By Marcus Ikechukwu
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has concluded the mobilisation of its members to stage a two-day warning strike in solidarity with affiliate unions, such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union of University and Allied Institutions (NASU) as well as the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, who was responding to questions from journalists at the sideline of the ongoing 18th NLC Rain School, 2022, tagged: “Labour, Politics for National Development and Social Justice in Nigeria” gave this indication.
Wabba reiterated labour’s readiness to gather its teeming members across Nigeria for a nationwide protest in all the 36 states of the federation and Abuja, come tomorrow 26th July 2022, in demand for the Federal Government to resolve all the lingering issues that have kept the tertiary education closed and have the schools open for academic activities.
He noted that a three days warning strike will immediately follow after the protest and may have to go on indefinite strike if the government fails to resolve the issues that caused the strike and have the schools open to Nigerian students.
He said, “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, three days national warning strike will start, and if they fail to resolve the issues and bring back our kids to school, we will 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 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.”
Speaking further on how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government has failed to better the living conditions of Nigerians but has left even the education sector in shambles, Wabba said, “I never knew that the exchange rate has moved between a week from N630 to N670. This is very frightening, and it erodes the purchasing power of workers. There is no way we can continue in this direction and expect that there will be shared prosperity among workers and within the large portion of Nigerians that are in the lower echelon of 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 out the country on social media, and then the universities where the children of the worker in the 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 really a very frightening future for Nigerians, particularly the youths.
‘“The irony is that most of the political elites today benefited from free public education. Why is it impossible for them to fix our public education? Is it about the class divide? it honestly beats somebody’s imagination. That is why all of these issues resonate that we need to engage politically. We have also realized the fact that they have used different approaches to divide Nigerians.
“Unfortunately for them, NLC is a pan-Nigerian organisation that cannot be divided. And workers should not allow themselves to be divided along ethnic or religious lines. This is just a diversion if interest. Their division tool is happening now, Workers should be wiser, and citizens should be wiser. We should work assiduously to unite Nigeria and not to divide Nigeria.”
Recall that for over 150 days running, ASUU and its sister unions NASU, SSANU and NAAT have engaged the government over issues bothering on revitalization funds for universities, implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payrolls and Information System IPPIS as well as Earned Allowances.
While the government has assured that the thorny issues will be resolved within two weeks, ASUU appears adamant about yielding ground for resolution unless their demands are fully met.
In a recent interaction with State House Correspondents, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lia Mohammed, accused the Labour leaders of compromising the peace and security of the country if they go ahead with their planned protest.