The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has expressed its preparedness to commence a three-day warning strike from Thursday, which would be immediately after their 2-day nationwide protest that begins today.
But the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has advised business owners not to shut down their operations in response to the workers’ solidarity protest.
The NLC has also warned that it might make the proposed three-day warning strike indefinite if federal government fails to resolve its protracted industrial dispute with public university workers that downed tools over five months ago.
NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, stated this while speaking to journalists at the ongoing 18th NLC Rain School in in Uyo, Akwa Ibom.
According to him, the labour movement has mobilised workers across country for a nationwide protest in all the 36 states of the federation and Abuja, that commences today.
The protest is to compel the federal government to resolve all lingering issues to re-open public universities for academic activities.
“The protest happening tomorrow is not a solidarity protest but a protest of NLC against government actions that lead to our universities being shut down and our kids staying at home instead of going to school. All the unions directly involved in the strike are NLC affiliates and their members are part of NLC.
“We have taken three levels of decision. First is the protest which is going to be national tomorrow. After the protest, a three days national warning strike will start, and if they fail to resolve the issues and bring back our kids to school, we go on indefinite strike.
“That is the decision of our National Executive Council. And what will be helpful for them is to check the timeline we have given for them to resolve the issues. We are optimistic that they will be willing this time because we are also willing to get our children back to school,” he said.
Speaking on the harsh living condition of Nigerians, Wabba said that it was not only the education sector that is presently in shambles, but the economy as well.
Wabba said; “I never knew that the exchange rate has moved within a week from N630 to N670. This is very frightening and it erodes purchasing power of workers. There is no way we can continue in this direction and expect that there will be shared prosperity within workers and within the large portion of Nigerians that are in the lower echelon at the economic ladder.
“Importantly is the issue of our children that are out of school for five months. Basically it also requires a political decision for the issue to be sorted out. What is even more worrisome is the fact that they keep posting the graduation of their children in universities outside the country on social media and then the universities where the children of the working class study are closed down.
“I was told today that we have three sets of students that ought to be in the university but unfortunately they have not even sorted out their admission challenges. So, it really a very frightening future for Nigerians, particularly the youths”.
He said the irony of it was that most of the political elites today benefited from free public education, wondering why it had been impossible for them to fix our public education.
“Is it about the class divide? It honestly beats some body’ s imagination. That is why all of these issues resonates that we need to engage politically. We have also realised the fact that they have used different approaches to divide Nigerians.
“Unfortunately for them, the NLC is a pan-Nigerian organisation that cannot be divided. And workers should not allow themselves to be divided along ethnic or religious line. This is just diversion of interest. Their division tool is happening now, “Workers should be wiser, citizens should be wiser. We should work assiduously to unite Nigeria and not to divide Nigerian.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Lagos Chapter of the NLC, Funmi Sessi, yesterday said the congress in Lagos has fully mobilised all its affiliates both in the private and public sectors for a total shut down of all sectors in the state as it holds a two-day solidarity protest to push the government to resolve public university workers’ strike.
Addressing affiliates in preparation for the two-day nationwide protest against what it called government insensitivity to the plight of workers in universities, Sessi said workers in Lagos would start converging under the bridge in Ikeja from 6a.m-6.30a.m and move en masse to the Alausa Secretariat from 7a.m to 7.30a.m to deliver a letter from the NLC President to the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
She noted that all the affiliates have shown their readiness to gather at Ikeja under the bridge today.
According to her, the essence of the meeting was to mobilise all affiliates to protest against the poor handling of the education sector in Nigeria.
She lamented that students in higher institutions from poor homes have been at home for over five months, adding that government further exacerbate the crisis with the introduction of ‘No work, no pay policy.
“Stoppage of the salary is draconian. We are supporting the struggle of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
Despite efforts to broker peace, government has failed. We are already fully mobilised, we will be on the streets using the protest to drum support for the parents of the students who have been home for this long period,” she said.
According to her, the NLC has charged all the private institutions owned by the state government to abstain from going to work, adding that it is the directive from the national body of the NLC that Lagos State University(LASU) and other state owned institutions should join the protest as workers.
“If the government like, let them bring all their armored tanker and security agencies, we will face them. We are using this opportunity to tell all institutions in Lagos State to come out in solidarity with us because the reward will be for all. An injury to one is an injury to all,”she added.
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Sessi also threatened that the national grid would be shut down, adding that health workers would only be allowed for emergency services.
In his contribution, the Zonal Coordinator ASUU, Lagos, Adelaja Odukoya, stressed that the protest would be for Nigerians.
He maintained that the strike that caused unions in the universities to down tools was a deep-rooted crisis.
He said, “the struggle is in the interest of our children, enough is enough, government must fund education system. If we allow government to continue they will destroy our universities as they’ve done to our secondary schools.”
Nasarawa Academic Staff Reject Gov Sule’s Call to Pull Out of Strike
In a related development, members of ASUU at the Nasarawa State University Keffi (NSUK) yesterday rejected a call by Governor Abdulallahi Sule for them to pull out of the ongoing national strike embarked by the union.
ASUU Chairman, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Dr. Samuel Alu, said this at a press conference in Keffi, the campus of the state university,
He disclosed that the Nasarawa State governor had solicited for the NSUK ASUU to pull out of the national strike of the union when he invited the union alongside the university management for a tripartite meeting.
The NSUK academic staff chairman said: “Recently, the visitor invited the union alongside the university management for a tripartite meeting where he (visitor) solicited for the branch’s understanding to pull out of the national strike in order to enjoy the full payment of our salaries.”
The ASUU Chairman maintained that the government of Nasarawa State was precipitating yet another round of industrial crisis in the state university by non-release of Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) to the academic staff as it was the case with other sister unions on campus.
Alu, therefore, noted that that was negligence, bias and not acceptable anymore by the academic staff of the state-owned university.
“The ongoing attitude of government to the Memorandum of Agreements and Memorandum of Understandings has necessitated it on ASUU NSUK to no longer guarantee industrial harmony if the situation does not improve, especially when the ongoing national agitation and action are suspended.
“Therefore, the general public especially, parents with children in NSUK, should hold the Nasarawa State government, governing council and university administration responsible for the consequences that may arise because of the serial non-implementation of the MoAs,” Alu threatened.
Labour Protest: NECA Urges Businesses Not to Shutdown
However, ahead of today’s nationwide protest, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has advised company owners and businesses not to shut down operations today and tomorrow in response to the workers’ solidarity protest with the university-based workers’ unions.
In a statement signed the NECA’s Deputy-Director and Head, Membership Services, Adewale Oyerinde, the association said the disruptive protest would no doubt further compound the economic fortunes of businesses and Nigerians in general.
NECA however urged its members and owners of businesses not close their offices since NLC had assured that it was holding protest and not strike.
He also advised companies to consider taking extra security measures, should the protest be hijacked by hoodlums
He said the association had engaged the leadership of the NLC on the protest.
According to him, “during our engagement, NECA emphasised that while the continued closure of the universities is a serious cause for concern to all stakeholders, a disruptive protest, no doubt, will further compound the economic fortunes of businesses and Nigerians in general.
“We, therefore, wish to inform you that the NLC leadership affirmed that the protest would be a peaceful rally and not a strike, which should not lead to business closure. Affiliate unions of the NLC are expected to mobilise some personnel to join the protest for the two days, while normal business activity is expected to continue in all enterprises.”
Lalong Directs Security Agents to Crackdown on Protesters in Plateau
However, Plateau state government has issued a stern warning against the planned protest in the state, putting security agents on the alert to crackdown on protesters.
The government said it would not fold its hands and watch the state plunged into chaos by the labour unions.
The warning was part of a statement signed by the state Commissioner of Information, Mr. Dan Manjang.
The statement read: “The attention of the Plateau State Government is being drawn to the directive by the National Headquarters of the NLC mobilising State Chapters to join its planned protest in solidarity with the ongoing ASUU scheduled for Tuesday 26th July 2022.
“While the state government is aware that workers have a right to air their grievances, the state however wishes to remind them that the ban on any form of procession under whatever guise is still in force in Plateau State.
“It is in this light therefore, that the state government wishes to advise against the holding of the planned protest as it will be in contravention of the existing ban.
“The government thereby advises that such decision if contemplated by the state chapter of the NLC be rescinded in the interest of peace and security of Plateau.
“This is more so that government will not fold its arms and watch our hard earned peace currently being enjoyed across the state jeorpardized in an event that such solidarity protest is hijacked by hoodlums for pecuniary and other negative purposes.”
While directing the office of the Head of Civil Service to dialogue with labour and its officials in the state, the statement also warned that Lalong has directed the security agencies to be on alert in an event of any eventuality and also ensure compliance with the relevant ban that prohibits such procession.
Ortom Urges Benue University to Consider Students’ Plight, End Strike
Also, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has asked the ASUU, Benue State University (BSU) branch to call off the ongoing sympathy strike with the national body.
He noted that the sympathy strike had gone beyond the allowed three days and appealed to the lecturers to return back to the classroom in the interest of Benue children.
The governor who spoke in Makurdi, while reacting to appeals by parents and students on the striking lectures to call off the sympathy strike noted that he had ensured the prompt payment of the salaries of the striking lecturers despite the strike, lamenting that their action was already taking its toll on the students and parents.
The governor said: “I have been paying their salaries; I don’t know why the lecturers are extending their sympathy strike beyond the allowed days. Even at that I am still paying them.
“Ordinarily there shouldn’t be any strike at the Benue State University at least they wouldn’t have gone beyond the days allowed for sympathy strike.
“So it is either they come back or I will stop paying them and I will use the resources for something else. What I give to BSU monthly is over N600 million and they should appreciate what we are doing in that institution.
“I have been doing that monthly, so I am appealing to them to return back to classroom. I have been patient enough and I am allowing them one month do a rethink. I also urge stakeholders to talk to them.”
When contacted, the ASUU-BSU Chapter Chairman, Dr. Tarnongu Kwaghfan said the state government was yet to pay their June salaries.
Kwaghfan said: “We have our own local issues which we have raised and the governor is also aware of these our local issues. So, if he says he is not owing salaries, but if then, June has not been paid.