By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
THE Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its affiliate unions, yesterday, shut down Abuja with mega rally in solidarity with striking university-based unions, with workers taking the protest to the National Assembly.
NLC also said it was criminal for the Federal Government to stop workers salary over its alleged ‘no work, no pay’ policy.
Besides, labour said Nigerians, especially workers, were tired of the government excuses and lamentations, stressing that if after the solidarity protest, government remained adamant in addressing the demands of the striking university unions, the next phase would be a three-day national strike.
The unions in large numbers hit the street of Abuja to continue the two-day protest, which had earlier held in various states of the federation to push the Federal Government towards ending the months long strike in the university system.
It would be recalled that the four university-based unions—Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU; Non-Academic Staff Union of University, and Allied Institutions,NASU ; Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities,_SSANU, and National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT— have been on strike for over four months.
The rally, which began from the Unity Fountain at about 9:30 am was led by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba; former Senator and activist, Shehu Sani; Country Director of Actionaid Nigeria, Ene Obi; human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, as well as current and past leaders of the affiliate unions.
Addressing workers at the mega rally, President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, regretted that some of the government officials that have condemned the ongoing strike by university workers protested with labour during the previous administration.
It’s criminal to stop workers salary
On the stoppage of striking workers salary by the Federal Government, Wabba said: “It’s criminal to stop the salary of a worker whose only fault is insisting that an agreement signed must be obeyed.
“Nowhere in the world even the International Labour Organisation, ILO, that we have such a draconian law of no work, no pay.”
On the next action by the labour after the solidarity rally, the NLC President said: “The next phase will be a three-day national strike. I hope the government will be reasonable.”
He criticised the Federal Government for paying lip service to education and the welfare of workers in tertiary institutions.
He said most of those at the helm of affairs currently were beneficiaries of a thriving education sector in the past as they enjoyed free and quality education.
According him, “Most of them holding office today, enjoyed free education. They benefitted from bursary scheme. Shame on them.”
On his side, the ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, said: “In the university today, there is one teacher to over 1,000 students. That’s what brought the earned academic allowance that they did not pay.
“So we need to let them know that they don’t have dominance over us. Universities are universal. Our universities used to have foreign students. You are a child of a governor, you sit and learn with the child of a driver, eat in the cafeteria together, stay in the same hostel. Today, it is not like that.”
NASS vows to step in
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who was represented by Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Robert Borrofice, while addressing the aggrieved workers, promised that the National Assembly would intensify efforts to ensure the issue was addressed.
He said. “The Senate is here with you today. We believe in your struggles and that is why on several occasions, we held meetings with the leadership of ASUU and the federal executives.”
Similarly, speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Mohammad Wudil, said he would ensure that Ministers of Finance, Labour and Employment, Education as well as all relevant stakeholders were brought together immediately to resolve the contentious issues.