Resolve ASUU strike or face total strike, NLC dares FG

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Vows to fight on until 2009 agreement is fulfilled

Uba Group

ASUU rejects plan to hike fee to N750, 000 in public universities

Protesters in Lagos, Osun, Kaduna, Plateau, Oyo demand end to crisis

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR & AGENCY REPORTS

Ben Ukpepi, Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Cross River Council, on Tuesday disclosed that the union would embark on a total strike if the Federal Government failed to resolve the lingering issues with the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

Ukpepi said this during the NLC National Mega Rally in support of the unions in the nation’s tertiary institutions in Calabar.

The chairman said the strike would be necessary to compel the Federal Government in ensuring that the Nigerian students returned to the classrooms.

“If the Federal Government refuses to resolve this issue as soon as possible, we will not hesitate to call all the workers and embark on a total strike to ensure that we compel the government to do the needful.

“What ASUU is doing is the right thing; I thank them for their resilience because if other unions can do what they have done so far, the Federal Government will sit up,” he said.

Similarly, John Edor, Chairman of ASUU, University of Calabar Chapter, said it was inexplicable that the entire tertiary education system was shut down from February 14 till July 26 and the government had done nothing.

Edor said the last industrial action they held was in 2020 where a memorandum was signed in December and a timeline for specific actions was agreed but the Federal Government rather observed the agreements in breach and default.

According to him, they have several agreements and memoranda that have not been implemented, so, this is a time of implementation, the Federal Government must implement first before we return to the classrooms.

On the issue of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, the don maintained that IPPIS was not congenial with university modus-operandi
“ASUU developed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution UTAS which was tested and passed for the Federal Government to pay the emoluments of University staff but the government has refused to use it.

“We are not imposing on the government how to be paid, it is a collective bargaining process; we are saying that IPPIS lacks the ability to capture the peculiarity of the university system.

“If we suspend this strike based on promises by the government and come back again in a couple of months to strike again because of the same issues as we have done in the past, it means we are not serious, it is implementation or nothing,” he said.

On his part Anthony Afufu, a representative of the National Association of Nigerian Students, said what they needed now from the government was implementation.

Afufu said if the Federal Government refused to implement its agreements with ASUU, they would move to the next phase which is to barricade the airports to prevent movements by air.

Responding at the Cross River House of Assembly, Eteng Williams, Speaker of the House, said NLC was doing the right thing as it had the right to speak to power.

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“Our children have been at home for five months now and we are busy setting up committees without action; we cannot sit on the fence on this issue.

“I will be presenting your grievances in the speakers’ conference because we need action and that action should be now,” he said.

NLC vows to fight on until FG fulfills 2009 agreement
The Nigeria NLC, Ebonyi chapter, vowed it will not stop talking until the Federal and State Governments fulfilled the 2009 promises for ASUU.

The protesters, who carried different inscriptions, marched from the Pastoral Centre, Abakaliki to Pa Ngele Oruta township stadium.

Ikechukwu Nwafor, NLC Chairman in Ebonyi said the congress joined the nationwide protest in solidarity with ASUU strike, urging the federal and state government to expedite action to bring their children back to school.

Addressing affiliates in Abakaliki, Nwafor said the protest was to call the attention of the government to meet the demands of ASUU and address the poor management of the education sector in the country.

He said the congress would also support a three-day warning strike immediately after the protest in solidarity with the union.

The NLC chairman called for the need to meet with demands of the striking ASUU workers to end the industrial action.

“The demand of the ASUU should be met.

Let the wellbeing of workers in universities be met. Let the workers’ rights be respected and let our children go back to school.

“This struggle is in the interest of our children. We join states all over the federation and Abuja to protest on behalf of ASUU and our children who have been at home for over five months.

“Enough is enough over the incessant strikes in the universities,” he said.

Ikechukwu Igwenyi, ASUU Chairman, Ebonyi University branch expressed gratitude to the NLC body and noted that they would not go back until their demands were met.

“We want adequate funding of the universities by the government. We need our salaries paid. We will not go back to class unless our demands are met.’’

Ogugua Egwu, the Chairman, ASUU branch of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University said they were also ready to continue with the strike if the government refused to meet with their demands.

“We need to improve facilities in the universities; we are saying no to salary disparities. The Federal Government should sign and implement the 2009 agreement with our union,” Egwu said.

ASUU rejects plan to hike fee to N750, 000 in public universities
Meanwhile, ASUU has rejected the proposed plan by the Federal Government to hike tuition fees in Nigerian universities.

Lazarus Maigoro, Chairman of the University of Jos chapter of the union, made this known on Tuesday in Jos, during the nationwide peaceful protest organised by the NLC.

Maigoro, who alleged that the government was planning to hike tuition to N750, 000 per student, re-iterated that the ongoing strike was aimed at pushing for their demands, as well as making the government address the contending issues.

He insisted that if tuition fees were increased, the children of the common man would invariably be denied access to university education.

“Government is planning to increase the tuition fee in public universities to N750, 000 and this is not acceptable to us in ASUU.

“We will not accept it today, tomorrow or forever; if that happens the children of the poor and common people cannot go to the university.

“So, this strike is not about us, but about the future of education in Nigeria, and this is why we are insisting that the government must fund education because it is its responsibility to do so,” he said.

Maigoro, however, appealed to the Federal Government to implement the agreement it entered with the union in 2009, in the interest of Nigeria’s future generation and development of the university system.

He particularly advised the government to implement the University Transparency Accountability Solution, as a payment platform for all universities in the country.

LASG urges calm, receives letter from protesters
Members of the Lagos Chapter of the NLC and affiliate unions on Tuesday converged on Ikeja roundabout for the solidarity protest rally in support of the striking university lecturers and other unions.

The protest in Lagos, which is part of the nationwide action called by the national body, saw the unionists march in major streets of Ikeja, carrying placards with different inscriptions on the need for better conditions in the country, and singing solidarity songs.

Policemen were seen in some vehicles around, to avoid a crisis.

Speaking during the rally, the Chairperson, Lagos State NLC, Agness Sessi, called on the government to make things better in the country, noting that the economy was not in good shape.

The South West Coordinator of ASUU, Adelaja Ogunkoya, said that the government’s stance on the lingering lecturers’ strike that had kept students at home for more than five months was not good enough.

“Before, foreign students did come to Nigeria universities for studies but today the reverse is the case,” he said, adding that there was a need to do something about it.

He also decried poor welfare of university lecturers, resulting in low morale to research, among other things.

Wale Seteolu, another unionist and a university don, said it was only through revamping of education that the nation could get back to reckoning.

An associate of the union and Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), said the people reserve the right to call a government to order.

On its part, the Lagos State Government urged motorists to remain calm despite the protest rally of the NLC in Ikeja and its environs.

The Commissioner for Transportation, Frederic Oladeinde made this known in a statement issued in Lagos on Tuesday.

Oladeinde said that the NLC protest had hindered free vehicular movement from Ikeja Under-Bridge, through Allen to Alausa, and other parts of Ikeja.

“I want to assure motorists that officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority are already stationed at Junctions and major routes to manage movement during the protest,” he said.

The commissioner advised the motoring public to cooperate with the LASTMA officials to minimise inconvenience in movement.

Osun NLC members, CSOs, students join nationwide protest
The Osun State chapter of the NLC, on Tuesday, joined the nationwide solidarity protest for the Federal Government to accede to the requests of the Academic Staff Universities and reopen universities in the county.

Members of the NLC, ASUU, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Non-Academic Staff Union, Students Union Government among others called on the Federal Government to resolve the disagreement with the striking lecturers and ensure that the nation’s education sector is given desired attention.

Led by the state NLC vice chairman, Gbadebo Awotayo, the protesters, in their hundreds, while carrying banners and placards with various inscriptions demanded an end to ASUU strike amid solidarity songs.

They had converged around Ogo-Oluwa Area of Osogbo and were joined by many civil society and student groups who marched along Osogbo/Gbongan road.

Some of the protesters, mostly students who were affected by the strike, wore branded black shirts with inscriptions ‘#EndASUUStrikeNow.’

Motorists and motorcyclists plying the route had a hectic time passing through the large number of protesters. Many of the motorists were forced to make a detour and use other routes to get to their destinations.

Operatives of the Department of State Security, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the police were also seen at strategic locations along the route as the protesters moved towards the Osun State Government Secretariat, Abeere.

Some of the placards displayed by the protesters bore inscriptions such as, “We Demand A Total End To ASUU Strike,” “ASUU is fighting for the Future of Nigeria,” “We Can’t Continue Like This, Buhari Should Meet ASUU Demands,” among others.

In Ile-Ife, students of the Obafemi Awolowo University also trooped out en masse to participate in the demonstration. According to them, they were tired of staying out of school and called on the government to see to the reopening of universities.

Speaking, NLC vice chairman, Awotayo called on the federal government to desist from prolonging the strike adding that the lecturers were fighting for the good of the country.

Also, the chairman of ASUU, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife chapter, Adeola Egbedokun, who led his members to participate in the protest, while addressing journalists, urged the Federal Government to desist from using blackmail against the Union and honour agreement reached with the lecturers.

A spokesperson for students of the University of Ilorin, Teslim Ayowale, said the Federal Government appeared confused about the crisis.

“I ought to have graduated in 2021. The strike is going to be six months and the government seems not to know what to do,” he said.

However, civil servants in Osun State didn’t join the nationwide strike declared by the national leadership of NLC.

Visits to the State Government Ministries, State High and Magistrates Courts among other public offices on Tuesday, workers were at their duty posts.

It was gathered that the state NLC leadership only asked members of the executive to carry out the solidarity protest while other workers should be at work.

Labour unions in Kaduna, Plateau, Oyo demand end to ASUU strike
In Kaduna, the state branch of the NLC called for immediate resolution and opening of the universities.

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 the 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 losing 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 prolonged 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.

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, Steve Aluko said education is a right and bedrock of development, as such all stakeholders must work to salvage the education sector from collapse.

He called on the Plateau Government to resolve the crises in all its tertiary institutions that kept the workers and students at home.

The protesters submitted a letter on the matter to the Speaker of the state Assembly, Yakubu Sanda.

Sanda commended the workers for the peaceful protest and pledged that the assembly would study the demands and also forward it to appropriate quarters.

In Ibadan, Oyo State, the protesters marched through Agodi-Gate, Total Garden and ended at the State Government Secretariat carrying placards with different inscriptions and singing solidarity songs.

Addressing the gathering, the state NLC Chairman, Kayode Martins, called on the government to accept ASUU’s demand to avoid nationwide workers strike.

The state TUC Chairman, Ogundiran Emmanuel urged the government to resolve all issues with regards to the 2009 agreement with ASUU, so as to quickly reopen the universities.

In his remark, Ayoola Akinwole, ASUU Chairman, University of Ibadan, said the organised labour was not happy with the way the government handled the ongoing 12-week strike.

According to him, ASUU’s demands would reposition tertiary education in Nigeria and safeguard the future of the youth.