The Education Rights Campaign has condemned in strong terms the refusal of the Lagos State government to implement the 2009 agreement with the staff of tertiary institutions in the state, which has forced the workers to down tool for more than three weeks.
Addressing the workers in Lagos State University premises last week, during a rally organized by the university lecturers, the National Coordinator of ERC, Hassan Soweto expressed his sympathy with the striking workers for what they have suffered since 2009 the agreement was reached, insisting that their demand was genuine and worthy of attention of any government interested in the repositioning of what he called the nation’s battered education sector.
He therefore called on the state government to immediately meet the demands of the staff unions for implementation of the agreement.
Soweto said ERC considered the current situation as very unfortunate and an ominous sign for the education sector as it cast a cloud of doubt on government widely advertised commitment to reposing it.
He cited the recent dis-accreditation by National University Commission (NUC) of 10 major courses in Lagos State University as a symptom of the present rot in tertiary education in Lagos State.
“This unfortunate report of the NUC has shown once and for all that while the Lagos state government falsely prides itself as a mega city, education which is the bedrock of social and economic development has been left to decay, hence the necessity and indeed justification of the strike actions to compel government to provide adequate funding to the sector.
“If conditions at tertiary institutions can be this worst, we can only imagine what the conditions will be at primary and secondary levels in spites of the so-called Universal Basic Education programme off the state government,” he stated.
He also condemned the governments of the South East states as well as the governments of River, Oyo and Ogun States for their refusal to implement the 2009 FG-ASUU agreement. Their refusal, to him is a clear case of insensitivity and disdain for education and attributed the consequences of the strike action by workers to anti-poor government of the affected states.
“It is instructive to note that some of the defaulting States are one of the richest in terms of allocation from the Federation account and Internal Generated Revenue (IGR). Therefore the excuse of not having money to meet their obligations is not tenable. For instance, Lagos State ranks third in the record of federal allocation with an additional Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) of N18 billion monthly.
Yet it has refused to implement the agreement. Rivers State is second on the record of federal allocation as it receives N13.082 billion monthly. Yet, its universities have been on strike for several months now. The same goes for the remaining defaulting States who also rank high in the record of federal allocation aside their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
Meanwhile, Nassarawa, Gombe, Ekiti, Adamawa, Benue, Yobe and Edo States which rank 34th, 33rd, 29th, 30th, 20th, 21st and 28th respectively on the record of federal allocation have already started the implementation of the agreement.
Contrary to government position, he said that the current strike action embarked upon by ASUU and other staff unions for implementation of the 2009 agreement is not just about wages alone but also about adequate funding of education, genuine autonomy and academic freedom.
He therefore called on the Nigerian students, students of the affected schools and the Nigerian labour Congress to declare a one-day solidarity general strike and mass protest to back-up the struggle of education workers for adequate funding of education and improved condition of service.
It will be recalled that in October 2009, the agreement in question was signed with the striking unions with the consent of representatives of Pro-Chancellors of state universities and Council of states of the governors are members.
Meanwhile, various group leaders including the President of the LASU chapter of ASUU presented their speeches, urging the members not to give up until their demands are met.
The rally saw some workers carrying placards written “Pay us our poor wage so that our children can go back to school”, “Politicians collect Jumbo salaries and civil servants poor salary”.