Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Education Rights Campaign (ERC) statement

Yesterday 13th July, 2022, marks the 150th day since the commencement of the strike action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) seizes this opportunity to reiterate our condemnation of the APC/Buhari Government over its nonchalant attitude to the strike action of ASUU and other staff unions. We also use this opportunity to commend students’ unions, student bodies and radical platforms like the Fund Education Coalition which have been campaigning and organising series of public activities and protests over the past 5 months. However as the adage goes, he who harbours lice cannot complain of bloodstained fingernails. Hence, we call for more actions until the demands are met, strike is suspended and schools are opened for academic activities to resume.

In this wise, the ERC call for an EMERGENCY NATIONAL SUMMIT/MEETING of all students’ unions, radical students and youth bodies, pro-masses’ organisations and trade unions to discuss, review the struggle thus far and map out a new strategy and action plan to deepen the struggle until the Buhari APC government is compelled to put an end to the strike by meeting the demands. In our view, the next stage of the struggle is mobilisation for a one-day nationwide mass protest and demonstrations which will involve the shutting down of the Houses of Assemblies in the 36 states of the federation and the National Assembly in FCT Abuja. This one day action will be a starting point for a series of mass actions, protests, boycott and mass occupations involving not just students but also parents, ASUU, trade unions and civil society organisations until the demands are met.

The whole point of this new strategy and mass mobilisation will be to demonstrate to the Buhari APC government and the capitalist ruling elite that “enough is enough”! Nigerian students and youth are fed up with the current impasse in the negotiations with ASUU! If the Buhari government cannot meet ASUU’s demands, it should resign immediately! We all saw recently how corrupt capitalist politicians of the two major political parties, including the Minister of State for education, doled out 100million naira and 40 million naira each respectively in the APC and PDP to buy presidential nomination forms. What this shows is that despite the economic crisis the money to meet ASUU’S demands and fund public education is available, the refusal to release these funds is a political and ideological decision by the nation’s capitalist elite and imperialism who are sold to the IMF/World Bank neoliberal agenda of making education the preserve of the few rich. What this means therefore is that while fighting to end the strike and force the government to meet ASUU’s demands so that schools can resume, we also need to fight to kick out the looters in power, end capitalism and enthrone a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies.

No doubt, this prolonged strike action has vividly shown the lack of desire to uplift the education sector by the government. This is because no serious government would fold it hands while doors of schools are shut to millions of its citizen. Please recall that the strike which started on February 14 was initially a warning strike and was only extended, first by 8 weeks and later indefinitely, upon the refusal of the government to accede to the demands of ASUU. These demands fundamentally border on the proper funding of the education sector, staff wages and welfare and the need to adopt the recommended University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for payment of salaries.

The government not only handled negotiation with deliberate slothfulness, but also with infuriating dubiousness. While carrying on (and, of course, delaying) negotiation with the union, it is unleashing attacks on the striking workers. For instance, the government has stopped the payment of salaries to the striking workers as a way of using the tool of hunger to break their resolute will. Recently, it also commenced payment of salaries to lecturers in health sciences as a way of creating division within the union. Also outrageous are comments made by government officials giving the impression that ASUU is responsible for the fruitlessness of negotiation. Just recently, President Buhari made public appeal that the striking lecturers should end their strike with pretext that he cares about the plight of students . Nothing can be as dubious as this from the president who ought not to have even allowed the crisis degenerate to the stage of a strike action, let alone a prolonged one. Proactive actions aimed at hastily meeting the demands of the striking lecturer ought to have been done considering that the ASUU made several warnings to the government. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly condemns these gimmicks of the government aimed at pitting public sentiment against members of ASUU. There is no other way to end the strike than to immediately meet the demands of ASUU!

We frown at every attempt by the government to place the blame of the lingering strike on ASUU. Within the period of ASUU strike, other major tertiary institution unions have similarly embarked on strike action. COEASU is presently on a warning strike of one month. Nothing has been done by the government to address this pandemic of strikes in the education sector. For us in the ERC, this is a clear reflection of the rottenness in the education sector, and an outcome of years of underfunding and neglecting the education sector by the APC/Buhari administration and successive government administration.

The government has not shown any willingness to address the crisis affecting the education sector. Without being forced by mass actions, it is not likely that the coming days would be different. The ERC has always urged members of ASUU not to make the strike action a sit-at-home affair, rather should initiate a series of mass activities to force the government to a retreat. This is needed now!

We also again call on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress to drop their hot air approach but rather carry out their NEC’s resolution to organise solidarity action in support of the ASUU and their demands. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is also making an open appeal for all pro-masses organisations, Students’ unions, ASUU and other education workers unions to jointly prosecute the struggle to force the government to accede to the demands of ASUU, properly fund the education sector and democratically manage it through the active involvement of students and workers through their elected representatives.

Isaac Ayobami Ogunjimi

ERC Deputy National Coordinator

Adaramoye Michael Lenin

ERC National Secretary

ERC email: [email protected]