Nigerian Workers Kick Off Nationwide Protest Over Prolonged Closure of Universities

The Nigerian public universities have been shut for more than five months over unresolved issues of poor welfare and underfunding.

Led by the umbrella Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), workers across all sectors of the national economy filed out on Tuesday to commence a two-day nationwide protest against the continued shutdown of public universities.

The Nigerian public universities have been shut for more than five months over unresolved issues of poor welfare and underfunding of the institutions between the various workers’ unions and the government.

Worried by the continued closure and the attendant consequences including rising insecurity and unemployment, NLC called out its affiliates across the country to embark on nationwide protest.

The union’s President, Ayuba Wabba, who has consistently faulted the government’s description of the declared protest as a solidarity one, said his union is directly concerned by the development because the affected unions are its affiliates.

He also threatened that if the crisis remained unresolved after the protest, NLC would mobilise workers nationwide to embark on a warning strike, the development that may further hurt the nation’s precarious economy.

Mr Wabba also threatened more actions that could compel the government to accede to the striking workers’ demands.

Today’s protest

As of 8a.m on Tuesday, thousands of protesters had gathered at Ikeja “underbridge” in Lagos while others were moving from the Labour House in the Yaba area of the city to join the protest.

There are reports of heavy presence of security operatives across major parts of the city including Ikeja, Ojota, and Ikorodu Road, among other places.

Meanwhile, from Ilorin, Kwara State capital, to Jos in Plateau, both in the North-central part of the country, updates on the protest have shown massive turnout of workers and students.

Earlier on Tuesday, the chairman of SSANU at the University of Ilorin, Olusola Falowo, sent out words to his union members and allies to join the mass protest. He said the protest would be peaceful, promising that no infiltration by thugs would be allowed.

Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES’ reporters nationwide would be on hand to report happenings throughout the two-day protest.

ASUU, other unions’ demands

Nigerian university workers under their various unions including the Academic Staff of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Allied Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), have embarked on strike to protest what they termed poor funding of universities and poor welfare conditions.

ASUU, which commenced its nationwide industrial action on February 14, has continued to roll it over 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 the workers as introduced by the government and sought its replacement with University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of both SSANU and NASU has also rejected IPPIS, even as it presented an alternative said to have also been developed by its members to the government.

Government steps up resolution efforts

President Muhammadu Buhari last week ordered the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to step down from negotiation with the striking workers to allow his Education Ministry counterpart, Adamu Adamu, to take over.

Mr Adamu, during the joint presentation of negotiation progress report to President Muhammadu Buhari, had explained the reason for his aloofness since the workers’ strike commenced and pledged to fast track the process of the resolution.

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