Aluta continua! NLC rejects FG’s two-week ultimatum, insists on protest
Labour unions have refused to back down on its planned two-day nationwide protests scheduled for July 26 and 27.
No fewer than 40 unions, including the aviation workers have signified interest in participating in the rally called in solidarity with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities which has shut down public universities since February 14 over the failure of the government to meet its demands.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday said the protest was illegal since the Nigeria Labour Congress had no pending disputes with the government but the congress retorted that it would go on with the protest, saying the freedom to protest is guaranteed by the constitution.
Recall that ASUU had embarked on a one-month warning strike on February 14 to press home its demand for the implementation of the October 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement.
The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions and National Association of Academic Technologists later joined the industrial action.
In May, the ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, announced the extension of the three-month prolonged strike by an additional three months.
In reaction, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said in March that the government had paid over N92bn , including N40bn for earned academic allowances for ASUU and other unions and N30b for university revitalisation as part of the implementation of the agreement reached with the union in December 2020.
The FG also reconstituted a team to renegotiate the 2009 agreement it had with the varsity teachers. The team was headed by Pro-Chancellor, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Prof Nimi Briggs.
To fast-track the resolution of the crisis, the President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, directed the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to resolve the five-month strike within two weeks and report back to him.
In solidarity with ASUU, the NLC on July 17 announced that it would kick off a nationwide protest to pressure the federal government to resolve the crisis in the tertiary education sector.
But addressing State House correspondents after Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting chaired by the President, the Minister of Information, Alh. Lai Mohammed, accused the congress of being motivated by partisan interests, saying it was supposed to be “completely insulated from politics.”
Reacting, the Head, Information and Public Affairs, NLC, Mr Benson Upah, said the government could resolve the lingering strike within three days if it was serious about the crisis, stressing that the union was going ahead with its protests.
He said, “We’re still going ahead (with the protests). The public action is on the July 26th and then the mega one is on (July) 27th. So, I mean, of what effect will two weeks have on that?
“I am saying that had the government asked the minister of education to solve this problem within two or three days, aha. But he is giving him two weeks, and two weeks will come after our protest must have taken place. Don’t you think so? So it’s like take charge of it.’’