A coalition of labour movements, Joint Action Front (JAF), has called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to declare a two-day nationwide strike over the continued shutdown of universities in Nigeria.
ASUU downed tools for an initial four-week strike on 14 February over demands of better remuneration for its members and funding for the university system. But the failure to reach an agreement with the government has continued to elongate the industrial action. The latest was on 1 August when the union announced another extension of the strike by four weeks.
JAF, in a statement by its Deputy President, Achike Chude, and Secretary, Biodun Aremu, wondered why the government is yet to resolve the crisis despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive three weeks ago, as well as a two-day nationwide protest by the NLC.
Mr Buhari had directed the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to apprehend the situation and resolve the crisis as soon as possible. Mr Adamu reportedly told the president that the crisis would be resolved in two weeks. But the strike still lingers.
JAF also condemned what it described as the unserious attitude of the government towards implementing agreements it reached with unions, most especially in the case of ASUU, the NonAcademic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
“JAF, therefore, urges the NLC and TUC to declare a 48-hour general strike to save public education and demand urgent action from the government to deal with the cost of living crisis and improve the living conditions of all workers. We urge that such a general strike should be preceded by mass leafleting, public meetings and rallies across the country in order to build support for workers and the oppressed masses,” JAF said in a statement.
“For more than two weeks after the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) mass protest and over three weeks that President Buhari ordered the Minister of Education to resolve the strike actions embarked upon by workers in public universities sector, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government is yet to reach an agreement that will resolve the strike actions by the university unions. While the universities have been shut down for over 180 days, the attitude of the President Buhari (administration) does not show that it is ready to sincerely meet the demands of the striking workers.”
Group advocates socialism
JAF also lamented the rising inflation and cost of living in the country, which it said has put a strain on the Nigerian workers who are earning N30,000 minimum wage.
The group accused the Muhammadu Buhari-led government and the ones before it of ‘killing’ the nation’s economy with neo-liberal policies.
It argued that Nigeria is blessed with enormous resources that have been mismanaged by successive administrations and their capitalist cronies.
JAF decried Nigeria’s inability to benefit from the global price surge of crude oil that resulted from the war between Ukraine and Russia because of the sorry state of all the refineries in the country.
The group added; “Under this capitalist APC (administration) and the PDP government before it, the Nigerian masses have witnessed how the elites have run the economy aground with neoliberal policies that have further collapsed the economy. Today, Nigeria is the only oil-producing country in the world that is not able to derive benefit from increase in crude oil prices on the world market due to the crisis in Ukraine and Russia. This is partly because the ruling elites have prevented our refineries from working while they make billions from the importation of refined oil.
“JAF believes that the only way to salvage Nigeria is for Nigerian workers and oppressed masses to unite to chase out the looters, end capitalism and enthrone a government composed of workers, youth and oppressed masses with socialist programmes. This is what we mean by system change. All changes in the past including that of the 2015 general elections are changes between one section of the ruling elite to another.”
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.