The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Tuesday joined her counterparts across the federation to embark on a two-day protest to register its displeasure over the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and other pressing issues affecting the country.
University unions including Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), and National Association of Technologists (NAAT), had embarked on industrial action over federal government’s total neglect of university education and failure to meet union’s demands.
For the past five months, students in public universities have been out of schools as a result of the inability of the federal government and ASUU to reach compromise on issues raised by the Union.
Labour is worried also that salaries of Universities staff are withheld by government, despite the high cost of living in the nation.
The Anambra protest, which took place in Awka, the state capital, attracted hundreds of members from the university-based unions, other unions under the umbrella of NLC such as the Nigeria Union of Journalists, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), National Association of Nigerian Students, among others.
The protesters bore placards with various inscriptions such as ‘FG should do the needful to end the strike now’, ‘Our children must go back to school’, ‘Stop the brain-drain now’, ‘NASU demands for re-negotiation of 2009 Agreement’, ‘We say no to inconsistency in IPPIS’, ‘NANS Zone F stands with ASUU’, ‘Renegotiate the 2009 ASUU and NASU agreement now’, ‘FG pay us our earned academic allowances’, ‘Fund our universities’, to mention just a few.
Speaking during the protest, the Anambra state NLC chairman, Comrade Chinwe Orizu, called on the state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo to use his office and good conscience to get the federal government to bring to an end the ASUU strike action.
According to her, the dispute had manifested in strike action for over 5-months, with a huge cost to the students, the university staff, parents, government and other stakeholders.
She said organised labour had made efforts to end the strike including writing to the Ministers of education and labour and employment to no avail, while urging the governor to appeal to the federal government especially in the immediate payment of withheld salaries, shelve IPPIS, honour agreements government entered into with the unions or renegotiate in good faith.
On his part, the ASUU chairperson of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, said the protest by the organised labour was to register their grievance over the continued closure of the federal universities occasioned by government insensitivity and lack of political will to meet the of the unions.
“I want to commend NLC for initiating such a measure.
“The gesture is also in line with saving the soul of public education in Nigeria, which is on the brink of being monetized by the Federal Government,” Ufoaroh said.
Ufoaroh seized the opportunity to call on the federal government to provide quality education by adequately funding public education from primary to tertiary institutions, even as he frowned at continued withholding of salaries and entitlements of the unions.
Also speaking on behalf of SSANU, the Unizik chairperson, Comrade Njideka Nwangwu, decried that university workers were still living with 2009 salaries without review despite the economic realities, while stressing the need for government to reconstitute fresh committee to handle the union’s matter, alleging that the previous committee ended up creating more problems.
“It is unfortunate why the federal government would continue to renege on the agreements it willingly signed with the unions.
“There is need for government to do away with IPPIS as a payment platform and embrace more consistent payment platforms as proposed by the unions.
“The federal government should also set up a serious commitment to steer the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement.
“They should as a matter of urgency, pay all the arrears in full and also incorporate them into the monthly salaries, and earned allowances to forestall future problems,” she said.
Other ASUU-NAU members including Comrade Kingsley Nwosu of Educational Foundations, Comrade Iyke Nwosu of Guidance and Counselling, Comrade Chidiebere Ufondu of Technology and Vocational Education, Comrade Ifeoma Edeh from Zoology, Comrade Ngozi Ulogu of English Language and Literature and so on, frowned at federal government’s continued negligence to the cries of university workers and students, and called for expedited actions to resolve the impasse.