NLC To Fed Govt: Ignore Protest, Face Nationwide Strike
The Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) has asked the Federal Government to end the ongoing strike by the university-based unions.
The Congress warned that should the government fail to end the strikes, it would embark on a three-day warning strike.
President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said this while featuring on Sunrise Daily, a breaktfast programme on Channels Television.
The NLC last week called out its state councils and affiliate unions for a two – day protest to press the government to end the ongoing strike by the university unions.
Workers in States hit the streets on Tuesday in solidarity with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); Non-academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU); Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), over unmet demands by the Federal Government.
Tomorrow, the Congress, with heads of its affiliate unions, federal workers and civil society organisations, will have a mega protest, starting from the Unity Fountain, Abuja.
Speaking during the programme, Wabba said: “The protest first is to show our concern and to also call for urgent action to resolve the issues. We took two levels of decision.
“It is after this entire process that we will go to the next stage. We hope we don’t go to the next stage, that is why we are giving all this latitude and raising the issues using the protests of Tuesday to scale up the issues.
“Attention needs to be given to all the issues raised by the unions and time is of the essence,” he said while highlighting the importance of the protest.”
He added: “First is the national protest to call for attention and for the issues to be resolved promptly, and the next level is a three days national warning strike if nothing has happened after the protest to show our grievances.
“First, I will say there is unnecessary delay in resolving the strike. Why must the government wait for five months for what it can do today?
“I think there should be a level of urgency in resolving the issues. I remember in the past, particularly in 2011 because the 2009 agreement that is the subject matter today, took effect in 2011. At the highest level, I remember President Goodluck Jonathan inviting the NLC and all the unions and the issues were resolved. Some of these issues need to be taken to the highest level.”
While the Federal Government said the decision of the NLC to embark on a nationwide protest was illegal, the labour leader insisted that its action was within the ambit of the law.
Citing the UN Charter, the Nigerian Constitution and pronouncements by Nigerian courts, Wabba said the workers had the right to protest and embark on strike over issues they were uncomfortable with.
He said: “These are democratic norms everywhere around the law,” Wabba stated. “It is within the provisions of our law; it is backed by the UN Charter for Human and Peoples Rights, African Charter for Human and People’s Rights.
“It is there in our constitution – Section 39/40, and even the courts have pronounced that you don’t require any permission; so it is legal, it is within your fundamental rights to protest.”
He said the ASUU strike affected workers and other Nigerians, the reason the NLC embarked on the two days of protest.
The NLC chief said if the government manages the country’s resources very well, funds would not be a problem in meeting ASUU’s demands.
Wabba said: “NLC doesn’t have direct members except members of the affiliates. It is not about solidarity. We wear the shoe, it pinches us, and we are responding to the issues. The issue in dispute is quite clear. It should be a matter of concern to every Nigerian.
“Our Nigerian universities have been closed down for five months, and the children of the poor, particularly the working class, are at home, while the children of the elites and the rich are graduating daily from foreign universities, and they have the audacity to post those pictures to all of us.
“It was Mandela that said that the best way to address the issue of equality in our society and address poverty is to give the children of the poor quality education. That is why we are responding.”
Wabba explained that a lot of efforts had been made by the NLC in the past five months, including several letters and pre-warning letters sent to the government over the imperative of meeting the striking workers’ demands.
He also said the NLC had joined the government negotiation team with ASUU, and their meetings failed to produce the expected results.
Wabba said there had been an unnecessary delay by the government in responding to ASUU demands.
According to him, parents and students were losing hope, and the schools had lost an academic calendar over the strike.
The NLC President also explained that many of the nation’s best lecturers had left because of poor wages.
He alleged that none of the nation’s professors receives up to $700.
“With 700 dollars a professor cannot survive,” the NLC President said.
The NLC chief also alleged that the lecturers had not been paid since they proceeded on strike on February 14, 2022.
ASUU called out its members on a one-month strike on February 14, 2022 over the non-implementation of the Memorandum of Action (MoA) it signed with the Federal Government and the insistence of the government on the adoption of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS) as payment platform for all federal workers.
The union proposed UTAS as an alternative platform for the payment of salaries for its members following discrepancies highlighted in the use of IPPIS.
It declared a two-month strike on March 14.
The teachers are on the three-month strike declared by ASUU after the expiration of the two-month warning strike.
The strike entered its 163rd day on Wednesday.
Like ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT have been on strike since March to press home their demands.