By Faith Igbudu
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned that more action should be expected from the congress soon, if the federal government drags on resolving the over five months ASUU strike.
It also asked for the immediate payment of the withheld salaries of staff of the universities to show that the government is committed to resolving the ASUU strike.
This was made known as the Benue State chapter of the congress joined the nationwide protest Tuesday.
Chairman of the state congress, Comr. Godwin Anya, who read a letter from the national body, said the union was disheartened by the continuous shut of the public universities and has decided to steps to fast forward resolutions.
“Your Excellency, we are dismayed by the federal government’s paralysis and reluctance to take the necessary steps that could lead to the peaceful resolution of the issues in dispute and by extension, end the strike.
“In response to the nonchalance of government and cries of our unions in the sector to escalate our intervention, Congress resolved to hold rallies in the 36 states of the federation and FCT.
“Your Excellency, the rally held today in the state is in compliance with the resolution of the Congress represents the first in the series of actions Congress intends to take to take to compel the government to do the needful.
“The immediate concern would be the immediate payment of the withheld salaries of university staff, shelve IPPIS, honour the agreements government entered into or re-negotiate in good faith, rebuild confidences, establish a frame work for repositioning our universities for competitive service delivery and relevance in line with their mandate,” he said.
At the sidelines, Chairman ASUU, Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi (JOSTUM), Prof. Simon Ejembi, accused the federal government of wanting to kill the nation’s public tertiary institutions. He urged Nigerians to resist that move as it does not spell well for the common man.
“The problems that are holding us down have not changed. It is for them to sign our renegotiated agreement, deploy UTAS so that we can call our students back.
“For over five months now, we have been on it with government and we expect that by now any sensitive government would have responded but all this while, they have been dilly-dallying and with the minister of labour coming up with all sorts of misinformation, telling Nigerians what does not exist.
“That is why NLC has mobilized every affiliate of its body to come out today, so that we can make everything clearer to the Nigerian citizens in a bid to get things done rightly so that we can go back to our work.
“The federal government has decided not to listen to us; they are killing the public tertiary institutions same way they did the primary and secondary so that the average Nigerian child will not be able to go to school.
“Today we are talking about the privatisation of public tertiary institutions in the country, meanwhile, the minimum wage for every Nigerian worker is 30,000 naira. You expect someone who earns 30,000 naira to pay a tuition fee of four to five hundred thousand naira in a session? That is not workable.
“That is why Nigerian government should be responsive enough to sign the 2009 agreement, deploy UTAS.
“IPPIS has been a conduit pipe to drain Nigerian resources. They claim, there is no money but everyday you have individuals taking hundreds of billions from Nigerian coffers.
“Nigerians must stand to defend their right. This government has failed us in all ramifications,” he stated.
Similarly, Chairman of ASUU, Benue State University (BSU), Makurdi, Dr Kwaghfan Tarnongu,
“I must clarify that BSU is not on a solidarity or sympathy strike. We are fully on strike with our national body as we are full chapter of ASUU. So anytime the union calls out its members for strike and we are convinced, it is what will bring benefit to us, we join.
“In any case, BSU has its own internal problems outside of the national problems that also affect us such as arrears of earned academic allowance, promotion arrears and a plethora of problems.
“The threat by the Governor, Samuel Ortom is uncalled for because as far as we are concerned in BSU, we are on course and unless these issues are addressed, I’m sorry we may embark on a local action when the national action is over,” he said.
Reacting, the leadership of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Joint Campus Committee, Benue state, led by Maxwell Faasema, said he was confident that the outcome of the rally will be positive.
“It is very pertinent to note that the continuous closure of tertiary institutions in the country has greatly affected the emotional, psychological, economic and security well-being of not just Nigerian students but the entire country.
“This is due to the failure of government to invest in the education sector and this shows the lack of concern of our leaders to the plight of the entire Nigerian student community.
“This protest by NLC is long over due. It is an action that would have been taken long before now. We know NLC as one of the strongest unions that has always kept government on their toes.
“I believe NLC is one of the stakeholders in Nigeria that always stands firm to defend what is right and just and can call the federal government to do what is right.We regard them as our parents,” he added.