ASUU: NLC, Actionaid, Sowore, Shehu Sani lead day 2 solidarity protest in Abuja

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…Police, DSS deploy men to solidify security in National Assembly, other places

By Ogaga Ariemu, Othuke Evroh and Nicolas Ojo, Abuja

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba; President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Emmanuel Osodeke; former Senator and Activist, Shehu Sani; African Action Congress (AAC) Presidential Candidate, Omoyele Sowore and the Country Director of Actionaid Nigeria, Ene Obi, have led hundreds of protesters in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, against the continued shutdown of Nigerian public universities.

The protesters, who had converged on the Unity Fountain, a popular protest ground in the capital city, were on their way to the National Assembly, chanting solidarity songs and carrying banners and placards bearing various inscriptions stating their demands.

This happened on the second day of the two-day nationwide protest declared by the NLC, the umbrella body of workers in Nigeria.

Various state chapters of the union had mobilised their members, parents and allies on Tuesday to kick off the two-day protest, even as they presented a list of demands to the State Governors for onward delivery to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Protest in Abuja

On Wednesday, as early as possible, protesters defied the precarious security situation in the capital city to demand the reopening of the universities.

They said the more than five-month-old industrial action by the university workers is a contributory factor to the degenerating security situation across the country.

Joining the protest in Abuja were members of the national leadership of the striking university workers’ unions including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Allied Institutions (NASU), and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), among others.

Leading the protest on Wednesday, Mr Wabba urged participants not to relent until the goal of reclaiming the lost glory in Nigeria’s education, economic, health and other sectors are reclaimed.

In response, the crowd chorused, ‘We would not be tired,’ ‘Save Teacher Education, Address Issues Now’ ‘We are Tired of Unfulfilled Promises,’ among others, are some of the inscriptions on their banners.

Our correspondent who went round Central Business District, Three Arm Zone, Maitama and other locations in the nation’s capital gathered that major business activities were grounded due to heavy traffic resulting from the protest.

ASUU’s demands

The common demands by all the striking unions include the rejection of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) as a payment platform for the workers.

They are also demanding better welfare for their members and improved funding for the university system.

The striking unions have consistently accused the Nigerian government of unfulfilled pledges, saying they could no longer bear the brunt of the neglect the nation’s education sector continues to suffer.

ASUU speaks

ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, said by the National Universities Commission (NUC’s) regulations, the ratio for lecturer to students is 1:9 in medical and sciences and 1:15 in the humanities and social sciences, but that the reality is unimaginable.

The striking unions have consistently accused the Nigerian government of unfulfilled pledges, saying they could no longer bear the brunt of the neglect the nation’s education sector continues to suffer.

He recalled how the government had agreed to pay a revitalisation fund of N200 billion yearly, but that it never did.

Mr Osodeke added that his union’s protest against IPPIS has been proven right by the fraud allegations against the disgraced Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.

“We have been vindicated by what happened to the Accountant General,” said Mr Osodeke.

Students react

Mr Pius Amata, a 300 level student of Political Science department, University of Abuja, in reaction to the protest said, “This is painfully regrettable. All that the government is after is election and how to acquire power. Imagine, we have been at home now for almost  six months while their children are graduating from foreign schools.”

Another student, Yinusa Inuwa who identified himself as a 200 level student of Economics, University of Abuja, stated that he is happy that the NLC has finally woken up from its deep sleep to engage in this solidarity protest. When asked why NANS has not taken to the street in protest.

According to him, “Do you want the government to send soldiers to shoot at us? Do you want them to kill us? I joined this protest because I feel that the hazards here, if any, would be minimal.”