By Gabriel Dike, Tony Osauzo, Benin, Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan, Felix Ikem, Nsukka, Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri, Fred Ezeh, Abuja and Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
The three-day warning strike declared by the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) began across the country, yesterday, with a threat by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) to shut down Aso Villa, Abuja and ground all universities indefinitely.
A visit to the nation’s public universities across the country showed that administrative activities were grounded.
As early as 8am, members of SSANU and NASU had kickstarted the protest in response to alleged FG’s failure to address issues contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) both parties had reached and signed.
The unions, in a circular jointly issued last Sunday in Abuja, said the strike was to protest non-implementation of an agreement reached with the Federal Government.
The circular was signed by General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi and president of SSANU, Mohammed Ibrahim.
At the commencemencement of the strike, union leaders, in separate speeches at the Federal University of Owerri (FUTO) urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, respond to their demands or risk shut down of Aso Villa, the seat of government.
SSANU acting chairman, Uchenna Nwokeji said: “Federal Government must keep to their agreement; for more than three months, they have refused to listen to us, we say no to that kind of treatment, we urged the education minister to advise the president correctly, salaries should be paid in uniform and on time. After Thursday (tomorrow), we will bring down every movement in Abuja.”
NASU chairman, Sam Iwuala claimed that the Federal Government have ignored them with impunity, explaining that the peaceful demonstration was to correct the treatment.
“But if Federal Government refuse to listen to our demand, we would pull down Aso rock.”
At the University of Lagos (UNILAG), members began protest march from the Senate Building to the main gate with different placards denouncing government’s attitude towards their demands.
SSANU UNILAG branch chairman, Mr. Olusola Sowunmi and NASU branch chairman, Mr. Kehinde Ajibade, warned that if the issues in contention are not resolved, it might result in full strike.
At the University of Ibadan, the two unions converged on the main gate and matched to the front of the Administrative Block, which houses the office of the vice chancellor.
The protest was led by the SSANU’s National Vice-President, Western Zone, Mr. Alfred Jimoh, and the NASU Secretary, UI, Mr. Sunday Akinpelu.
Akinpelu said his members had been pushed to the wall and they were ready to fight back.
“Enough is enough. How can you say you cherish one child more than the other children? Minimum wage has been pending and has not been paid. Also, Earned Allowance has been pending and unpaid. We will not take it from the Federal Government again. Teaching staff are occupying positions meant for non-teaching staff in clear violation of our rights. We are ready to take over what belongs to us and our rights.”
In Edo State, workers of the University of Benin, also joined a nationwide three-day protest.
Mr. Osewa Brodricks, Chairman of Uniben SSANU/Joint Association Committee (JAC) said the protest is to sensitise the public and let government know we cannot be taken for a ride.
NASU chairman, Andy Igbinosa, said the protest will last between 8 am and 4 pm daily.
In Enugu, SSANU and SANU members of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) marched along major roads inside the campus singing solidarity songs, bearing placards with different inscription.
Addressing newsmen shortly after the protest, Paul Eruah, chairman of JAC UNN chapter, said the protest was a response to the Federal Government’s failure to address issues contained in the MoU both parties reached and signed.
Clifford Amoke, NASU chairman and all executive members were present during the protest.
Similarly, as early as 8am, placard carrying staff took over the gates of the Federal University Lokoja (FUL), Kogi State and other areas of the Adankolo campus.
SSANU in a statement signed by chairman, SSANU/Joint Action Committee, Uche Onyedi, threatened complete shutdown if government failed to implement the MoU.
Workers of the University of Abuja (UniAbuja) also joined the colleagues to protest against “unfair labour treatment.”
NASU Chairman, Uniabuja, Dahiru Okolo, told Daily Sun that the exercise became imperative following several months of waiting for the government to attend to the needs of the university base labour unions.