“We informed the governor that we were coming and yet no one is here to address us. This is the height of insensitivity and disrespect.”
The Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, and some civil society groups marched to the office of the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, Thursday, to protest the killing of teachers and abduction of school girls.
The protesters were, however, made to endure the hot, scorching sun for hours as they waited for a government official to address them.
After two hours of waiting outside the shut gates of the governor’s office at Alausa, tempers began to flare as the teachers voiced their anger at the seeming disrespect being meted out to them.
“We informed the governor that we were coming and yet no one is here to address us. This is the height of insensitivity and disrespect,” one of the teachers screamed at the armed police officers manning the gate.
Mr. Fashola had left to meet Penny Pritzker, the U.S Secretary of Commerce, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Victoria Island, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, and for a while, it seemed no state official was detailed to receive the protesters.
It took the appearance of Fatai Olukoya, Special Adviser to the governor on Education; Kayode Opeifa, Commissioner for Transportation; and Taofiq Tijani, Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, to douse the anger of the teachers.
Yemi Adamolekun, who was part of the Women for Peace and Justice group, said that they came to get feedback from Mr. Fashola.
“It wasn’t really a protest; we wanted a meeting with Governor Fashola. We were here two weeks ago, we just wanted a feedback,” said Ms. Adamolekun, the Executive Director of Enough is Enough.
“Governor is part of the Governors’ Forum, and Governor Shettima is one of them. We wanted to find out what they are discussing in their Governors’ meeting,” she added.
Students from some girls’ secondary schools in Lagos also joined the civil societies in the protest; although they were sent back by their teachers upon arrival.
Taiwo Oladimeji, one of the students, pleaded with the government to help rescue the abducted girls.
“Next week is Children’s Day. How can we celebrate Children’s Day without these girls?” Ms. Oladimeji, a Senior Secondary 2 student of Government Senior College, Agege, said.
Another student, Adedoyin Adenuga, said that they want security in their schools and homes.
“The death in this year is too much. We are not happy without those girls. Our nation is not at peace. How are we sure they are not going to invade our hostel,” Ms. Adenuga asked.
In their written address to Mr. Fashola, the teachers stated that they initially received the news of the abduction as “a tale from wonderland” designed to politically hoodwink the nation.
“What an assault to humanity, an attack on our professional industry, the school system, is the deschooling pursuit of the abduction of the innocent and learning girls of the Chibok Government School?” The teachers address read.
“May we be quick to tell the Boko Haram insurgents that the school system remains the proud industry of the teachers and that the innocent school boys and girls are the raw materials we process for the human resource development of the nation.”
The teachers said that over 173 of their members have been killed in north-eastern Nigeria by the Boko Haram insurgents.
On why they had waited so long before protesting the killing of their members, Mohammadu Braimoh, NUT State Secretary, said that teachers are “organized people.”
“We have our system, we have our tradition. We don’t just jump into issues. It’s not how long but how well,” said Mr. Braimoh.
“If NUT could shut schools in the whole Nigeria without notice to the employers, that tells you how we work,” he added.
Adesegun Raheem, the NUT State Chairman, said that the closure of public schools for one day was “a warning threat” to all tiers of government to eschew politics and sentiments and bring back the abducted girls.
Mr. Raheem said that they would take a drastic action if the current situation persists.
“We’ll shut down all schools from the university to all elementary schools in Nigeria because we are playing with our tomorrow,” he said.
The teachers demanded that the federal and respective state governments compensate the families of the 173 slain teachers – 170 from Borno State and 3 from Yobe State.
“It is also important to take insurance cover for both students and teachers in the vulnerable political environment of the country,” the teachers said.