A coalition of labour movements, Joint Action Front (JAF), has called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to declare a nationwide strike over the continued shutdown of universities in Nigeria. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had on Monday, February 14, 2022 announced the commencement of a strike due to what it described as “failure” on the part of the government to meet some of the lingering demands of the union. The union had cited the failure of the government to release revitalization funds for universities; non-release of earned allowances to lecturers; end the proliferation of universities by politicians and state governments; refusal to deploy the University Transparency Accountability System for the payment of salaries and allowances of lecturers; and refusal to renegotiate the ASUU-FGN 2009 agreement as reasons for its present strike.
JAF, in a statement by its Deputy President, Achike Chude, and Secretary, Biodun Aremu, berated the Muhammadu Buhari-led government for failing to reach an agreement with ASUU. Condemning what it described as the unserious attitude of the government towards implementing agreements it reached with unions, especially with public university unions, JAF called on the countries two labour centres, the NLC and TUC, to go ahead and declare a warning strike.strike.
The statement read, “The Joint Action Front (JAF) has in its public statement issued on August 10, 2022 called on the organised Labour (NLC & TUC) to, in view of the necessity to wake up and to save our country from the dominant culture of irresponsibility, incompetence and greed demonstrated everywhere by Nigeria’s ruling class.
“As JAF, we have consistently told the vast majority of Nigerians, who are deprived and oppressed that the economic, social and political crises causing deeper and deeper suffering of the people of Nigeria is a result of greed theft and misrule by the rulers of Nigeria. The JAF’s call has become the more expedient now following the recent deadlock in the FGN-ASUU Re-Negotiation meeting, in which the Federal Government, once again demonstrated impunity and unwillingness to address the legitimate and longstanding demands of ASUU, but instead chose a path of armtwisting and blackmail to undermine the principles of signing and ensuring faithful adherence to the implementation of collective agreements, whenever it is reached.
“The position of JAF is that it is unacceptable that the Federal Government, instead of allowing the process of collective bargaining to proceed in accordance with the standards, unilaterally attempted to impose an award. We reject such imposition. JAF cannot support acceptance of unnegotiated award. To do so, will amount to subversion of valid principles.
“We cannot and will not look on as the rulers strive to use the trade union of academics as a guinea pig for dismantling the rights of Nigerian workers to collective bargaining. We stand firmly behind ASUU.
“The UNILATERAL ACTION to impose an award, instead of carrying out a valid COLLECTIVE BARGAINING exercise with ASUU is unacceptable to JAF and all Nigerians who believe in building a just country must support ASUU‘s struggle. Inview of the resolve by JAF to join forces with organised Labour towards a warning General Strike, it is germane to alert and avail the working people, youth and the oppressed poor across the country on the imperativeness of a national sense of memory by recalling what has been the stand and still the stand of ASUU in all Negotiations and Renegotiations of Collective Agreements with the FGN.
“As far as JAF is concerned, we believe the class of Looters’ in Nigeria is getting emboldened because there is no serious challenge to its reckless plundering of the wealth of the workers and the oppressed people! This class of exploiters has wreaked monumental disasters on our country, which is one of the wealthiest in the world, through the neoliberal policies of privatisation, foreign debt enslavement, devaluation of the Naira, destruction of public goods and public spirit, etc, at the expense of acute suffering of the vast majority of the Nigerian people for decades.
“Nigeria has been reduced to a reality in which the people’ rights to life, to jobs and security, to all ingredients of a happy life remain a dream for a vast majority of citizens. This informedl why JAF and it’s allies have been “appealing” to Nigerians that the path to save Nigeria is to work for an alternative political power based on the ideology of the working class – Socialism!
“JAF’ and its allies’ CLARION for General Strike and Mass Action is to the effect of organising and mobilising NIGERIANS to take up the CHALLENGE of building a society where the wellbeing of ALL NIGERIANS will be the central pursuit of our country’s economic, social and political institutions.
“To achieve this GOAL requires that all organistions of the workers, youth, women and oppressed people should work together in UNITY and with an irrevocable commitment for SYSTEM CHANGE, hence our demand to the organised Labour (NLC & TUC) to consider the imperativeness of a warning General Strike to SAVE the country from the imminent descent to anarchy and unimaginable disaster.”