Human Rights Groups Back Nigeria Labour Congress’ Protest Over Lingering University Lecturers, ASUU Strike

Civil groups, International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative, as well as the Coalition of Civil Society, Workers and Human Rights Defenders, have commended the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on its plan to stage a nationwide protest over continued closure of tertiary institutions in the country.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike for five months over the failure of the Nigerian government to honour an agreement on issues bordering on funding universities, as well as on salaries and allowances of lecturers.

In a letter dated July 15 and addressed to chairpersons of the NLC in the states, Ayuba Wabba, the congress’ national president, and Emmanuel Ugboaja, general secretary, had said the protest was aimed at getting “our children back to school and support our unions in Nigeria’s public universities fighting for quality education.”

They designated Labour House in the federal capital territory (FCT) and secretariats of the NLC as the takeoff points for the protest.

According to the circular, the protest would be held on “Tuesday, July 26, 2022, and Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in all the states of the Federation and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

Backing the workers’ union, the two human rights groups in a statement by their leaders condemned the alleged insensitivity of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government on the legitimate demands of lecturers.

The statement was signed by Comrade Osmond Ugwu, Dr Jerry Chukwuokolo and Comrade Chukwudi Anachina.

It read, “International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative and Coalition of Civil Society, Workers and Human Rights Defenders wish to express her total support to the organised Labour in Nigeria, under the auspices of the duo major labour centres- Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress as they carry out protest warning-strike in solidarity with the public tertiary institution’s Lectures and students in Nigeria.

“We commend the bold steps taken by the duo to initiative this action and thereby urge all Nigeria Workers and union leaders to be steadfast in this struggle. They should not be deterred by the negative expression of the federal government, describing her actions as unconstitutional. Contrary to the opinion of the federal government, the planned action of labour is very legitimate, constitutional and morally imperative given the circumstances that gave rise to such action.

“For the avoidance of doubt, protest is governed and protected by the fundamental human rights provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, UN Charter on Human Rights as well as International Covenant on Civil and Political rights which Nigeria is signatory to and in most cases have been ratified.

“Precisely, protest, involves assembling of people, including workers, their movement from one place to another and speaking or voicing out their grievances. They are protected by sections 40, 41 and 39 of the 1999 constitution as ammended which deals with and provide for right to peaceful assembly and association, right to freedom of movement and right to freedom of expression and free speech. These are among other cardinal principles and virtues which every states and leaders world over respects and meticulously protect, most especially in a democratic government. To this extent, we advise all the security agencies, particularly the police, the army and DSS to act maturely by ensuring the rights of Nigeria workers are judiciously respected, preserved and protected as they embark on this noble protest.

“More so, the concept of solidarity action is also envisaged by Fundamental Rights Enforcement Rules 2009 under chapter IV of 1999 Constitution as amended where it provides that “Courts shall encourage and welcome public interest litigation in the human rights field…… In particular, human rights activists, advocates or groups as well as any non-governmental organisation can institute human rights application on behalf of any potential applicant. This is corollary to the action of the NLC to the lecturers and Nigeria students whom the federal government have held down with their destiny for over a year now without any hope of letting them go free while the children of those in power are abroad with the resources of those workers whom their children and their future are held under bondage. They need freedom and it is only this action that can give them the required freedom and future.

“We condemn the insensitivity of the federal government on the legitimate demands of lecturers and the strike that has dragged for over a year with the students being kept at home every day for over a year without the government feeling any serious concern about the ugly situation. We attribute the insensitivity of the President, his cabinet members and members of the National Assembly on the l huge sum of common wealth of the people in their possession with which they find it very easy to send their children to the best of universities across the world.

“We call on all well-meaning Nigerians, including the students themselves, all lecturers and non-academic staff, traders associations, students unions, professionals including NBA, NMA, etc informal sector workers, all Civil society organisations, religious organisations and leaders, Keke operators and all affiliates of NLC and TUC to identify with the strike protests and ensure that it succeeds.

“We also use this opportunity to call on the leadership of labour to see this action as a mission for the salvation of our youths and educational sector from destruction and treat it as such in order to restore the full confidence of Nigeria people. To this end, the warning strike should be seen as the beginning of a real action that need to commence if after one end of suspension of the mass action the matter is not finally resolved in the interest of ASUU.

“We consider two weeks ultimatum, reportedly given to the Minister of Education by the president to resolve the ASUU problem as diversionary, which does not have any hope or weight for serious solution. What Nigeria people expect from the president is a directive to report to him within a week the extent of implementation of the demand of ASUU and other striking workers in the tertiary institutions.

“The problems of ASUU and other unions in the tertiary institutions have gone beyond rhetorics and should be addressed holistically and radically once and for all. We call on NLC, TUC and Nigeria people to accommodate the interests of other striking workers in the tertiary institutions in this action and ensure the problems in the sector are resolved completely, once and for all, since solving the ASUU problems alone without the others will not end the continuous sitting at home and frustration of youths in those instructions. We wish to use this medium to call on the organised labour, civil society and all the Nigeria masses to rise in solidarity to sustain the mass protest against the latent increase in the pump prices of petroleum products until they are reversed.”

Source link