THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) took its two-day protest in support of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Members from affiliates of the NLC gathered in thousands in front of the National Assembly complex, with scores carrying placards urging the Federal Government to resolve the impasse with ASUU and other striking university workers in the country.
Leaders of major civil society organisations, including the Country Director, Actionaid, Ene Obi, joined the workers in the protest.
A former senator who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th Senate, Shehu Sani, was also at the protest.
Addressing the gathering, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the government should not allow ASUU’s five-month-old strike to continue.
He threatened that should the government fail to meet ASUU’s demands within a short time, the NLC would proceed on a nationwide strike.
“If there is no intervention, no urgency, the issue remains the way it is; it will be a national protest for three days and strike action. We hope it will not get to that level because we are patriotic, and we are patient.
“We have met a lot of people behind the scene. It’s like many Nigerians are not aware because we don’t make it public. We need to expose what we’ve been doing to the public, all the information we are trying to put on the table.”
While decrying the infrastructure deficit and poor welfare packages for workers in the nation’s public universities, Wabba said Nigeria is not a poor country that cannot meet the demands of ASUU and other striking unions.
He said denying the children of the poor access to education is adding to the security challenges Nigeria is facing, as, according to him, the nation is breeding more terrorists by shutting down schools.
Wabba alleged that the money the children of the rich in the country spend annually while schooling abroad is N1.6 trillion, which could address the nation’s universities’ crises.
Meanwhile, speaking during the protest, NLC Secretary Emmanuel Ugboaja urged the National Assembly to query the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who said the workers’ protest was illegal.
He appealed to the National Assembly to ensure that only competent people are confirmed during the screening of ministerial nominees.
Ugboaja also said it is the duty of the National Assembly to ensure appointees are fit for portfolios assigned to them by the President.
Addressing the workers, a former National Trustee of the NLC and Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Peter Akpatason, appealed for patience with the lawmakers.
He pledged that the National Assembly would invite the ministers at the centre of the crisis and ensure a prompt resolution.
Wabba presented a letter containing the NLC’s demands to Ajayi Borrofice, who represented the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Other members of the National Assembly at the protest include Senators Haliru Jika and Chukwuka Utazi, among others.
The ICIR reports that since ASUU proceeded on strike on February 14 over unmet demands by the government, all academic activities in most of the country’s public universities have been suspended.
The majority of ASUU’s demands are contained in the yet-to-be-implemented 2009 agreement reached with the Federal Government.
In addition to ASUU, three other university workers’ unions have been on strike for months.
They are the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
The NLC had declared a two-day nationwide protest to compel the government to meet the workers’ demands.
On Tuesday, there were protests in all 36 states in the country.
This newspaper reported that the NLC’s protest was the first President Muhammadu Buhari would be facing as a military and civilian leader.