By Bimbola Oyesola, Henry Uche, Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki, Jude Chinedu, Enugu, Obinna Odogwu, Awka, Okey Sampson, Umuahia and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed that nothing would stop its planned protest rallies across the country commencing today to force Federal Government to heed to the demand of workers in the education sector.
It said it has fully mobilised all its affiliates both in the private and public sectors for a total shut down of all the sectors as it holds a two day solidarity protest in support of the ongoing strike in the educational sector.
The Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) has threatened to shut down the airports while the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) in a letter with reference, NUEE/NS/2022/008, titled, “Nigeria Labour Congress/ASUU Solidarity Protest,” dated July 22, said electricity workers would join in the protest to kick against the prolonged closure of tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
According to the General Secretary, NUEE, Joe Ajaero, “All members of the union are enjoined to massively mobilise and actively participate in the NLC/ASUU solidarity protest against the continued closure of the nation’s tertiary institutions, schedule for July 26/27, 2022.
“You are encouraged to work with the leadership of State Executi Councils of the congress in your various states with a view having a successful outing. Aluta Continua.”
This is in spite of appeals by the Federal Government and security alert by the DSS that the NLC shelves the planned nationwide protest.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been at war with the Federal Government since February 14 over failure to honour some past agreements, among others.
The disagreement has kept students of most public universities at home for the past five months. Some other unions in the university system are also on strike due to disagreements with the Federal Government for different reasons.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba told Daily Sun the two-day action would begin today in all the 36 states while the national would hold tomorrow in Abuja. He said Congress was confident that it would be a success as all the state councils and affiliates were fully mobilised and charged for the action.
The Joint Action Committee of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions (NASU) equally expressed readiness to take the lead in the protest.
Spokesman of JAC and General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, said since government has failed to resolve the impasse, the unions would no longer keep quiet. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the Prof. Nimi-Briggs-led committee’s report submitted to the government for approval.
Adeyemi said the committee’s negotiations processes were biased as its members were not duly involved and did not endorse the 10 percent salary increase purportedly recommended in the report.
The committee was set up in March by the government to oversee the negotiations with the four university-based unions.
•Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Imo ready
Addressing affiliates in preparation for the protest against what it called government insensitivity to the universities workers plight, NLC Chairman in Lagos, Funmi Sessi, said workers would start converging at under the bridge in Ikeja from 6am and move enmasse to Alausa Secretariat by 7am to deliver a letter from the national body to Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu.
She directed all sectors including the health, electricity and aviation to shutdown operations and join the solidarity protest in support of the striking workers.
She lamented that students in higher institutions from poor homes have been at home for over five months, adding that government had exacerbate the crisis with the introduction of ‘No work, no pay policy.
“Stoppage of the salary is draconian, we are supporting the struggle of ASUU, SSANU, NAAT and others. Despite efforts to broker peace, government has failed. We are already fully mobilized, we will be on the street using the protest to drum support for the parents of the students who have been home for this long period.”
According to her, NLC has charged all institutions owned by state government to abstain from going to work, adding that it is the directive from the NLC that Lagos State University (LASU) and other state-owned institutions should join the protest.
“If government like, let them bring all their armour tanker and security agencies, we will face them. Holy fire will not allow anything to disturb or cancel the protest. We are using this opportunity to tell all institutions in Lagos State to come out in solidarity with us because the reward will be for all. Injury to one is an injury to all”, she added.
Sessi emphasised that the national grid would go down to zero and for health workers only emergency services would be allowed.
Abiodun Aremu, coordinator of the Joint Action Front (JAF) said there’s money to pay the universities workers and revamp the education system drawing inference from money expended on political parties primaries.
Chairperson of Anambra State chapter, Mrs. Chinwe Orizu, said over 1,000 workers from across the state would participate in the exercise.
“We are very much ready. We have done our best in terms of mobilisation. We are expecting about 1,000 persons”, Orizu said.
In Ebonyi State, the chairman, Mr. Ikechukwu Nwafor, said all members would come out enmasse.
“ We unanimously resolved to come out in our numbers tomorrow (today) for the protest. We shall gather first at the state office, then March through major streets of Abakaliki and return back whenever we are tired. But I can tell you that we are very prepared for the protest, and all the necessary agencies are already aware of our protest.”
The leadership of the union, Virginus Nwobodo, said all necessary arrangements have been made to ensure the security of protesters during the exercise.
“We are ready for the demonstration. We have mobilized our members in the state to come out. Once they come out, we move.The starting point is the Labour House.”
Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Emma Acha, said journalists in the state were ready to join the protest.
“We have done our best to mobilise our members. We are ready for the showdown. We will all gather at the Labour House,” he assured.
Although chairman of NLC in Abia State could not be reached, an official said all affiliated bodies were fully prepared for the rally cum protest.
A veteran labour leader in the state, Obi Igwe, said in addition to the rally, there would be solidarity messages to be delivered by labour leaders.
President of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Abia chapter, Ikechi Nwaigwe, said his members were fully prepared for the protest. He said they were not embarking on a strike, hence, people would go to work. He added that the rally was for selected people from the various unions.
“Workers will actually go to work, we are not observing any strike, but a rally which will take place in Umuahia, in solidarity with ASUU.”
He disclosed that each trade union has those selected to represent them, adding that NULGE will be fully represented at the rally.
Imo State secretary of NLC, Ken Onwuemeodo, said the decision of the national body is binding on all the state chapters to abide.
He said necessary arrangements for a successful protest has been put in place and every union duely notified.
•We’re still waiting for FG, not deterred by salary halt –ASUU
ASUU leadership said the Union was still waiting for the Federal Government to do the needful before they can call off the strike.
The National President, Professor Victor Osodeke, who made the disclosure said withholding of their salary would not dampen their resolve to persevere with the strike until government agreed to their demands.
He maintained that the proposed warning protest is legal and acceptable under any known law contrary to what the Minister of Information and culture, Lai Mohammed, said.
“We have finished all negotiations on the issues of agreement with government on June 16 but till date, we have not heard from them. We’re waiting for FG’s response. Since the Federal Government issued a two-week ultimatum to the Ministry of Education to end the strike, nobody has reached out to us. We are waiting. ASUU is under the NLC, so they have the right to protest. It’s allowed by law” he stressed.
He warned that the two-day protest was just an alarm of what would come thereafter, saying, “NLC has Plan B to register their grief if this two-day protest does not yield expected result. Nigerians are protesting. They have killed education and expect us to clap for them. Instead of solving the problem, the minister is there talking about Legality do NLC proposed protest. All these delay is political.
“The minister of labour hijacked this issue thinking that we would come begging him after one or two months when he stopped the salary of workers, but here we’re today. If we had set our priorities right from the beginning, we wouldn’t have this issue. Thank God the President has handed back this matter to the minister of Education, we hope to see something different,” he added.