From Gyang Bere, Jos
Commercial activities in Plateau State were grounded for hours Tuesday as a result of a solidarity protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) to press home their demands.
The protest commenced at about 9:30 am at the secretariat junction flyover bridge, where joint unions and some civil society organisations (CSOs) converged and staged a peaceful walk to the Plateau State House of Assembly.
The protestants occupied major streets in the state capital which obstructed vehicular movement for hours while some shops around closed in solidarity.
The Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Plateau state, Eugene Manji, described the inability of the Federal Government to meet the demands of the striking workers as an attempt to setback university education in the country.
He insisted that if the strike is not resolved within a short period of time, the union will mobilise for a nationwide protest.
He lamented that the prolonged ASUU strike has negative effects on all aspects of lives, particularly educational development.
Manji called on Governor Simon Lalong to resolve the lingering crisis in the education sector between the Plateau state government-owned tertiary institutions that have been on strike before the current ASUU industrial action.
ASUU chairperson of the University of Jos chapter Lazarus Maigoro said the continuous ASUU strike was to ensure that the federal government do not stop funding the educational sector.
He revealed that the federal government has planned to introduce payment of turion fee of about N 750,000 Naira per student on all its owned tertiary institutions.
Maigoro explained that should such a policy come to stay, most Nigerian parents may not be able to sponsor their children into tertiary institutions.
He noted with regret that due to economic hardship, most parents may not be able to fund the education of their children.
He also revealed that some lecturers haven’t received a salary for 7 months before the strike began due unfriendly policy of the federal government which introduced IPPIS in the university system.
The Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Universities, University of Jos chapter, Anthony Joro, said 25 per cent of the total budget of Nigeria was expected to be spent on education and lamented that only less than 5 per cent of the budget is allocated to education.
He lamented how University students are kidnapped, raped and even killed by bandits due to the inability of the federal government to meet the expectations of the striking workers for better education in the country.
He lamented how Plateau State Government has abandoned workers at Plateau State University Bokkos for several months with nobody willing to negotiate with them and said it is time to take back the state for the masses.
Chairman, Civil Society, Steve Aluko, who also joined the protest, lamented that the present administration wants to collapse the entire educational system.
He insisted that, should government fail to implement its agreement with various unions of the tertiary institution, they will mobilise a total economic shutdown.
Michael Pam, President, Student Union Government (SUG), University of Jos, thanked NLC for the intervention and said Nigerian students are in total support of the protest.
He expressed joy that the procession was orderly and peaceful.