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NLC joins university-based unions in solidarity protest in Anambra

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By Gabriel Chy Alonta

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Tuesday July 26, 2022, staged a protest in solidarity with university unions over the lingering shutdown of federal universities across the country.

Orient Daily reports that university unions including Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), and National Association of Technologists (NAAT), had embarked on industrial action over federal government’s total neglect of university education and failure to meet union’s demands.

The protest, which took place in Awka, the Anambra state capital, attracted hundreds of members from the university-based unions, other unions under the umbrella of NLC such as the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), National Association of Nigerian Students, among others.

The protesters were seen with various inscriptions such as ‘FG should do the needful to end the strike now’, ‘Our children must go back to school’, ‘Stop the brain-drain now’, ‘NASU demands for re-negotiation of 2009 Agreement’, ‘We say no to inconsistency in IPPIS’, ‘NANS Zone F stands with ASUU’, ‘Renegotiate the 2009 ASUU and NASU agreement now’, ‘FG pay us our earned academic allowances’, ‘Fund our universities’, to mention just a few.

Speaking during the protest, the Anambra state NLC chairman, Comrade Chinwe Orizu, called on the state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo to intervene in the dispute between the federal government and unions in the tertiary education sector. According to her, the dispute had manifested in strike action for over 5-months, with a huge cost to the students, the university staff, parents, government and other stakeholders.

She said organised labour had made efforts to end the strike including writing to the Ministers of education and labour and employment to no avail, while urging the governor to appeal to the federal government especially in the immediate payment of withheld salaries, shelve IPPIS, honour agreements government entered into with the unions or renegotiate in good faith.

Also speaking on the sidelines of the protest, the ASUU chairperson of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, said the protest by the organised labour was to register their grievance over the continued closer of the federal universities occasioned by government insensitivity and lack of political will to meet the of the unions.

While commending NLC for initiating such a measure, noted that the gesture was also in line with saving the soul of public education in Nigeria. Ufoaroh seized the opportunity to call on the federal government to provide quality education by adequately funding public education from primary to tertiary institutions, even as he frowned at continued withheld salaries and entitlements of the unions.

Also speaking on behalf of SSANU, the Unizik chairperson, Comrade Njideka Nwangwu, decried that university workers were still living with 2009 salaries without review despite the economic realities, while stressing the need for government to reconstitute fresh committee to handle the union’s matter, alleging that the previous committee ended up creating more problems.

Earlier, SSANU Secretary, Unizik chapter, Comrade Bonny Ozo Nkwuaku, wondered why the federal government would continue to renege on the agreements it willingly signed with the unions, and stressed the need for government to do away with IPPIS as a payment platform and embrace more consistent payment platforms as proposed by the unions. According to him, the federal government should also set up a serious commitment to steer the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement. They should as a matter of urgency, pay all the arrears in full and also incorporate them into the monthly salaries, and earned allowances to forestall future problems.

Other ASUU-NAU members who spoke with this paper including Comrade Kingsley Nwosu of Educational Foundations, Comrade Iyke Nwosu of Guidance and Counselling, Comrade Chidiebere Ufondu of Technology and Vocational Education, Comrade Ifeoma Edeh from Zoology, Comrade Ngozi Ulogu of English Language and Literature and so on, frowned at federal government’s continued negligence to the cries of university workers and students, and called for expedite actions to resolve the impasse.

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