Sunday, 3rd December 2023

Expect another #EndSARS uprising if ASUU strike lingers, NLC, Falana tell FG

By Our Reporters
27 July 2022   |   3:48 am
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned the Federal Government to prepare for another people’s uprising akin to the #EndSARS protest in 2020 if quick steps are not taken to resolve the ongoing industrial

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) during the solidarity protest in support of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other unions in the<br />nation’s universities in Lagos… yesterday. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI<br />

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned the Federal Government to prepare for another people’s uprising akin to the #EndSARS protest in 2020 if quick steps are not taken to resolve the ongoing industrial actions by staff unions in the nation’s tertiary institutions.

The warning was issued, yesterday, by the Chairperson of NLC Lagos Council, Funmi Sessi, during the solidarity rally organised by Congress in support of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other varsity unions.

She said: “Our statement is simple. This is just a warning action. If the government fails to conclude all the negotiations and agreements with all the workers in our tertiary education within two weeks, they will witness more protests and rallies all over the country, they will also witness the annoyance, anger and frustration of Nigerians. This government has pushed so many Nigerians into depression. We say enough is enough, we can no longer bear this hardship again.”

Rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), who joined labour in the protest at Ikeja, said the fight is for quality education in Nigeria. He described President Muhammadu Buhari as a president, who is junketing around the world, while the masses are suffering after the administration has brought unprecedented depression and hardship into the country.

He said the living standards of Nigerians are getting worse, adding that the incumbent administration has left the citizens in a state of frustration. Falana also made reference to the President’s statement that he is eager to leave office.

“As we are gathered here today, terrorism has taken over our country; hardship has taken over our country; depression has taken over our country; the recession has taken over our country, but President Buhari is junketing all over the world. He’s already told Nigerians that he’s tired and he’s anxious to go home. We are therefore saying today that Buhari must go.

“For lecturers in our tertiary institutions and other workers, we are full with you. Like our comrades have said, this is a warning protest, #EndSARS protest will be a child’s play because we’re tired and frustrated and disenchanted. And I join our comrades in saying that enough is enough.

“Don’t let them deceive you by saying there is no money in our country. It’s a lie. We reject the dubious economic programmes of this regime. We reject the neoliberal policy of this regime. We can’t continue promoting poverty in the midst of plenty.”

Receiving the letter presented by Sessi to the Lagos State government, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions, Ajibola Ponnle, said the state is in solidarity with lecturers and students, who have been at home for more than five months.

Ponnle, who said the governor is someone who is focused on ensuring there are peaceful industrial relations, as well as peace in the state and at the national level, promised to convey the letter to the governor to address labour concerns.

“When the governor comes back, he will attend to every single matter in accordance with the power that he holds as governor of Lagos and I’m sure he will convey your letter to President Buhari accordingly.

Also speaking, the Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Lagos State, Dr Adelaja Odukoya, said: “ASUU does not like the incessant strike but the body needs to press home its demands to make the nation’s universities competitive with global standards.

“The struggle is in the interest of our children. Enough is enough; government must fund the education system. If Nigeria must develop, attention must be paid to our university education,” he said.

SOME Nigerians on Twitter, yesterday, expressed displeasure as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, resumed at a university in the United States of America despite the lingering strike action by ASUU. Academic activities in government-owned universities have been put on hold in the country since February 14.

In development to rally support for the lecturers, NLC yesterday began a two-day protest across the country over the failure of the Federal Government to meet the demands of the union.

Ironically, Gbajabiamila had on the same Tuesday tweeted via his verified Twitter handle, @femigbaja, that he had gone back to the Harvard Kennedy School.

“Back to class. In a leadership course @havard @Kennedy_school. Forget the number of grey hairs, one is never too old to learn.”

Reacting to his post, Nigerians expressed displeasure, anger and frustration as Gbajabiamila was seen in a pose with a white man in one of the photos posted alongside the tweets.

@daemperor007 said: “You know they keep showing us they don’t care about the masses even in the midst of campaigning for Tinubu. You’d think Gbajabiamila would see this as insensitive but you’d be kidding if you think they care.”

“All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us,” @Arinzethegreat said. According to @larybeny: “These people are stylishly telling us that they don’t care for us. Meaning we have to fight for our rights.”

A Twitter user, Halidu Adamu, tweeted: “The irony. These guys are completely desensitised. Tweeting about attending classes in a foreign university while ours at home have been locked for months. ASUU needs to wake up and smell the coffee, this action is not leading anywhere constructive.”

Another Twitter user, Akintunde Babatunde, also tweeted, “If universities in the USA were to be on strike, how will you be able to experience a working system? Walk around and see how basic things work in a normal university? Let’s hope you’ll return and use your influence to make our educational institutions work.”

Recall that under the tenure of Gbajabiamila as Speaker, ASUU has embarked on strike for more than a year, nine months in 2020 and close to six months in 2022.

IN Oyo State, members of NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC), students unions and unionists, including the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), joined in solidarity, storming strategic places in Ibadan to register their displeasure over the protracted shutdown of tertiary institutions across the nation.

The protesters, who sang various solidarity songs and also appealed to citizens of the state to understand the reasons they were forced to hit the street, demanded President Buhari’s resignation, insisting that the political class, led by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) did not mean well for Nigerians.

Speaking, Chairman, Oyo State chapter of NLC, Comrade Kayode Olusegun Martins, said: “The union has issued a statement giving us the go-ahead to support this protest and if the government fails to do the needful, there will be a warning strike to shut down the economy for three days. It may be an indefinite strike for as long as the government remains recalcitrant.”

Presenting the letter of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to the deputy governor, Martins said: “We will like to solicit your support and intervention in the dispute between the Federal Government and the unions in the tertiary education sector.

“On our part, we have taken various initiatives to end this strike, including writing to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, although this elucidated some response it wasn’t sufficient. The response to the nonchalance of government has led to escalating our intervention in protest across the 36 states.”

IN Kano State, NLC threatened to declare an indefinite strike should government fail to find a lasting solution to end the ASUU strike. Besides, labour accused President Buhari of lacking genuine interest in developing the education sector, the reason it allowed the industrial dispute to linger for over five months.

NLC Chairman in Kano, Comrade Kabiru Ado Minjibir, described the continued sit-at-home of students of public universities across the country as a shameful act of embarrassment to the nation.

NLC demanded immediate release of five months salaries of ASUU members withheld by the Federal Government on the invocation of the ‘No-work-no-pay’ policy, just as they urged replacement of the controversial Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS) with the indigenous system designed by ASUU.

ENUGU State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, yesterday, told protesting members of the organised labour that he was concerned about the prolonged ASUU strike.

Ugwuanyi, who was represented by the Secretary to the Enugu State Government, Prof. Simon Ortuanya, commended the organised labour for the peaceful manner in which they conducted the demonstration.

“We share in your concern. We have always known that education is the foundation of the society. We urge you to continue to engage with the Federal Government. We will effectively deliver your message to the President,” he said.

Earlier, the state NLC chairman, Comrade Virginus Nwobodo, lamented that the Federal Government had taken education for granted.

“For every great nation, education is taken seriously. If these children are not well nurtured, the country is doomed. Every day, we hear the government borrowing trillions and yet it can’t meet ASUU’s demand. They get involved in white elephant projects that have no bearing on the citizens. We want to see them implement the ASUU agreement,” he said.

AS the NLC, Gombe State chapter took to the streets in solidarity protest with ASUU, former Assistant Social Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abdullahi Jalo, advised the protesters not to be deceived that the government can ever assuage their plight, saying: “No government can ever solve ASUU problem.”

Jalo said: “Let’s be sincere, as far as Nigeria is concerned, ASUU strike is legal, but no government will have the resources and political will to solve the problem.”

THE National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) joined the solidarity protest by NLC in Anambra State to block the ever-busy Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, to express their grievances over the Federal Government’s stance on ASUU.

NANS’ spokesman in the zone, Obinna Okafor, called on the government to implement the demands of ASUU, including adopting UTAS, rather than the controversial IPPIS, provide infrastructure, funding and other conditions of service for effective research, teaching and learning.