19th September, 2013
Commercial activities were paralysed in some parts of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, today as civil right groups under the aegis of Joint Action Front (JAF), protested the continued face-off between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
Nigerian universities have been shut since 1 July, 2013 following Federal Government’s refusal to honour its agreement with the university teachers.
As early as 7 a.m. today, the protesters gathered at the NNPC Mega Station junction along IBB Boulevard from where they marched to Kuto and linked Kemta area where the leader of the group, Dr. Dipo Fashina, addressed them. They later marched from Sapon to Ibara area.
The protest tagged: ‘Protest to Save Public Education,’ witnessed the display of various placards with inscriptions like ‘Save our future, don’t gamble with our lives,’ ‘Education is our right,’ ‘Jonathan, you are sleeping over this matter too much,’ ‘Our leaders are our problem,’ ‘Okonjo-Iweala, a liar; FG is not broke,’ among others.
Addressing the protesters, Chairperson of JAF, Dr. Dipo Fashina, said: “To save public education is to insist that governments in Nigeria fund education in line with the 26 percent of national budget as recommended by the United Nations and make education tuition free at all levels. Funding of education adequately means the repair and building of new infrastructure in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and the provision of up-to-date facilities.
“The Federal Government operates anti-poor policies and this is clearly expressed in their lack of disposition to public education. Funding of public education is not given the proper priority it deserves, because the children of those in government and their friends are being trained in private schools in Nigeria and foreign countries with the looted public funds. Nigerians must know that the politicians, top civil servants, some traditional rulers and their cronies of contractors and patrons were beneficiaries of public education.
“Some of them set up private schools and universities in Nigeria and abroad with stolen funds from public coffers.
“That is why none of their children are in any public schools in Nigeria. That also explains why they are not bothered when public schools are shut and pupils and students have to remain at home for as long as the unions are frustrated to resume without government acceeding to their legitimate demands,” he stated.
Fashina said government should be blamed for all the crises in the education sector, including the incessant strikes, adding that the unions in the education sector were not making fresh demands.
“They are on strike because governments, both at the Federal and State levels, have failed to implement agreements they freely entered into and signed with the unions. For example, the
Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has been on a number of strikes since 2009 because government failed to implement the Teacher Special Scale (TSS) that was a product of an agreement with government in 1992.
“The polytechnics were shut for almost three months because of the failure by government to implement the 2009 agreement on the creation of a National Polytechnic Commission that will regulate education standards in the polytechnics, non-commencement of the renegotiation of the FGN/ASUP agreement, as contained in the signed 2009 agreement and failure by the Federal Government to release the White Paper on the visitations to the polytechnics.
“Colleges of Education started their warning strike on 9 September because of government’s refusal to implement the 2010 agreement, to carry out NEEDS Assessment of Colleges of Education, and to commence re-negotiation of the agreement. Equally, ASUU has been on strike since 1 July because government failed to honour agreement signed in 2009.
“The 2009 agreement with ASUU was on funding facilities and infrastructure in the universities to ensure the revitalisation of the facilities and academic programmes.
“Implementation of the NEEDS Assessment Report as agreed in the MOU of 24 January, 2012 between the Federal Government and ASUU on the standardisation and effective running of the universities; and failure to pay legitimately earned allowances of the academic and non-academic staff,” Fashina added.