By Emmanuel Edukugho
Tertiary education may collapse at anytime from now in Lagos State as the academic and non-academic unions in all the institutions of higher learning have declared trade dispute over non-implementation of negotiated agreements reached with government.
Already, most of the unions have given government 21 days ultimatum to implement the agreements, to be followed by another seven days after which an indefinite, total strike will be declared.
Leaders of the unions in all the tertiary institutions owned by Lagos State government met at Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo Campus on Monday 6th September, 2010 to discuss and deliberate on the ways forward, especially the preparedness of each institution for action as it is becoming clear that government is insincere and trying to play game with the unions over their demands.
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Arowolo Olatunji of Lagos State Polytechnic, said government has taken both academic and non-academic staff for granted and trampled on their rights.
“We have to unite and fight for our rights. Our coming together is giving government headache. A showdown is imminent if government does not behave responsibly as the ultimatum given to government has expired. We need to solidify our position.”
He said government has refused to implement the 53% rise in pay awarded since 2009, which other states have paid except Lagos State, 15% furniture allowance, office accommodation for staff and provision of adequate classrooms for students.
“The 21 days ultimatum to government expired two days ago. Then another seven days given have expired, after which there will be total strike. Trade dispute has been declared, LASPOTEC is starting, other schools will join,” Olatunji said.
Sessi Agnes Funmi, LASU-SSANU chairperson, urged her colleagues to brace up for a war that is imminent. That those who make peaceful change impossible, will make violent change possible.
“Our leaders want violent change, not positive change. We’ve seen that all over the world, the right of workers are not given easily. In South-East, all the lecturers in the five universities came outside in peaceful demonstration over wages.
If the Lagos State Government is saying that federal can’t fix wages, why? Senators earn N17m a month, House of Representatives members earn N14m political office holders earn so much while academics and professors don’t earn anything a year near what legislators earn in a month. Hence education is in decay.”
Sessi said that there is need to have a leader who will be the arrowhead of the struggle and get a sense of direction. She noted government is not sincere and “we must be seem to be saying things out for the public to understand the issues at stake.”
ASUU-LASU chairman, Dr. Kabir Akinyemi pointed to the need for a leader that will carry along the leadership of all the unions.
“But we must not forget our main campuses as the bedrocks. Unions have their own constitutions and we can’t operate outside our union. The idea of a Joint Action Committee is to fraternise with all the unions – COEASU, NASU, ASUU, SSANU, ASUP, SSANIP, etc, all put together and bombard the government. If AOCOED, LASU, LASPOTECH, MOCPED are shut down, the government will succumb.”
The consensus of participants at the meeting was that a Joint Action Committee (JAC) be constituted, to co-ordinate all actions, because dialogue, diplomacy can’t work.
It’s action, although very risky, because nobody likes strikes, students and managements alike. That Governor Fashola behaves like a military governor, talks like a military governor. The meeting was reminded of the UNILORIN case in which after a strike, some of the lecturers were sacked, retrenched, went outside the country to avoid victimisation and some even died.
The union leaders noted that Nigerian political leaders are cowards, greedy, corrupt and want to kill public institutions, while on the other hand, they own private universities themselves, awarding licenses to build private higher institutions to the detriment of public schools.
“They want to kill public sector but we won’t allow this to happen.
There will be revolution, revolution. We must do something and get a leadership for this struggle, a fearless leader, patriotic who will carry all of us including students along,” Sessi reiterated.
The gathering which turned into Joint Action Committee (JAC) meeting unanimously resolved to declare trade dispute, subject to following the due process involved.
Actions taken so far towards the declaration of trade disputes, institution – by – institution are as follows:-
* Lagos State University (LASU). Gave 21 days ultimatum on August 19 which expired on September 8, 2010. An additional 7 days notice served after which ASUU-LASU will hold its congress, then gets the approval of the national body before embarking fully on strike.
* Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH): The 21 days ultimatum has expired. Another 7 days notice has been issued after which a total strike will be declared.
* Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education and Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED).
The 21 days ultimatum given on August 17, 2010 has expired while that of MOCPED expires on 18th September, 2010. The 7 days follow-up has come.
* Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU). 21 days ultimatum declared in July which expired August 1, 2010. The association is ready for the strike, but can’t do it alone, and so waiting for other unions. After the 7 days addition expire, total strike will commence.
* National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT-LASU). Has sent its 21 days notice and got in touch with the national body, ready for the strike.
* Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU)
It is yet to agree on the date to declare strike, but ready to go when the other unions are ready.
* Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP). It has not served any notice because the national body is yet to give approval. But it has been told to go along with others in respect of the impending strike.
* Senior Staff Union of Colleges of Education in Nigeria (SSUCOEN). The 21 days ultimatum given have expired. By October 6 or 7, there will be total strike.
A communique was issued after the JAC meeting attended by over 34 chairmen, secretaries, and several executive officers of all the unions in the tertiary education system in Lagos State.
The JAC acknowledged that tertiary education is very important to national development and should not be allowed to collapse through government inactions and insensitivity to the welfare of its workers.
That Government should deem it fit to overhaul the tertiary education system through proper funding and good governance as reflected in the various agreements reached between the national bodies of the unions and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
That the government sets up a bench mark for any state that wants to operate tertiary institution with minimum standard within the Nigerian tertiary educational system. Therefore, Lagos State Government should recognise the oneness of tertiary educational system in Nigeria and as such should desist from actions that will amount to creating double standard or deviate from what standard obtains at national level.
The committee noted the insincerity on the part of Lagos State Government by not implementing these agreements in the state-owned institutions of higher learning which has ended up creating lack of job fulfillment, disappointment, creation of sense of inferiority complex in the graduates of the institutions and localization of the certificates awarded and unfavourable working condition.
After extensive deliberation on the issues raised above, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) resolved as follows:
(1) That formal trade dispute be declared by each union in tertiary institutions in the state with the Lagos State Government. The committee therefore hailed those who have already declared trade dispute and urged others to follow suit.
(2) That at the expiration of all the ultimatums given by various unions, indefinite, total, comprehensive and absolute industrial actions shall commence.
The communique was signed by ASUU-LASU Chairman, Dr. Akinyemi, SSANU-LASU Chairperson, Comrade Sessi, NAAT-LASU Chairman, D.A. Adenuga, NASU-LASU Jubril Yakubu, ASUP-LASPOTECH Arowolo Olatunji, SSANIP-LASPOTECH Tairu H.B, NASU-LASPOTECH Chairman, COEASU-AOCOED, SSUCOEN-AOCOED, COEASU-MOCPED, NASU-MOCPED, NASU-AOCOED.
Comrade Sessi Agnes Funmi, SSANU-LASU leader was adopted as the co-ordinator of JAC with secretariat in Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos.
Her choice as co-ordinator settled temporarily the issue of leader of the JAC because it was argued that an organisation without a leader is like a rudderless ship. JAC is to pool resources together for the struggle and the unions should be ready for the worst.