thursday, October 19, 2023

Guinea-Bissau: Unpaid bill punishment. Electricity turned off.


It’s reported that ‘The lights went out in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, after a Turkish energy company cut off power supplies over an unpaid debt of $17 million, Economy Minister Suleimane Seidi announced on 17 October.

According to the official, the state-owned Electricity and Water Company of Guinea-Bis

It’s reported that ‘The lights went out in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, after a Turkish energy company cut off power supplies over an unpaid debt of sau, which owes the arrears, was due to pay $15 million of the debt within 15 days.

“Karpower has agreed to renegotiate with the government to ensure that the backlog does not become a problem,” Seidi told reporters, acknowledging the arrears.

Karpowership is one of the world’s largest electricity operators and owner of a fleet of powerships supplying several African states. According to its website, the Turkish company, which is part of the Karadeniz Energy Group, has provided 100% of Guinea-Bissau’s electricity needs since 2019.

“Unfortunately, following a protracted period of nonpayment, our (floating power plant) is now unable to continue operating,” a Karpowership spokesperson said in a statement.

“We are working around the clock with officials to resolve this issue, and we aim to have generation back online as soon as possible,” the company added.

In September, Karpowership turned off the power supply to Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, due to an unpaid debt of about $40 million.’

Eighty Three per cent of population lives in extreme poverty.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Sudan. 'Humanitarian nightmare' happening


Whilst the world is focused on the horrors in the major conflagrations presently taking place in the world which are affecting thousands of innocent children and adults, there are other ongoing frightful events taking place.

‘The armed conflict in Sudan between the military and rival paramilitary groups has killed up to 9,000 people and forced over 5.6 million others to flee their homes in the past six months, the UN said on 15 October.

Half a year of war has plunged Sudan into one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history,” Martin Griffiths, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said in a statement, adding that “25 million people are in need of aid.”

Intense fighting broke out in the African nation’s capital, Khartoum, on April 15 after months of tensions between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) chief General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

The fighting has spread to other parts of the Sahel nation, including the already conflict-torn western Darfur region, where Governor Khamis Abdullah Abakar was assassinated in mid-June for allegedly accusing the RSF of genocide.

According to Griffiths, “civilians – particularly in Khartoum, Darfur, and Kordofan – have known no respite from bloodshed and terror for the past six months.

Horrific reports of rape and sexual violence continue to emerge, and clashes are increasingly taking place along ethnic lines, particularly in Darfur,” the UN humanitarian chief added.

Last month, the UN and the World Health Organization said that repeated attacks on hospitals and medical teams in Sudan had worsened disease outbreaks and fatalities.

They claimed that between mid-May and September, more than 1,200 children under the age of five died in refugee camps in Sudan’s White Nile state as a result of a lethal combination of a suspected measles outbreak and severe malnutrition. Health facilities have been overwhelmed due to a lack of staff, life-saving medicines, and critical equipment, the UN and WHO added.

On Sunday, Griffiths said at least 45 aid workers had been killed or detained since the conflict began, and that “almost all of them are national staff.

The UN has urged Sudan’s warring factions to comply with international humanitarian law and to protect civilians, allow aid, and recommit to dialogue to end the conflict.

In August, RSF chief Dagalo expressed a desire to reach a long-term ceasefire agreement with Burhan as part of a strategy to end the conflict and build a “new Sudan.” The RSF proposal was rejected by the army chief, who stated that he would not “make deals with traitors.”’

Also see article in the Guardian 3 October.


Is anyone seriously giving any thought to the question, won’t someone think of the children? Children all across the world are increasingly victims of conflicts and the capitalist system. How much longer are we all prepared to let that continue?

As the writer of the Socialist Standard article (below) articulates, this is insanity and ‘The real trouble for the people of the Sudan is the profit system, and the only future which can hold anything worth while for them—and for everyone else—is Socialism all over the world.’’

Children's deaths in the Sudan

‘More than 1,200 children under the age of five died in refugee camps in war-torn Sudan between mid-May and September as a result of a lethal combination of a suspected measles outbreak and severe malnutrition, the United Nations and the World Health Organization have said.

The deaths occurred in Sudan’s White Nile state, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and WHO said in a joint statement reiterating their concern about the “worsening” health situation in the African country as a result of fighting between rival army groups since April.

Over 3,100 suspected cases of measles and high malnutrition, as well as more than 500 suspected cases of cholera, have been reported in other parts of the country, according to the UNHCR teams.

Health facilities are overwhelmed because of shortages of staff, life-saving medicines, and critical equipment, the organizations said, adding that repeated attacks on hospitals and medical teams have exacerbated service delivery challenges, worsening disease outbreaks and fatalities.

“…dozens of children are dying every day – a result of this devastating conflict and a lack of global attention. We can prevent more deaths, but need money for the response, access to those in need, and above all, an end to the fighting,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said local health workers, with assistance from the WHO and its partners, are making every effort under “very difficult conditions” to prevent more fatalities and the escalation of outbreaks.

“They desperately need the support of the international community to prevent further deaths and the spread of outbreaks. We call on donors to be generous and on the warring parties to protect health workers and access to health for all those who need it,” Tedros insisted.

The conflict that erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15 has killed more than 7,000 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Last month, (August) aid agency Save the Children reported that at least 498 children in the North African country, including two dozen babies at a state orphanage, had died as a result of food shortages and the closure of nutrition centres caused by fighting.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Tuesday, the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) spokesman James Elder estimated that thousands of newborns will die across the war-torn country by the end of the year.

“Every month 55,000 children require treatment for the most lethal form of malnutrition, and yet in Khartoum less than one in 50 nutrition centres is functional,” Elder was quoted by AFP as saying.’

The Future of the Sudan

‘Commentary on the recent coup d'état in the Sudan has been curiously limited. It is true that the seizure of power in mid-November by a military council was accomplished in unspectacular bloodless fashion; nevertheless, the overthrow of a government in so close proximity to the centre of recent world troubles ought, one thinks, to have made bigger news. Even the serious informational papers had not much to say. The Observer provided only 26 column-inches about it in two issues and the Manchester Guardian, though it gave most of all, did so largely in reference to the northern cotton market.

The reason is not hard to see. Events are quickly told, but the commentary on them must depend chiefly on their consequences—and the consequences of the Sudan happening are not yet apparent. The new government is politically unrevealed so far, and what fresh relationship may arise between the Sudan and the western world is still unknown. General Abboud may take the stage as a second Nasser to be hissed for a foxy schemer from the galleries of the west, or contrariwise as the golden-haired lad bearing freedom’s banner. For that, we must wait and see.

What is much more to the point is to ask what has happened and why. Briefly to go over recent events, the coup was announced on November 17th. The coalition government of Abdullah Khalil was known to be on its way out. Its two factors, the People’s Democratic Party and the Umma party, were in disagreement over the Sudan’s relations with Egypt: mainly, it is said, over fresh Egyptian plans for the Aswan High Dam made in the light of the proferred Russian loan. The new régime, in which General Abboud holds supreme power, announced itself as working “in the interest of no party or group” but aiming at “the elimination of incompetence and corruption among politicians in general,” with a hint about knowing the way to good terms with Egypt (Manchester Guardian, 18th November, 1958).

This has come in the face not only of Egyptian pressure, however, but also of economic troubles. The Sudan is a cotton-producing country. Eighty per cent of its exports are of cotton (largely to Lancashire), and the present condition of the world’s cotton markets has meant a huge unsaleable surplus, stated by the Observer correspondent in Khartoum to include 48.000 tons left over from 1957. Under the Anglo-Egyptian regime big sums were invested in irrigation projects and plans for government-assisted peasant production to develop the cotton yield, so that the Sudan is dependent always on world prices for its staple crop. Before the war the Sudanese people were considered better-off than the natives of most other colonized parts of Africa; now the country’s economy is in a critical phase without much prospect of improvement.

The growth and the varied outlooks of the Sudanese political parties have come partly through economic development and partly from the patterns set by the fifty-eight years of joint British and Egyptian rule which ended in 1956. The history of this companionate rule is in fact a series of quarrels over who should really rule a country which bordered the Suez canal and enclosed the upper Nile. The existence of pro-British and pro-Egyptian parties comes from this period, when each of the dual rulers tried to create its own body of support in the Sudan. The Umma is descended from the Mahdi’s followers who drove out Turco-Egyptian rule and is thus traditionally anti-Egyptian; the P.D.P., on the other hand, is an offshoot of the National Unity Party which has always seen advantage in alliance with Egypt.

As in all other colonial countries, a powerful vein of nationalism appeared with the vista of economic independence that the development schemes afforded. (It is an irony of imperialism that the leaders of nationalist movements are produced by the imperialists’ own needs for officials, technical assistants and the rest of the new “middle classes” which this stage of economic progress must turn out.) All the Sudanese parties, including the “Socialist” National Unity Party and the Anti-Imperialist Front (the Communists) are shot through with this strong desire for “national independence,” and the new military government lost no time in stating that it did not differ from them. The day after assuming power. General Abboud said his regime would “accept anything it considered in the interests of the country, but would reject anything which might harm its independence and sovereignty.”

The truth is, however, that the Sudan cannot be independent except in the nominal sense of not being any other nation’s colony. The change which has just taken place was forced by external conditions and happenings, and the policies of the Abboud government—even the vague ones which were immediately announced—are bound to be determined almost wholly from outside. The resuscitation of the limping Sudanese economy depends on, more than anything else at the present time, the government’s negotiations with Egypt and (a not-unconnected matter) its success in playing-off America and Russia to attract loans from either or both. On November 30th the Foreign Minister announced that “foreign capital without strings would be welcomed.” and that his government had already taken 15 million dollars' worth of foreign exchange from America (Manchester Guardian, 1st December. 1958).

The outstanding questions between Egypt and the Sudan are the Aswan Dam project and the frontiers. To the Egyptian government the Dam, with its promise of irrigation and electric power, is vital for maintaining the economy (with its already desperate population problem) and making the economy maintain the army. Now, with the promise of Russian aid. it appears within reach, but there must first be agreement with the government of Sudan. From Egypt’s point of view a compliant Sudan would be the answer; Mr. Khalil, indeed, alleged in London last September that there were forces working to this end within the Sudanese government. For the Sudan, on the other hand, agreement can only mean a share in the benefits of the Dam.

What of the Sudanese people? Here, when one asks this question, stands forth a remarkable example of the stupidity and cruelty of commercialism and nationalism. For the Sudanese people are desperately, pitifully poor. In nearly three years of “independence” they have been governed by the National Unity “Socialists,” a coalition, and now the military—and none has made a scrap of difference to their poverty. It is worth pointing out that the Egyptian people have had the same experience: they were poverty-stricken under fat Farouk, and are equally so under Nasser. What have the political pretensions of their government done for them?

Assuming, however, that the building of the new High Dam would lighten these peoples’ burdens, the approaches to it have been made entirely in terms of not those but the rulers’ interests. First, there has to be money—obvious enough, but in itself a condemnation of the entire modern world where the need is pressing, the materials and labour plentiful, yet the fulfilment must wait on the djinn of this idiotic Aladdin’s lamp. When it was offered to Egypt by the West, the offer was based and then foundered on considerations of political advantage in the cold war. Now it appears again from Russia, with similar considerations in view (while a team of “American aid experts ” descends on the Sudan).

Who, then, cares about the Sudanese people? It is not that this or the preceding governments, or the government of Egypt, is deliberately negligent; on the contrary, it would be to the rulers’ benefit to have the support of prosperous and satisfied populations. The Sudan, however, has been pulled into the whirlpool of Capitalist world politics. From a colony in the once-majestic scheme of British imperialism, developed to make its cotton contribution to British trade, it has become another nation forced to struggle for advantage in the pitiless dogfights of world markets and big politics.

The future of the Sudan is bound up in the future of the world. Economic development and political contact have opened the windows for this country on the amenities of modern civilization, hence the nationalism, the reformist politics, and the anxiety to benefit by “getting in” on the bigger powers’ calculated generosity. Ideally, the Sudanese people stand to gain in every way from contact and interchange—in a word, “progress.” But modern civilization is far from ideal. Whatever progress is made will be directed at furthering only the interests of the property-owners of the Sudan: the important thing to recognize about the Abboud regime is that, whatever is said about ending corruption and the rest, this is its prime aim. However good a proportion of the High Dam potentialities is obtained for the Sudan, the sad fact is that the Dam is really wanted as a source of power and profits for the commercial class.

There is no sanity in this. It is not only in the Sudan, but everywhere; this small flare-up illumines a little more of what is going on all over the world. Nationalism and the political game are impediments to genuine productive development, standing in the way of what could be done by man for man—but they are parts of the superstructure of Capitalist society, which limits human activity to what will yield the best profits. The real trouble for the people of the Sudan is the profit system, and the only future which can hold anything worth while for them—and for everyone else—is Socialism all over the world.’

Robert Barltrop

From the Socialist Standard January 1959