The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has expressed its preparedness to commence a three-day warning strike from Thursday, which would be immediately after their 2-day nationwide protest that begins today.
But the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has advised business owners not to shut down their operations in response to the workers’ solidarity protest.
The NLC has also warned that it might make the proposed three-day warning strike indefinite if federal government fails to resolve its protracted industrial dispute with public university workers that downed tools over five months ago.
NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, stated this while speaking to journalists at the ongoing 18th NLC Rain School in in Uyo, Akwa Ibom.
According to him, the labour movement has mobilised workers across country for a nationwide protest in all the 36 states of the federation and Abuja, that commences today.
The protest is to compel the federal government to resolve all lingering issues to re-open public universities for academic activities.
“The protest happening tomorrow is not a solidarity protest but a protest of NLC against government actions that lead to our universities being shut down and our kids staying at home instead of going to school. All the unions directly involved in the strike are NLC affiliates and their members are part of NLC.
“We have taken three levels of decision. First is the protest which is going to be national tomorrow. After the protest, a three days national warning strike will start, and if they fail to resolve the issues and bring back our kids to school, we go on indefinite strike.
“That is the decision of our National Executive Council. And what will be helpful for them is to check the timeline we have given for them to resolve the issues. We are optimistic that they will be willing this time because we are also willing to get our children back to school,” he said.
Speaking on the harsh living condition of Nigerians, Wabba said that it was not only the education sector that is presently in shambles, but the economy as well.
Wabba said; “I never knew that the exchange rate has moved within a week from N630 to N670. This is very frightening and it erodes purchasing power of workers. There is no way we can continue in this direction and expect that there will be shared prosperity within workers and within the large portion of Nigerians that are in the lower echelon at the economic ladder.
“Importantly is the issue of our children that are out of school for five months. Basically it also requires a political decision for the issue to be sorted out. What is even more worrisome is the fact that they keep posting the graduation of their children in universities outside the country on social media and then the universities where the children of the working class study are closed down.
“I was told today that we have three sets of students that ought to be in the university but unfortunately they have not even sorted out their admission challenges. So, it really a very frightening future for Nigerians, particularly the youths”.
He said the irony of it was that most of the political elites today benefited from free public education, wondering why it had been impossible for them to fix our public education.
“Is it about the class divide? It honestly beats some body’ s imagination. That is why all of these issues resonates that we need to engage politically. We have also realised the fact that they have used different approaches to divide Nigerians.
“Unfortunately for them, the NLC is a pan-Nigerian organisation that cannot be divided. And workers should not allow themselves to be divided along ethnic or religious line. This is just diversion of interest. Their division tool is happening now, “Workers should be wiser, citizens should be wiser. We should work assiduously to unite Nigeria and not to divide Nigerian.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Lagos Chapter of the NLC, Funmi Sessi, yesterday said the congress in Lagos has fully mobilised all its affiliates both in the private and public sectors for a total shut down of all sectors in the state as it holds a two-day solidarity protest to push the government to resolve public university workers’ strike.
Addressing affiliates in preparation for the two-day nationwide protest against what it called government insensitivity to the plight of workers in universities, Sessi said workers in Lagos would start converging under the bridge in Ikeja from 6a.m-6.30a.m and move en masse to the Alausa Secretariat from 7a.m to 7.30a.m to deliver a letter from the NLC President to the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
She noted that all the affiliates have shown their readiness to gather at Ikeja under the bridge today.
According to her, the essence of the meeting was to mobilise all affiliates to protest against the poor handling of the education sector in Nigeria.
She lamented that students in higher institutions from poor homes have been at home for over five months, adding that government further exacerbate the crisis with the introduction of ‘No work, no pay policy.
“Stoppage of the salary is draconian. We are supporting the struggle of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
Despite efforts to broker peace, government has failed. We are already fully mobilised, we will be on the streets using the protest to drum support for the parents of the students who have been home for this long period,” she said.
According to her, the NLC has charged all the private institutions owned by the state government to abstain from going to work, adding that it is the directive from the national body of the NLC that Lagos State University(LASU) and other state owned institutions should join the protest as workers.
“If the government like, let them bring all their armored tanker and security agencies, we will face them. We are using this opportunity to tell all institutions in Lagos State to come out in solidarity with us because the reward will be for all. An injury to one is an injury to all,”she added.
Sessi also threatened that the national grid would be shut down, adding that health workers would only be allowed for emergency services.
In his contribution, the Zonal Coordinator ASUU, Lagos, Adelaja Odukoya, stressed that the protest would be for Nigerians.
He maintained that the strike that caused unions in the universities to down tools was a deep-rooted crisis.
He said, “the struggle is in the interest of our children, enough is enough, government must fund education system. If we allow government to continue they will destroy our universities as they’ve done to our secondary schools.”