SOME labour unions in Lagos, Kaduna, Plateau and Oyo States on Tuesday held a protest over the delay in resolving issues that led to about six months closure of universities in the country. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) called out workers for the protest in solidary with labour unions in universities currently on strike over dispute on the implementation of a 2009 agreement with the Federal Government. In Lagos Labour staged a peaceful protest in solidarity with the strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. The members of NLC occupied the Ikeja axis of Lagos to ask the Federal Government to yield to the demands of ASUU over its ongoing strike embarked upon on February 14 in the country. The police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps have deployed personnel in critical infrastructure and facilities in response to the strike.Labour members, other unions, and civil society groups are gathered under the bridge axis in Ikeja. Vehicular movements towards the protest venue have been disrupted. The score of protesters who stormed the street carried placards with several inscriptions such as ‘‘Nigeria at 60 years of independence, more hunger in the land, etc. In Kaduna, the state branch of the NLC called for immediate resolution and opening of the universities.
One of the Placards reads ‘Stop importation of petrol revive the refinery” Another placard read, “Reduce the cost of governance now, save the masses from poverty and hunger.” One of the Placards reads ‘Stop importation of petrol revive the refinery”
In Kaduna the state NLC Chairman, Ayuba Sulaiman, who led some of the protesters to the State House of Assembly, solicited the support and intervention of lawmakers to resolve the impasse. According to him, the Federal Government’s paralysis and reluctance to take necessary steps to resolve the issues led to the prolonged strike. He said that the NLC had taken steps to intervene, adding that, “although this elicited some response from government, it was tokenistic and not sufficient.” Responding, the Speaker, Kaduna State House of Assembly, Yusuf Zailani said the lawmakers were not happy with the situation and pledged to intervene. Zailani, represented by the Deputy Speaker, Auta Zakari, said nobody was happy seeing the students at home loosing valuable study time. We are not happy with the situation and hope the Federal Government will address the lingering issues in the shortest time possible,” Zailani said.
In Jos, labour unions and students joined the protest organised by NLC and the Trade Union Congress. Plateau NLC Chairman, Eugene Manji who addressed the protesters said there would be no future for the nation without education, hence the imperative to get students back to school. “The fastest way to kill a nation is to first kill its education and that is what our leaders are doing. Some of our students are laying waste at home, while some only God knows what is happening to them. Virtually everybody in this country is affected by this prolong strike action, and nobody seems to feel that something wrong is happening in the country,” he added. According to him, if the government fails to heed to university workers’ demands, the organised labour would shut down the country indefinitely.
Mr Timnan Rimdap, Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, Plateau State University Bokkos, claimed that the government was not sincere in its negotiation with the unions. Rimdap, who is also North Central Zonal Secretary of the union, said there was no meaningful progress in resolving the issues since the university workers embarked on the strike. Chairman, Civil Liberties Organisation in the state, Mr Steve Aluko said education is a right and bedrock of development, as such all stakeholders must work to salvage the education sector from collapse.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, the protesters matched through Agodi-Gate, Total Garden and ended at the State Government Secretariat carrying placards with different inscription and singing solidarity songs.
The state TUC Chairman, Mr Ogundiran Emmanuel urged the government to resolve all issues with regards to the 2009 agreement with ASUU, so as to quickly reopen the universities.
According to him, ASUU’s demands would reposition tertiary education in Nigeria and safeguard the future of the youth. (NAN)