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Varsity strike: Labour, ASUU Adamant


Varsity strike: Labour, ASUU Adamant

The Nation Newspaper

The lingering strike by university unions will continue for much longer if the Federal Government does not meet their demands, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said yesterday.

“If they like, they should keep this strike for two years,” ASUU President Prof Emmanuel Osodeke said.

He spoke in Abuja on the second day of the protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliates.

Labour said the only condition for industrial peace is for the Federal Government to meet the demands of ASUU.

The protesters, led by NLC President Ayuba Wabba, converged on the Unity Fountain at 8:30 am.

Also present were the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore; Senator Shehu Sani and Country Representative of Actionaid Nigeria, Ene Obi.

Also yesterday, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) urged the Federal Government to resolve all the issues with ASUU.

The protesters marched on the National Assembly.

There was a gridlock along the roads connecting the federal secretariat and heavy security at the three arms zone.

Wabba slammed the Federal Government for paying lip service to education and the welfare of workers in tertiary institutions.

He reiterated that any further delay would lead to a workers’ strike.

Wabba said no reason was good enough for the children of the poor to remain at home for more than five months while the children of the rich study abroad.

According to him, most of those at the helm of affairs were beneficiaries of a thriving education sector in the past as they enjoyed free and quality education.

The NLC President said: “The children of the working class have been at home for the past five months, and nobody cares.

“No reason is good enough for the children of the working class and the poor to be at home for one day.

“The children of the elites are graduating from private universities and the ones abroad and they have the audacity to post them on social media so that we can see.

“We must be angry because this is not what we bargained for.

“We bargained for a good government that will listen to us because democracy is all about the people, and you cannot talk of people without quality education.

“So that is why we are here. We will continue from here.

“It has been promises upon promises. We are tired; we are tired of their antics. Those antics cannot fly again. We must take our destinies into our own hands.”

Faulting the “no work no pay” policy enforced on the striking lecturers by the government, Wabba said Nigerian professors were the lowest paid in Africa.

According to him, the about N1.6 trillion spent by public office holders to send their children to school abroad was enough to rehabilitate education in the country.

‘We can remain on strike for two years’
Prof Osodeke said ASUU members were ready to remain on strike for two years if their demands were not met.

He said: “With the resilience of our members, if they like they should keep this strike for two years.

“We must change the Nigerian university system no matter what happens.

“In the university today, there is one teacher to over 1,000 students. That’s what brought the earned academic allowance that they did not pay.

“So we need to let them know that they don’t have dominance over us. Universities are universal. Our universities used to have international students.

“You are a child of a governor; you sit and learn with the child of a driver, eat in the cafeteria together and stay in the same hostel. Today, it is not like that.”

TUC, in a statement by its President Festus Osifo, an engineer, urged the Federal Government to do the needful.

The statement reads: “We strongly condemn the continuous disruption of academic calendar in public tertiary institutions and the condescending attitude of political office holders towards government-owned educational institutions.

“The clear ineptitude in this administration is becoming more worrisome.

“Unfortunately, there appears to be no end in sight, making the country a laughing stock in the comity of nations.

“Government must engage ASUU without further delay in constructive negotiations to find a lasting solution to their complaints.”

Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) President, Mohammed Ibrahim, believes agreements reached with the government must be respected.

Sani lambasted the political elites for abandoning the nation’s education system.

The former lawmaker noted that most of the political leaders in power today were products of free education.

He said: “It is shameful that a nation with a budget of N16trn cannot allocate a substantial sum to reactivate, to fund our university system.”

National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), Anderson Ezeibe, regretted that after a NEEDS assessment in 2014 by the Federal Government, it was recommended that N800 billion would be required for the revitalisation of the polytechnics.

He urged the National Assembly to ensure those saddled with the responsibility of managing education live up to expectations.

National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) president, Sunday Asefon, said after several promises to resolve the ASUU strike, none was kept.

He urged that universities be opened immediately.

National Assembly to intervene
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, represented by Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Robert Borrfice, promised that the National Assembly would work hard to ensure the strike was called off.

House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, represented by Mohammed Wudil, vowed to ensure all stakeholders are brought together as soon as possible to address the problem.

Wabba handed over letters of complaint to the National Assembly leadership.

The protesters walked about two kilometres from the Federal Secretariat gate through the annexe gate to the parliament car park where they were met by the National Assembly leadership.

There was tight security in Abuja during the protest.

FCT police spokesman said: “Our officers were there to protect protesters and other citizens. There is no cause for alarm.”

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