Led by the umbrella Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC)workers from all sectors of the national economy gathered on Tuesday to begin a two-day nationwide protest against the continued closure of public universities.
Nigerian public universities have been closed for more than five months due to unresolved issues of poor social protection and underfunding of institutions between various labor unions and the government.
Worried about the continued shutdown and its attendant consequences, including rising insecurity and unemployment, the NLC has called on its affiliates across the country to embark on a nationwide protest.
Union president Ayuba Wabba, who has consistently blamed the government’s portrayal of the declared protest as a show of solidarity, said his union is directly concerned with development because the unions involved are its affiliates.
He also threatened that if the crisis remained unresolved after the protest, the NLC would mobilize workers nationwide to embark on a warning strike, a development that could further damage the country’s shaky economy.
Mr. Wabba also threatened other actions that could force the government to accede to the demands of the striking workers.
As of 8am on Tuesday, thousands of protesters had gathered at the Ikeja “underbridge” in Lagos as others left the Labor House in the Yaba area of the city to join the protest.
Reports point to a heavy presence of security guards in major parts of the city, including Ikeja, Ojota and Ikorodu Road, among others.
Meanwhile, from Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, to Jos in the Plateau, both located in the north-central part of the country, updates on the protest showed massive turnout by workers and students.
Earlier on Tuesday, SSANU President at the University of Ilorin, Olusola Falowo sent messages to his union members and allies to join the mass protest. He said the protest would be peaceful, promising that no rogue infiltration would be allowed.
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES reporters nationwide would be on hand to report on events throughout the two-day protest.
ASUU, demands of other unions
Nigerian university workers under their various unions including Academic Staff of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Association of Senior Staff of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Union of Non-Academic Staff of Educational and Allied Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of University Technologists (NAAT), went on strike to protest what they said were underfunded universities and poor social conditions.
The ASUU, which began its national industrial action on February 14, continued to renew it for more than five months.
The union had rejected the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as a payment platform for workers as introduced by the government and demanded that it be replaced by University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of SSANU and NASU also rejected IPPIS, even though it presented an alternative that was also said to have been developed by its members in government.
The government is stepping up its resolution efforts
President Muhammadu Buhari last week ordered Labor and Employment Minister Chris Ngige to back out of negotiations with the strikers to allow his education ministry counterpart, Adamu Adamu, to take over.
Mr. Adamu, during the joint presentation of the report on the progress of the negotiations to President Muhammadu Buhari, had explained the reason for his distance since the start of the workers’ strike and had pledged to accelerate the process of resolution.
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