By Vera E. Abah
NIGERIAN workers under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) with massive support from civil society organisations on Wednesday defied the uncertainty and sense of siege over the country’s seat of power to show their angst against the laissez-faire attitude of the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari towards striking unions in Nigerian universities and other tertiary institutions.
Protesters besieged the Unity Fountain, which has now become the take-off point for protests in Nigeria’s federal capital, as early as possible, to stress the point began yesterday in mass protests across states of the federation that the almost six months’ old strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the other workers’ unions in public universities is no more acceptable.
The other unions include the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Allied Institutions (NASU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, NLC President, while addressing the rally of protesting workers, urged them not to relent until the goal of regaining Nigeria’s lost glory in education, economic, health and other sectors are achieved.
Among the protesters were also members of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), who are also on strike, having on July 19, 2022 extended the one-month-old warning strike earlier embarked upon by three more weeks.
Generally, the demands by all the striking unions include better welfare for their members and improved funding for the university system and education in general.
Amongst other demands include the rejection of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) as salaries payment platform for workers in tertiary institutions as well as government’s consistent insincerity in keeping to the implementation of collectively bargained agreements, which is responsible for abject neglect and dilapidation of all public educational institutions in the country.
Speaking at the rally, President of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, said the lecturer-to-students ratio set by the National Universities Commission (NUC) which is 1:9 in medicine and other sciences, and 1:15 in the humanities and social sciences, is currently grossly untenable.
“In the university today, it is 1-teacher to over 1,000 students. That’s what brought the earned academic allowance that they did not pay. So we need to let them know that they don’t have dominance over us. Universities are universal.
“Our universities used to have foreign students. You are a child of a governor; you sit and learn with the child of a driver. Eat in the cafeteria together. Stay in the same hostel. Today, it is not like that,” Prof Osodeke lamented, recalling how the government had agreed to pay a revitalisation fund of N200 billion yearly, but only obeyed in in breach.
He accused a former Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof Wale Babalakin, of attempting to commercialise education in Nigeria.
Prof Osodeke added that ASUU’s protest against IPPIS has been proved right by the fraud allegations against the disgraced Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.