Emeka Okafor; Raji Adebayo; Tor Vande-Acka; Sule Tahir; Nicholas Uwerunonye; Apata Oyeniran; Sulaiman Fasasi
They threatened to shut down the country if the Federal Government refuses to sign and implement the renegotiated agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 2009.
Public universities have been shut for more than five months over unresolved issues of poor welfare and underfunding of the institutions between the various universities workers’ unions and the Federal Government.
Following the continued closure, NLC called out its affiliates across the country to embark on nationwide protest to force the government to act fast.
In Ogun State, labour on Tuesday vowed never to allow charlatans to govern the country or be in charge of the education sector again.
The NLC and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in Ogun State stormed major roads in Abeokuta, the state capital, to protest the over five-month long strike by ASUU.
The protest which disrupted commercial activities in the state capital was staged in almost all the major roads.
Scores of protesters, who stormed major roads in Abeokuta, were armed with placards with various inscriptions like, ‘Can’t you see our sufferings?’, ‘Must we be wiped off as a people before you decide to be reasonable?’, ‘Refine the refineries’, ‘Nigeria at 60 years of independence, more hunger in the land than ever’, among others.
While speaking during the protest, the NLC chairman, Emmanuel Bankole, threatened that workers would not hesitate to shut down the country should the government refuse to honour the agreement it signed with ASUU.
He also accused the Federal Government of a systematic attempt to destroy university education in the country “just as they destroyed government owned primary and secondary schools across the country.”
The state Chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Damilola Kehinde, bemoaned the Federal Government, saying Nigerians have been quiet for too long.
Honour Your Agreement With ASUU, Ortom Tells FG
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, has advised the Federal Government to honour its agreement with ASUU. While the governor said Benue was in support of the solidarity strike embarked upon by NLC to compel government to meet ASUU demands, he stressed that the continuous closure of universities was “unacceptable”.
Governor Ortom gave the advice while addressing members of organised labour who had earlier marched through the streets of Makurdi, the state capital, and terminated at Government House, Makurdi. Represented by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Tony Ijoho, the governor urged the Federal Government to revisit the issue of the no work, no pay rule on the striking ASUU members.
He said, “I wish to commend the NLC for embarking on the protest. For over five months our children have been home and since then, the Federal Government is not doing anything about it.
Benue State government is fully in support of your action and we will communicate this to the Federal Government.
“As far as we are concerned, this strike sun call edfor. You(FG) entered into an agreement with somebody (ASUU); go and honour the agreement, if they have issues, please discuss with them.
“We can’t have a situation whereby we lock up our universities; it’s going to six months now, this is unacceptable.
” Earlier, the state NLC Chairman, Godwin Anya, presented the letter by the NLC leadership to the representative of Governor Ortom.
While he stated that the strike has lingered due to “the insensitivity of the Federal Government”, he said it was time to end the strike, which he described as “madness”.
Amid uncertainty, the national protest called by NLC to protest the continued closure of public universities and seek better funding for varsity education in Nigeria commenced in earnest in Lagos.
As early as 8a.m on Tuesday, hundreds of protesters had converged on Ikeja ‘Under bridge’ in Lagos while others that comprise various organised labour unions moved from the Labour House in Yaba to join the protest.
Daily Independent reports the heavy presence of security operatives across major parts of the city including Ikeja, Ojota (Gani Fawehinmi Park) and Ikorodu Road, among other places.
In Lagos, the protesters walked from Ikeja to the government secretariat at Alausa in Ikeja carrying placards bearing various protest messages.
Some of the inscriptions read, ‘Stop the looting, tax the rich and subsidise the poor’; ‘Recall all sacked lecturers’; ‘IPPIS destroys our universities, adopt UTAS now’; ‘Let’s change the narrative, make our universities the best in the world’, among others.
In her message during the rally, Chairman of the NLC, Lagos State Council, Mrs. Funmi Sessi, lamented the disenfranchisement of the youths by the current administration and warned the government to expect the frustration of the masses if they refused to put an end to the ongoing strike.
Comrade Sessi said, “Our statement is simple. This is just a warning action. If the government fails to conclude all the negotiation and agreement with all the workers in our tertiary education within the time frame of two weeks that they have promised to conclude.
“They will witness more protests and rallies all over the country, they will also witness the annoyance, anger, and frustration of Nigerians.”
Sessi added, “This government has pushed so many Nigerians into depression. We say enough is enough, we can no longer bear this hardship again.”
Besides, the human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, who joined the protesters lamented that the standard of living by Nigerians under President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is “getting worse by the day”.
He urged Buhari to recoup money stolen by corrupt Nigerians to fund the revamp of tertiary education in the country, saying such looted funds from 10 looters would make far-reaching impact to revitalise the sector.
Abia State council of NLC led other affiliates in the protest in the state. In his brief remarks, the ASUU coordinator for Owerri zone, Dr. Uzor Onyembinama, said, “As we speak, we have rolled out five agreements.
We are shocked to hear from the Minister of Education, saying that there is no agreement reached between the Federal Government and ASUU”.
Addressing members from affiliate unions, state vice chairman of NLC, Comrade Hope Ekwuruibe, thanked them for turning up for the nationwide protest in solidarity with ASUU.
According to the labour leader, the solidarity was in compliance to a directive from the national secretariat to join in the nationwide protest.
At the Government House gate in Umuahia, the vice chairman of NLC presented a letter to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Chris Ezem.
Various labour unions in Oyo State joined their counterparts across the country to embark on solidarity protest over failure of the government to yield to the demands of ASUU.
The protest started at the state secretariat of the NLC in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital.
Some of the unions and associations that were part of the protest included members of ASUU, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), NUPENG, JUSUN, SSANU and NASU, among others.
In Jigawa State, no fewer than 17 affiliate trade unions participated in the peaceful protest. The protesters marched from the NLC state office to Government House, Dutse.
Addressing Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, the state NLC scribe, Comrade Abubakar Alhassan, said, “The prolonged closure of our varsities without reaching an amicable solution is a source of concern to all and sundry.
The closure has devastating effects on our educational growth and development. The situation calls for prompt action”.
He asked the governor to convey their plight to the appropriate authority for a lasting solution. Responding, Governor Badaru Abubakar promised to convey their grievance to the appropriate quarters, appealing to them to exercise restraint in considering the enormous challenges confronting the nation.
NLC Stages Solidarity Rally In Ilorin
The NLC in Kwara joined its national body to stage a rally to press home the demands of ASUU.
The workers, who carried placards with various inscriptions such as, ‘There is only one way forward, honour our agreement’, ‘National protest to get our children back to school’, among others, marched around Post Office, Challenge, A-Division, Round About and terminated at Government House on Ahmadu Bello Way, Ilorin, to submit their letter to the state government.
Speaking with journalists at the NLC secretariat in Ilorin, the Kwara State chairman of the union, Comrade Aliyu Isa- Ore, said the rally was organised in solidarity with ASUU members.
He said the Federal Government had signed an agreement with ASUU some years back on university revitalisation and other sundry issues.
Comrade Isa-Ore said if the Federal Government refused to heed to their demands after the rally, the union will go on a three-day warning strike.
In a separate remark, the chairman of ASUU, University of Ilorin, Prof. Moyosore Ajao and Chairman of the National Association of Academic Technologists Union, Comrade Awolola Femi, commended the NLC for supporting their course. Prof. Saliu Ajao noted that university workers’ demand was legitimate.
“Let the government tell us which of our demands are not legitimate.
“We have the right to ask for what we deserve. “Is it our salary that has not increased since last thirteen years or our demand for government to make infrastructure available? “We are not robots. Treat us like humans and save our children from idleness at home,” he said.
He also explained that the struggle belongs to the entire nation and not ASUU alone.
The chairperson called on Federal Government to address the lingering strike to save students from becoming public nuisance.
The NLC in Bayelsa State, on Tuesday, mobilised its members to stage a peaceful solidarity protest in support of ASUU.
The NLC members, led by the state chairman, John Ndiomu, chanted solidarity songs and marched along the Mbiama- Yenagoa Road from the OMPADEC Junction at Amarata to the gate of Government House in the Onopa area of Yenagoa, where they were received by Governor Douye Diri.
They were joined in the protest by members of the ASUU, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and students of tertiary educational institutions in the state, among other affiliated labour unions.
In his address, Ndiomu urged Governor Diri to prevail on the Federal Government to end the problems in the country’s universities as the strike action in the education sub-sector required his intervention.
He said, “Your Excellency, the strike, as you already know, is over the non-observance by the government of the agreement it voluntarily entered into with the unions.
It has also been about imposition of IPPIS on the university unions to which they have taken objection with credible reasons.
“We are dismayed by the Federal Government’s reluctance to take the necessary steps that could lead to the peaceful resolution of the issues in dispute and, by extension, end the strike.”
Ndiomu stated that the solidarity rally was the first in the series of actions to be taken by the NLC to compel the Federal Government to do the needful, adding that “the next will be a three-day warning strike and, then, an indefinite strike.
“However, we find it appropriate to appeal to you to use your good offices and good conscience to get the Federal Government to bring to an end this strike action.
The immediate will be the payment of the withheld salaries of the university staff.”
The chairman of ASUU at the Niger Delta University (NDU), Tonbara Kingdom, lauded the NLC for supporting the struggle of the union, saying that ASUU was delighted over the solidarity demonstrated by Nigerian workers.
He said, “We are very happy that this time around the Nigerian working class has risen up to support the struggle of ASUU.
This struggle is not just (about) ASUU against government, it is a struggle of the working class against the ruling class. So, we are very happy.”
Kingdom pointed out that ASUU was engaged in the struggle to save the education sector from total collapse, stressing that university teachers were supposed to be paid reasonable wages.
Addressing the protesters, Governor Diri assured them that he would certainly convey their message to the presidency in Abuja in writing and other legitimate means to ensure that the face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU was resolved.