SOLDIERS and other security agents were spotted all over Abuja on Wednesday ahead of the planned protest by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) against the Federal Government over the prolonged strike of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU).
The protest did not hold.
The NANS had vowed to shut down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, after a similar shutdown of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on Monday. They also said they will block the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, a major route into and out of Abuja.
The siege on the Lagos Airport Road, despite heavy rain, had caused heavy gridlocks in parts of the state and forced many passengers to trek long distances to catch their flights.
The NANS vowed that the protest would not be limited to the nation’s commercial hub but to other major cities in the country.
The group’s protests against the disruption caused by ASUU strike to academic activities in public universities have heightened since it got a new leader earlier this month.
On Wednesday in Abuja, the Federal Government mobilised military tanks, and gun-wielding security forces, comprising officers from the Police, Army, Air Force, and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), among others, to different parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
It is not a rarity for the government to use security forcet to disperse protesters or prevent protests in Nigeria.
In some cases, water canons and rubber bullets are rained on protesters, while in others such as the 2020 EndSARS protest, it was reported that live bullets were used.
The ICIR crew had earlier visited the Abuja airport and other parts of the city, including the Berger Roundabout and other major locations where the students may converge. Howvwer, security forces with their gun trucks and heavy artilleries were stationed at different locations in the city.
ASUU embarked on strike on February 14 to compel the government to meet its demands.
Efforts to resolve the impasse have failed.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the House of Representatives, notable government institutions and respected citizens have mediated in the crisis to no avail.
On Wednesday, the National Industrial Court in Abuja ordered ASUU to call off the strike after the government approached the court to compel the union to return to work.
It is unclear at press time if the union would obey the order, as similar orders had been ignored by workers’ unions in the past.
The government have made some concessions, which were rejected by ASUU.
Among those compromises are the 35 per cent increase in salary for professors and 23.5 per cent rise in pay for other workers in the public universities.
ASUU has vowed it would accept nothing but a comprehensive infrastructural lift in the universities, improved funding for research and welfare for its members, which are part of the 2009 agreement it had with the Federal Government, which it said the government must implement.
On Tuesday, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, posted the pictures of her daughter – in – law’s graduation from a UK university while the ASUU strike lingered.
The action, which followed similar trends by public officials in the country since the strike began, provoked the ire of many Nigerians.
The ICIR had reported how ASUU had gone on strike for over 600 days under President Buhari, the longest under any leader in Nigeria.
Major reasons for ASUU downing tools have been the implementation of an agreement the Federal Government signed with it in 2009, funding for infrastructure and research in the universities, among other demands, namely:
- Deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
- Payment of outstanding arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
- Release of an agreed sum of money for revitalising public universities (federal and state).
- Addressing proliferation and governance issues in state universities.
- Settling promotion arrears.
- Releasing withheld salaries of academics.
- Payment of outstanding third-party deductions.