From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliates unions stormed the National Assembly, yesterday, in solidarity with the trade unions in the public universities – the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of University and Allied Institutions (NASU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) -over the lingering strike in the tertiary institution.
The protesters in large numbers hit the street of Abuja to continue the two-day protest which had earlier held in various states of the federation to push the Federal Government towards ending the month long strike in the university system.
The protest held amidst the shaky security situation of the nation’s capital, attracted huge security presence of the police, the personnel of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigeria Security Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to monitor things.
The protesters carried placards with various to drive home their points.
At the ‘Abuja Mega Protest Rally’ which began from the Unity Fountain at about 9:30am, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, called on the Federal Government not to deny children of the less privileged quality education.
ASUU and other trade unions in the education sector have been on strike for more than five months over alleged failure of government to keep to agreements entered with the unions.
Their demands include non-implementation of 2009 agreement, funding of universities, salaries and earned allowances of lecturers, among others.
Submitting the unions’ demands list to the law makers, the NLC president condemned the Federal Government for paying lip service to education and the welfare of workers in tertiary institutions and warned that further delay could attract a shutdown of the labour force in an industrial action.
He said most of those at the helm of affairs were beneficiaries of a thriving education sector as they enjoyed free and quality education. He decried the level of hardship and the spate of insecurity in the country, and warned that depriving children of the poor access to quality education would only fuel the insecurity situation of the country. He said government must do the needful to respond effectively and promptly to resolve the issues affecting the education system.
The NLC president noted that over 10 million children in the public institutions, including three sets were waiting for their admission to be sorted out.
“If we denied our children quality education, they will become menace to the society and all of us will be sleeping with our eyes opened, that is a reality and it is a wakeup call.
“Comrades, we must be angry because this is not what we bargained for. We bargained for good government that will listen to us because democracy is all about the people, and you cannot talk of people without quality education. So, that is why we are here. We will continue from here.”
He said the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities, among others had pending issues with the government..
“Those issues are straightforward; some of them are not even monetary policy issues. Yet, our leaders cannot listen to fix those issues.
“It has been promises and those promises have not been kept, we are tired but we are not tired of their antics. We will take our destinies in our own hands and that of our children, which is very important and fundamental,” he said.
ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, bemoaned the ratio of students to lectures in tertiary institutions, which he said was was part of the factors eroding the quality of education in the system.
SSANU President, Mohammed Ibrahim, said: “These agreements must be respected. Universities must take a universal look. We must have the best of our brains. We must have our teachers, lecturers, members of staff, academic, non-academic, junior, senior security, everybody is important, and therefore, government must rise to the occasion. The issue of IPS is no longer news to you. IPS has made everybody in university community poorer. Registers are paid salaries of cleaners and so on and so forth. What you get today you don’t know what you get tomorrow. And that is why we are challenged. We have come up with our solutions. The UGPPPS is there. The UTAS is there. We are ready to work together. We will give them the best. our students should go back to classrooms. Our hospitals should look decent. “Gentleman, the security has become something else. Our people, lecturers, teachers, everybody, no one is safe in the university community.”
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who was represented by Deputy Majority Leader, Robert Borrofice, promised that the National Assembly would intensify efforts to ensure the issue is addressed.
“There is no country in the world where children of universities will be away from class room for five months. So, we are with you. I confirm the receipt of this letter from the NLC.”
Also, House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, represented by Mohammad Wudil, assured he would to ensure ministers of finance, labour and employment, education as well as all relevant stakeholders are brought together immediately to resolve the contending issues.
Presenting the report of the meeting at the plenary, Wudil said the NLC made a seven-point demand, adding that the engagement with the congress was fruitful.