From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan, Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure, Tony Osauzo, Benin
Nigerian students, yesterday, made good their threats to cripple socio-economic actives in the country as they barricaded major highways and obstructed movements in continuation of their protest over ongoing nationwide strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
In 2020, the union embarked on a nine-month strike, the longest since 1999 and about two years later on February 14, it went on a four-week warning strike. It declared another eight weeks strike, saying it was giving the government more time to attend to its demands. Upon it expiration, it announced additional 12 weeks roll-over with effect from May 9, to end in August. The students have so far spent three months at home owing to the lecturers’ strike.
Following the protracted industrial action which has lasted over 90 days, the students had last week released an action plan which include disruption of socio-economic and political activities to force government and the lecturers back to the dialogue table with a view to speedily resolving the disputes and ensure the return to classrooms. Yesterday’s protest forced motorists on major routes linking the South West to the South East and the north to spend several hours while others had to find alternatives routes out of the logjam. Most commuters were forced to trek long distances to their destinations.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, the protesting students barricaded the highway in front of the University of Ibadan (UI) and hampered free flow of traffic along the busy Ojoo-UI-Molola Road and the road leading from UI to Bodija. The students also went to the entrance of Oyo State Government Secretariat, Ibadan, and prevented vehicular movement.
Leader of the Ibadan protest, Solomon Emiola, said: “We are here because of ASUU, NASU SSANU strike. We want the Federal Government to use this as the last strike. We want all the strikes to finish. This should be the last strike in the history of Nigerian students.”
One of the protesting students, Damilola Olubunmi, said: “I am here because we need to tell the Federal Government that students must resume. The strike is not affecting the students alone. It is also affecting our parents. The essence of this is that when the road is blocked, people cannot move and they will trend it for us. Then, the government will know that we protesting.”
In Ogun, a joint protest by students of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye; Tai Solarin University of Education, Science and Technology (TASUED) Ijagun and Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB), Abeokuta, saw the students block the Sagamu-Benin Expressway.
Carrying placards with inscriptions such as “#End ASUU strike now#”, “We say no to educational stagnancy”, “We are tired of deadlock meetings” and “Education should not be this difficult” among others, the students blocked the expressway leaving many motorists stranded and travellers trapped.
Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in the state, Damilola Simeon, appealed to the Federal Government to respond urgently to the yearnings of ASUU. He stressed that it was high time the Federal Government and members of ASUU agreed and reach a compromise to end the strike.
”We have been clamouring since the commencement of this ASUU strike that something should be done with immediate effect, but both ASUU and the federal government are not listening to us.They have to understand the fact that Nigerian students will always be at the receiving end at the end of the day. Our students are suffering, our students are fed up. This whole issue is getting out of hand. We do not pray that our students end up engaging themselves in criminal activities as we all know that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop,” he said.
The NANS chairman begged the two parties to do the needful and call off the strike.
Don Ayomide, President, Student Union Government of TASUED, said the protest was necessary to let both the federal government and ASUU be aware of the plight of Nigerian students.
Similarly, students of the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) also blocked major roads in Akure, the Ondo State capital in protest to the ASUU strike.
The students who trooped out as early as 6.30am moved in enmass on major roads in the town chanting various solidarity songs.
The protest caused serious crisis for transporters and commuters as the busy Ilesa-Akure express road was temporarily blocked.
For hours, transporters plying the busy road were stranded as a result of the protest, just as commercial activities in the affected areas were halted. Some of the roads blocked aside the Ilesa-Akure express road include Benin-Owo road and Orita Obele road among others.
The students hinged their action on the attitude of the Federal Government on the strike by the university teachers, condemning the attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on the plight of both the university students and teachers.
While appealing to the Federal Government to accede to the demands of ASUU and other staff unions of university, the students threaten to continue with the protest until the universities are opened for academic work.
In Benin, Edo State, students of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) shut the Federal Secretariat, Benin, stormed the secretariat at Aduwawa area and declared a work free day for workers.
They cooked at the secretariat and threatened to shut Federal Government offices in the state to press home their demand for the resolution of the ASUU crisis.
“We have told the workers that today is a free day for them because they can’t be working while we are out of our classes. All the Federal offices would be shut down. We have also written to INEC to let them know that election will not take place in Edo until we return to our classes. The police is here with us to ensure that the protest is not hijacked by hoodlums because the students are peace-loving people,” said Foster Amadin, president, UNIBEN Student Union Government.
“Education has been taken to an unserious level and the Federal Government is busy with election, forgetting that there are many students at home due to the ASUU strike. We are here today, we have protested at the Airport, Ring Road and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) office. We will keep going round until they find a solution and we go back to our classes,” Amadin said.