ERC Members on a lobby visit to NUT Lagos Office
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has condemned the threat by the Federal government to sack striking academic staff of public universities unless they resume duties on or before December 4.
In a statement signed by her National Coordinator and National Secretary, Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Michael Ogundele respectively, the group described the announcement as “the height of President Jonathan’s creeping civilian dictatorship”.
“This outrageous and provocative order by a supposedly elected government to University lecturers to resume work regardless of whether or not their demands have been met is reminiscent of the dark days of military despotism. Above all it demonstrates the regime’s contempt and absolute disregard for the rights and interests of the working people of this country. No doubt, to implement this satanic threat the Federal Government will have to employ ruthless methods consisting of arrest and detention of ASUU leaders, mass sack of its members, proscription of the union itself and drafting of the police and the army to occupy University campuses ostensibly to maintain law and order!
“Here we must quickly point out that it is not ASUU but actually the Federal Government and its obstinate refusal to invest in revitalizing our decrepit public University system that is sabotaging the education sector and keeping students perpetually at home.
“The Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, while announcing this devilish threat said the Federal Government has met all its commitments and obligations with respect to the FGN/ASUU 2009 agreement. It must be that the ruling elite somehow believes that Nigerian people suffer from collective amnesia, otherwise how could a whole Minister of the Federal Republic utter such a blatant lie?” the statement read.
They also condemned the directive by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) that armed police should take over Universities for the purpose of effecting the forceful return of striking lecturers to their duty post.
“Universities are sanctuaries of knowledge, not military barracks! Even under the worst military despotism, militarisation of university campuses was stoutly resisted by students, education workers and the entire labour movement. Students cannot be expected to learn under conditions of insecurity which the presence of armed police on campuses would most certainly create. We must remind the public that between January and June of the year 2013 alone, over 10 students were killed by the police on campuses across the country mostly in similar conditions of drafting police to campuses ostensibly to maintain “law and order”.
They called on the IGP to reverse this directive immediately.
“Otherwise we shall hold the IGP and the Federal Government responsible for any harrassment, injury or death of students, lecturers and any member of the University community that may be caused by this rash directive.
The group also demanded that the salaries and allowances of all academic staff withheld under the “No Work, No Pay” rule during the course of the strike be paid in full.
They also called on the labour unions and civil society to support ASUU.
“We call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and civil society organizations to give concrete solidarity to ASUU by immediately commencing mobilizations for rallies, mass protests and demonstrations all over the country in order to clearly demonstrate to the government that it would have the entire working class to contend with if it decides to go on with its threat to victimize striking University lecturers for simply fighting for the revitalization of the public university system”.
Meanwhile, students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA) and Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) resumed on Monday, as some lecturers of the institutions were sighted on campus following the directive by the management of the two schools.
The whistle blower, Fatima Salau
The Rector of Yaba College of Technology, Kudirat Ladipo, has been accused of exploring desperate means to victimize Fatima Salau, a final-year student of the institution for daring to reveal how the school management props up and shields cult gangs, SaharaReporters has learned.
A lecturer at the institution, which is known as Yaba Tech, told SaharaReporters that part of Ms. Ladipo’s moves was to set up a panel which would be used to victimize the student after she had written her exam. Our correspondent was told that the whistle-blower, Ms. Salau, wrote her last paper on Thursday, November 21, 2013 and immediately received a letter from the school’s management to face an indicting panel. Her offense is that she reportedly stated that the institution’s top officials were responsible for the absurd increase in the number of cult members and their violent activities on the campus.
Several sources told SaharaReporters that the panel was clearly out to intimidate the whistle-blower when she appeared before them. They said the panel members informed Ms. Salau that she faced the risk of not receiving her statement of results for the Higher National Diploma (HND) she recently concluded. In addition, our sources disclosed that Ms. Salau was also warned that her National Diploma (ND), which she earned more than two years ago before enrolling for the HND, may also be recalled.
Ms. Salau, the public relations officer of the Lagos State chapter of the Joint Campus Committee of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), spoke a few weeks ago on SaharaTV where she discussed the menace of cult groups at Yaba Tech. During her appearance, she disclosed that the spike in the violent activities of cult gangs, which led to a recent closure of the school by protesting students, was due to the strong backing cult members received from the management of the College.
Several weeks ago, students at Yaba Tech shut the school down after a suspected cult member used a bottle to viciously attack a fellow student in the Banking and Finance Department. Students were particularly irate as there had been no prior argument between the victim and the assailant before the attack was launched, leaving the victim with severe injuries.
To register their outrage over the assault, protesting students closed all entrances into the institution, barring any activity. They demanded that the culprit be identified and punished. The rector reportedly cut short a trip to return to campus and appease the students, promising to address the menace of cults. Several students told SaharaReporters that the rector subsequently failed to meet certain conditions the students gave for discontinuing their protest
The students’ demands included that the management take full responsibility for the treatment of the victim of the attack, identify and punish the culprit, publish the full list of all cult members on the campus, and eject cult members who reside on the campus especially in the Complex Hall residence.
“The cult members often boast that they are paid by the management,” said a former member of the Students Union Government (SUG). He added: “At a recent meeting, the management also told us that they would speak to the cult members to stop their nefarious acts. It all means they know each other, both the management and the cult gangs.”
Instead of meeting the students’ demands to curb cult activities and rusticate known cult members, the rector and some of her team of administrators seemed determined to go after innocent students. Students went on another round of protests after Yaba Tech’s management released an alleged list of supposed cult members. “The list did not contain names of cult members,” one student told SaharaReporters. “It was populated with names of innocent students, while the actual cult members who are well known to the management were deliberately exempted,” he alleged. Students rejected the list, describing it as a ploy by the management to shield the cult members. The students demanded that the management should start over and prepare a genuine list of actual cult members.
In her interview on SaharaTV, Ms. Salau stated that cult members were well known to the management, but added that the Rector, Ms. Ladipo, was “trying to be mother” to them all. The whistle-blower also disclosed that some cult members who are non-students reside on the campus of the college.
When our correspondent visited the college recently, numerous students who asked for anonymity accused the school management of funneling cash to the leaders of cult groups, thereby providing incentives for the violent gangs to increase. One of the students accused the rector of cultivating the cult gangs with pay-offs so that they would be handy for her husband, a politician who is reportedly mulling a run in the upcoming 2015 elections.
“Although we like the woman, but the truth is that she was the least expected to emerge as our rector,” said one of the students. “She became the rector through political influences, and I guess she is servicing the interests that gave her the office by helping to generate touts for their next round of election.”
A senior lecturer at the college told SaharaReporters that he was not aware that the rector was engaged in clandestine breeding of cult members for political purposes. He added, however, that the perception was damaging enough. “If some students believe that the person who runs this college was breeding a group of students who attack other students, then that is bad for the image of this revered institution and undermines the moral authority any leader must possess in order to lead effectively.” The lecturer added that the allegation was serious enough for the rector to resign or be removed.
In the meantime, SaharaReporters learned that the panel set up by Ms. Ladipo asked many questions of Ms. Salau but did not give her the opportunity to answer. Rather, members of the panel focused on detailing to the whistle-blower the likely vindictive actions the college could take against her for daring to expose the management’s indifference to the scourge of cult groups.
A lecturer told our correspondent that he learned that the panel members received a huge shock when they asked Ms. Salau whether she regretted her whistle-blowing action and she gave a resounding “No!” as her answer.
Late Festus Iyayi
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has described Professor Festus Iyayi’s death as a tragic loss to the struggle for the revitalisation of Nigeria’s university system
This was contained in a press statement signed by its National Coordinator, Hassan Taiwo Soweto and National Secretary, Michael Ogundele.
“This sad news is totally shocking and heartbreaking”
“That Prof. Festus Iyayi died on his way to the ASUU NEC is a testimony to his lifelong commitment to the struggle for a better public university education system for the children of the working masses and poor in general. He was ASUU president in 1986, yet he remained a vocal critic of government anti-poor education and economic policies since then and was until his death a prominent member of ASUU’s team negotiating with government the need to honour the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement”
The group blamed the don’s death on the bad state of roads in the country.
“This is not an act of God. Prof. Festus Iyayi’s death was avoidable. If our roads are safe for travelling and Governors and other elected officials stop their habitual recklessness and disrespect for the rights of other road users, perhaps Prof. Festus Iyayi would still be alive today.
“Regrettably due to the incurable corruption of the capitalist ruling elite and the profit-first mentality of the neo-colonial capitalist system of privatisation and deregulation Nigeria operates, road infrastructures and all other means of transportation like rail, sea and air are in such devastated, abandoned and antediluvian condition that it is now according to conventional wisdom often seen as nothing short of a miracle for Nigerians to transit daily by road, sea or air and then come back home safely. Needless to stress many lives are lost daily due to the dilapidated condition of road infrastructure but this scarcely makes the news since they are not prominent individuals. According to a report by the Federal Road Safety Corps, an average of 11 people were killed daily in road accident across Nigeria in 2012. The deaths occurred in 6,269 road traffic crashes”
The group further blamed the convoy of the Kogi State Governor for the unfortunate incident.
“The Kogi State Governor’s convoy was responsible for this accident. According to records this is one accident too many by the Kogi State Governors’ convoy. We demand appropriate disciplinary sanctions within the ambit of law for the driver in the convoy who was responsible for this accident. However while the driver is a small fry, the capitalist ruling elite comprising Governor Idris Wada and all other Governors and government officials who have penchant for long convoys is the main culprit.
“The ERC demands abolition of convoys. It is an unconscionable waste of public funds. In a rational society where there is socio-economic justice, efficient and comfortable means of mass transportation and security of lives is guaranteed, there will be no reason for an individual to move around in convoy of several vehicles. The only reason public office holders have to go around in convoys is to screen and protect themselves from possible backlash from the hopelessness and mass misery in the midst of abundance which their neo-liberal capitalist economic policies have created in society. Over 100 million Nigerians are poor in a population of 170 million. Logically, the 1% who have created this unjust condition can only move about succesfully with “adequate” security which long convoys provides. This to us stresses all over again the need for a revolutionary transformation of society”.
The group commiserated with the leadership and members of ASUU as well as families of the deceased and injured and all Nigerians who support the struggle to save public education.
Professor Festus Iyayi died in a road accident last Tuesday on his way to attend a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of ASUU to discuss issues related to the on-going strike of the union.
The Education Rights Campaign, ERC has called on the Federal Government to immediately honour agreement reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP so that students can resume.
This call was made at a press conference held in Lagos today.
The National Coordinator of the group, Mr. Hassan Taiwo Soweto while addressing the press bemoaned the nonchalant attitude of the government since the strike commenced.
“As you all know, today 30th October 2013 marks the 122nd day of the indefinite strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the 25th Day of the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP). In short between June and October of the year 2013, public Universities and Polytechnics have lost 145 days of academic activities.
“These statistics are frightful enough yet they do not fully capture the anguish of hundreds of thousands of undergraduates who have been home since July 1st on enforced idleness while the calendar of their lives rolls uninterruptedly by. By allowing the ASUU strike to drag on endlessly and by failing to utilize the one-month grace period offered by ASUP before the resumption of the latter’s indefinite strike, the Federal Government is guilty of killing the dreams and aspirations of this Nation’s youths” he said.
The group also welcomed the decision of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to engage in mass protests and encouraged other unions to embark on solidarity actions.
According to Soweto, “We call on the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to make good their threats to embark on solidarity strikes with ASUU by naming a day for the solidarity strike.
“We believe in the power and potency of the labour movement which is why we call on these trade unions to come to the rescue of the education sector” he said.
The group is planning to hold a Townhall meeting on Wednesday November 13, 2013 where Nigerian students, workers, trade unions, civil society groups, community and social groups will jointly discuss all the issues surrounding the ASUU and ASUP strikes and agree on collective actions to take in order to resolve the education crisis.
ERC members demonstrating at the NUPENG office, Lagos
As the ASUU strike enters its 116th day, a student group, the Education Rights Campaign, ERC has called on the Nigeria Union of Teachers and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) to name a day of solidarity action in support of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The call was made during a lobby visit to the Lagos offices of the two unions yesterday.
In a letter addressed to the General Secretary of NUT and signed by the National Coordinator and National Secretary of the group, Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Michael Ogundele, they called on the unions to make true their threat to embark on solidarity strike.
“We wish to appreciate the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) for publicly supporting the strikes of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) with a promise to embark on solidarity strike if the Federal Government remains intransigent.
“However since NUT made this threat, the attitude of the Federal Government has not changed. Instead of honouring the agreements, the Federal Government is busy chasing shadows while the resources which should be mobilized to meet ASUU and ASUP’s demands are being routinely looted on a daily basis. We consider it a confirmation of the complete political and moral bankruptcy of the President Jonathan’s Federal Government that just at the moment the government claims not to have enough money to meet ASUU and ASUP’s demands, the Minister of Aviation could buy for her own protection two armored cars worth $1.6million”.
The group also called on the leadership of NUT and NUPENG to extend their solidarity actions to the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), who have also embarked on an indefinite strike for demands bordering on funding, poor working conditions and inadequate facilities in Polytechnics.
Hassan Soweto while speaking at the office of NUPENG, bemoaned the poor state of education in Nigeria and emphasized the need to support the strike:
“Despite the pain and pang of the strike, the ERC and its teeming members in Universities and Polytechnics across the country supports the strike actions of ASUU and also ASUP because we believe the demands of both unions touch on the burning need to invest collective wealth in improving facilities and teaching infrastructures in public institutions of higher learning. We in the ERC want a quick but more importantly a victorious end to the strikes so that students can resume.
Modern teaching facilities are either inadequate or non-existent in most public tertiary Universities and Polytechnics in Nigeria, there is a shortage of academic staff, working condition for both teaching and non-teaching staff is abysmal, hostel accommodation are worse than pigsties, classrooms are overcrowded, laboratories and libraries are empty and denuded of vital materials etc. In short, public education at tertiary level has collapsed. These and more are the reasons we welcome the concern and solidarity shown by NUT to the on-going struggle to save public education and urge the entire labour movement to emulate it”.
The group was received by the Deputy Chairman of Lagos NUT, Comrade Adedoyin Adeshina at the union office. Adedoyin appreciated the efforts of the group and promised to deliver the letter to the leadership of the union.
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The Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC has threatened to embark on nationwide strike if the Federal Government failed to stop the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Abdulwaheed Omar, NLC President
The strike which commenced on July 1, 2013 is now 114 days old.
The NLC in a communiqué issued at the end of its National Executive Committee meeting in Kaduna, on Wednesday, said that it was unfortunate that the government is yet to take expected steps to stop the ongoing strike.
The President of the NLC, Mr. Abdulwahed Omar accused the Federal Government of sponsoring protests against ASUU instead of resolving the lingering crisis and warned that the NLC would not hesitate to call out Nigerian workers to protest across the country.
“NEC-In-Session expresses its deep concern for the near total collapse of the education sector. It is a sad commentary that government has allowed the strike by ASUU to drag on for so long with incalculable consequences. Rather than resolve these issues, government is busy sponsoring protest groups against ASUU”
“NEC cautions that if government persists with this line of action, it will mobilize its members to stage counter protests across the country. It has the will and the capacity and it advises that government should not test that will.”
Meanwhile, the Education Rights Campaign, ERC has called on the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG to set a date for a one day solidarity strike to intervene in the ASUU strike.
Comrade Adedoyin, Lagos NUJ Deputy Chairman addressing ERC members at the NUT office
The group led by Hassan Taiwo Soweto paid a lobbying visit on Wednesday to the NUT Lagos Council Secretariat and the NUPENG Lagos office.
Kwara State Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Alhaji Saka Onimago, on Monday warned schools’ authorities to be vigilant about students who may be tempted to engage in examination malpractice during the 2013 West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations.
The Commissioner gave the warning in Ilorin, the State capital while briefing schools’ principals on the 2013 Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) organised by WAEC in Ilorin.
He tasked the stakeholders to be at alert of some candidates in all the examination centres already fine-tuning plans to perpetrate frauds.
“Not only have we put in place active measures to prevent and detect collusion among agents of irregularities, appropriate sanctions have been lined up to address any incidence of examination malpractice,” he said.
The commissioner also commended WAEC for collaborating with the State government in foisting a regime of sanity, discipline and fair play in the conduct of examinations.
He added that that the collaboration would serve to promote government’s vision and further enhance its concerted efforts on the mission of repositioning education in the state.
He promised that the government would continue to reward commitment and exemplary performance by the teachers.
The Police, Tuesday paraded the suspected killers of the four students of the University of Port Harcourt at Omuokiri-Aluu in Rivers state.
The Police Commissioner spoke Tuesday at the Police Headquarters in Port Harcourt, while parading the suspects. Three of the suspects, who were allowed to field questions from newsmen, confessed that policemen arrived Omuokiri-Aluu community before the four students were murdered.
One of the suspects, Mr David Ugbaje, said he saw two policemen when the four students were being beaten, adding that one of them pleaded that the boys should be set free.
He said the other policeman joined the mob in beating the students.
According to him, the four students were accused of robbery, adding that the mob marched the four students to a compound on Coca-Cola Street to confirm if they truly went there to see a tenant, Mr Bright, as they alleged.
Ugbaje, a cobbler, said he and other neighbours in the compound had to push the riotous mob out of the compound where Bright lived when it became obvious that the mob wanted to lynch them there.
He said the man they allegedly went to see was not at home.
When asked if he did not join in beating the students, he said he only hit the students twice.
Ikechuckwu Louis Amadi and Lawal Segun in their separate comments, also said they saw policemen at the scene of the sad incident.
Lawal, a taxi driver, said he was not part of the mob that murdered the students but claimed to have pleaded with the mob to release the students.
On his part, Amadi said he saw four police men while the students were being beaten, adding that the angry mob insisted they were not going to release the boys to the policemen.
Others paraded were Alhaji Hassan Welewa, 59; Lucky Orji, 43 ; Cynthia Chinwo (F), 24; Ekpe Daniel, 30; George Nwadei, 30; Gabriel Oche 33; Ozioma Abajuo, 23; Chigozie Samuel, 22; Endurance Edet, 27 and Uwem Akpabio, 30.