The Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC), Enugu State Chapter, on Tuesday joined the nationwide protest in solidarity with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which has been on strike since February 14. ASUU and other trade unions in the education sector have been on strike over the alleged failure of the government to keep to an agreement reached with the union on better welfare for its members and more funding for universities. Although the industrial action started as a four-week warning strike, ASUU has continued to extend the strike whenever the warning period expired. The solidarity protest of the labour union in Enugu began at the state’s office of the NLC, near New Market, Enugu North Local Government Area of the state. Armed police operatives were seen guarding the protest which caused heavy gridlock in the Enugu metropolis. The protesters, led by the state Chairperson of NLC, Virginus Nwobodo, marched to the Government House, Enugu where they were received by the State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and other officials of the state government. Mr Nwobodo told the governor that they were in the secretariat to appeal to him to deliver their concerns and dissatisfactions to President Muhammadu Buhari over the ongoing ASUU industrial action. The labour leader said it was unfortunate that the Nigerian government was playing with education in the country despite its importance in the development of the society.
“Keeping our children out of school is dangerous. Some of these children have turned to kidnappers. Some are indulging in kinds of criminality,” he said.
“As I speak to you, ASUU members are hungry. A lot of ASUU members have been thrown out of their houses because they can no longer pay their rents and their utility bills.”
Some of the protesters who spoke at the secretariat expressed their frustration with alleged lack of commitment and silence of the federal government towards ending the strike. They accused Mr Buhari’s administration of impoverishing the education sector since it came into power in 2015. Responding, Mr Ugwuanyi, assured the protesters that he would convey their message to the president. He noted that the state government has always acknowledged education as the bedrock of society. The governor, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Simon Ortuanya, commended the protesters for being peaceful.
“Our job, just as you have pointed out, is to continue to engage the federal government to ensure that there is a peaceful and amicable resolution of all the contending issues between the federal government and ASUU,” he said.
Speaking to journalists during the protest, the chairperson of the union, Mr Nwobodo, said ASUU had shown enough consideration and understanding in their disagreement with the government.
“This is just a warning to the federal government. To show that we are not happy. After this action, if they continue and not settle with ASUU, then will withdraw our services nationwide,” he said.