The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) unequivocally condemns the decision of the Governor Yahaya Bello-led Kogi state government to ban the activities of the Kogi State University (KSU) Chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for embarking on strike action to push home demands for payment of owed arrears of salaries and allowances as well as other demands.
We urge the Kogi state government to immediately and unconditionally reverse the illegal, undemocratic and despotic ban and instead pursue the honorable path of meeting the demands of the striking lecturers.
This action of the Kogi state government is an assault on democratic rights especially the right to freedom of association as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize to which Nigeria is a signatory. The Kogi State government must be made to understand that this is democracy and that strike actions and protests are legally acceptable. We therefore call on the labour movement and the students’ movement to resist this attack with mass actions.
The anti-poor government of Kogi state has taken this reprehensible action in order to arm twist and compel the striking lecturers to abandon their demands for payment of owed salaries and allowances as well as other demands.
We salute the ASUU for its resilience despite attempt by the despotic state government to undermine the strike with false propaganda and security forces. It is shameful and undemocratic that a government will resolve to use force to compel workers to resume work instead of meeting their demands. It is now about seven months since the strike started yet nothing is being done by the state government to meet the demands so that students can resume academic activities.
This latest attack however is just one out of many undemocratic actions of the tyrannical Governor Yahaya Bello-led Kogi State government. The same government went on air last year to threaten students because they protested in support of striking education workers who are being owed backlogs of salary by the state government.
To us in the ERC, the only way to resolve the impasse is for the state government to meet the demands of the union. As far as we are concerned, ASUU has done the needful for a serious government to meet its demands. The other staff unions suspended the strike three weeks ago with the hope that government will do the needful but ASUU remained on strike because major parts of its demands have not been meet.
The Kogi State government is going all about to blackmail the striking lecturers. In one of the propaganda, the state government claimed that ASUU is not calling off its seven months old strike action after government had allegedly met 90 percent of its demands. But till today, the government is yet to spell out the demands it met out of the ASUU demands.
In the first instance, it is the nonchalance and lackadaisical attitude of the government to public education that contributed to the situation whereby five state owned institutions were closed for five months due to strike actions embarked upon by teaching and non-teaching staff. Therefore, it is Governor Yahaya Bello that should be held responsible, and not ASUU or any other staff union, for the enormous negative effect the strike has had on the students and the state at large.
A responsive and responsible government will do all that is needful to make life better for the workers, most especially in the education sector where academic excellence is important.
We reiterate our solidarity with the entire ASUU KSU and other staff unions and the students. We shall continue to call for political actions, such as rally, protest, picket, symposium and public meetings until their demands are met and public education is properly funded and democratically managed.
– Dimeji Macaulay
Coordinator, ERC Northern Zone