UPDATE ON MINNA POLYTECHNIC STRIKE
UPDATE ON POLYTECHNIC STRIKE
MILITARIZATION OF MINNA METROPOLIS HALTS ERC MAY 29 SOLIDARITY PROTEST
Open Call on NAPS to Mobilise for Further Solidarity Actions
Dimeji Macaulay and Awe Michael report
The members of Education Rights Campaign (ERC) on May 29, 2013 converged in Minna, Niger state alongside some polytechnic students to hold a protest to demand that government meet the demands of the striking workers in the Polytechnics nationwide so the institutions can be reopened. The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) which have been on strike action for over a month now. Incidentally, the Non Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (NASU) has also commenced a warning strike which, by all indications, will be followed by a full-blown indefinite strike.
However on this day May 29, being the day set aside by the ruling class as “Democracy day”, the whole of Minna metropolis and the junction (GTB bank Mobil road) where we agreed to start the solidarity protest march was heavy militarized with armed security personnel. We observed that the place was militarized simply because the “Democracy Day” celebration would be held at the Mobil Junction, and politicians were expected to cut big cake and make speeches which would definitely fail to address the ugly truth that 14 years of the so-called democracy has only led to further inequality and poverty in Nigeria as well as neo-liberal attacks on education and other social services. .
Seeing the situation of things, we decided to move in a bus to the media houses with our press statement. In preparation for the protest we were armed with about 800 copies of leaflet, press statement and banner with the inscription “GOVERNMENT SHOULD MEET ASUP AND SSANIP DEMANDS”. We also had placards with different messages and slogans which highlight the demands of the striking workers, call for mass support and demand adequate funding of education. All attempts to stop and unveil the placards and banner them at different junctions proved abortive because we were under watch of the stern-looking armed security men who were pointing finger of warning at us.
Getting to the media, we circulated the press statement and leaflets. After this, many of the angry students were not happy. Everyone kept asking what type of democracy, which denies democratic rights, we are practicing in Nigeria.
It is instructive to report that the National Association of Nigeria students (NANS) JCC Niger axis backed out from the protest over night because they wanted us to get permission from the State Security Service (SSS) first before we embarked on the solidarity protest. We had argued that the SSS would never give us permission and therefore it was better for us to go on with the protest without seeking permission. Besides, there is no law that demands that the permission of the SSS be sought first before any protest. We hold that organizing a peaceful protest is a democratic right.
As the strike is now over a month old and government remains ever intransigent, there is the need for public mass actions and solidarity protests to be escalated. On the part of the striking unions, there is a greater responsibility to raise the tempo of the struggle further by organising public mass actions. The students too who desire a quick end to the strike so that academic activities can resume also have a duty to hit the street in protest to compel government to meet the striking unions demands.
We call on the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) to declare a new day for solidarity actions of Polytechnic students nationwide because the government has not made any positive moves yet to meet the demands of the striking staff unions.
Starting from the warning strike and as the indefinite strike commenced, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has been playing crucial roles in the strike which involves persistent calls for collective mass actions of workers and students to make the strike popular and to compel government to meet demands of ASUP and SSANIP so that school activities can resume.
In preparation for the May 29 protest, ERC members actively participated in a protest-rally in Abuja on May 21 organised by NAPS. We circulated leaflets of ERC at the Abuja rally and also at the Federal Polytechnic Bida and its environs. We went from lodges to lodges and discussing with members of the staff unions not to make it a sit-home strike but to also organise mass actions with media campaign.
The ERC is proposing a “June 19 day of action” to be discussed among activists and unions in polytechnics as a probable date of nationwide mass action to compel government not only to meet the demands of the strike but also to begin to address other issues within the education sector in general.