University Workers’ Strike: NLC Presents Demands To National Assembly

The protest led by NLC president, Shehu Sani and others

The protesting workers led by the Nigerian Labour Congress President, Ayuba Wabba, on Wednesday presented a letter detailing their demands to the National Assembly.

Hundreds of protesters had marched from the Unity Fountain, a popular protest ground in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to the National Assembly, chanting solidarity songs to mark the second and last day of a two-day protest organised by the labour union against the continued closure of Nigeria’s public universities.

The protest was held by all state chapters of the NLC on Tuesday and the finale in Abuja on Wednesday.

However, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawanm and Femi Gbajabiamilia, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, were not there to receive the protesters’ letters of demand.

Instead, some senators and a member of the House of Representatives met the protesting workers to receive the letter.

A former Chairperson, House of Representatives Committee on Labour, Mohammed Wudil, who received the letter on behalf of the house, promised the crowd that the issues will be treated with urgency and will be resolved as soon as possible.

He said: “As soon as possible the chamber will bring the Ministers, NLC, NANS to be on the same table to provide a lasting solution to the problem.

“We are going to make it an emergency issue and treat it urgently. I assure you we are equal to the task,” he added.

The four senators who received the document on behalf of the Senate President include Senators Robert Boroface, Utazi Chukwuka, and Haliru Jika.

Mr Utazi, who spoke on behalf of the Senate President, promised to work hard to resolve the lingering issues behind the closure of the universities.

“We are going back and working harder so that all these things will end and everybody will be happy,” said Mr Utazi.

Apart from the workers unions, Nigerian students under the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) also participated in the protest.

The university lecturers under the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have downed tools for over five months, demanding better funding for the system.

The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and other Associated Institutions (NASU) are also on strike, crippling activities on the public universities.

All the striking unions have rejected 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.

Speaking, SSANU President, Mohammed Ibrahim, said 13 years after the first 2009 renegotiation, the union has not seen anything worthwhile come out of it.

He said unlike ASUU, the union never had any opportunity to renegotiate the 2009 agreement with all the previously constituted panels.

“What is happening now is a failure of a generation. Our leaders have failed,” he said.

On its part, NASU wants all university-based unions to come together and negotiate with the government.

NASU accused the government of using divide and rule tactics to break the power of the unions.

Meanwhile, COEASU President, Smart Olugbeko, has said the problems at the colleges of education are the same as they are in the nation’s universities.

He said the government has willfully neglected the education of teachers.

Just like their university counterparts, workers at the colleges of education also faulted the continuous use of IPPIS for the payment of its members’ salaries.

He said: “The situation in Nigerian Tertiary institutions is the same because we (COEASU) are dealing with negligence of the government on education.

“At this point we have decided to take the bull by the horn. Our demand remains the revitalisation of colleges of education in Nigeria. They are yet to release a dime since 2014 after the needs assessment report was submitted.”

NANS President, Sunday Asefon, said “enough is enough of the unfulfilled promises by the Nigerian government.”

He appreciated the Nigerian workers for taking the future of the Nigerian students seriously.

He added that he was not impressed by the turnout of the Nigerian students.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “We have met a series of leaders on the issues. I met the Senate President on the issues but nothing happened. All we want now is that the issues be resolved.” (Premium Times)

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