Protesting students yesterday slammed the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for extending its three-month-old strike by 12 weeks.
They attributed the action by ASUU to Federal Government’s failure to accede to the union’s demands. Describing the government’s inability to make decisions to end the strike as a “direct declaration of war,” they threatened a blockade of major airports and federal highways ahead of presidential primaries scheduled for May 28 -29 by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and May 31-June 1 by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Despite being accused by the students of also not being empathic with them, the government slammed ASUU again for “ persistently breaching labour laws.”
The students, under the aegis of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), had earlier yesterday embarked on peaceful protests in Lagos and Benin to register their displeasure over the strike that had kept them at home for more than 80 days before its extension.
They declared today as a National Day of Action to testrun for three hours, the planned shutdown of the airports and highways in all the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The students called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Civil Society Organisations to join them “to savage the remaining crackers of our public tertiary education.”
“Having exhausted all windows of constructive engagement with the government. I, on behalf of the national leadership of NANS, therefore, declare National Action Day, May 10th,” said NANS President, Sunday Asefon, in Abuja.
Asefon explained in a statement that ” the National Action Day tagged “Operation Test Run” “shall be held in all the 36 states with federal roads occupied for a minimum of three hours.”
The statement reads in part: “The three months extension of the strike is totally condemned.
“The failure of the government to reach an agreement with ASUU underscores their lack of concern and empathy for the plight of the common men and women of our nation who could not afford private tertiary institutions.
“The operation shall be a precursor to a total shutdown that will be decided during our Senate meeting/pre-convention on Saturday, 14th May 2022.
“Our decision from the pre-convention shall be binding. The action shall be total as the extension of the ASUU strike is a direct declaration of war by the Federal Government against university students in Nigeria.
“Our proposal to congress on the 14th shall be total blockage of the airport roads across the country and total disruption of political party primaries, blockage of the National Assembly until they are committed to passing legislation banning public office holders from sending their children to universities abroad.
“We, therefore, advise divisive elements or paid agents of the government to stay clear of our actions.
“By this release, all JCC chairmen, zonal leaderships and stakeholders are directed to act appropriately and ensure total compliance to the directive of ‘Operation Test Run’ to shut down the federal roads in your states. The nation must feel the heat.”
During their protest yesterday, students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, marched along the road leading to the entrance gate, causing slight disruption in vehicular movements.
The Nation observed heavily armed and hooded security operatives, including men of the Department of State Services, at the gate.
The placard-carrying students lamented their continued stay at home and called for an immediate resolution of the disagreement between their teachers and the government.
The students were joined by the UNILAG branch Chairman of ASUU, Dr Dele Ashiru, who threw his weight behind their protest.
Ashiru accused the government of being unresponsive to ASUU despite the industrial action.
He said: “The protest is a welcome development. The destiny of millions of Nigerian youths cannot be sacrificed on the altar of politicking and political opportunism.
“Our union has been on strike in the last 12 weeks, we just rolled over for another, yet the leadership of the country is carrying on as if nothing is happening.”
A mother, who participated in the protest, Mrs Margret Akinwande, urged the government to, as a matter of urgency, address the issues in dispute.
In Ekpoma, Edo State, students of the Ambrose Alli University barricaded the main gate of Benin Airport, before heading for the Press Centre of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Edo Council, causing gridlock.
Their President, Foster Amadin, urged the government to meet the demands of ASUU so that their lecturers could return to the classrooms.
He said: “We are lending our voices to the lingering ASUU strike. We want to be called back to our classrooms.
“We are worried about the prolonged ASUU strike because age is not on the side. Some of us are close to 30 years and therefore might be unable to participate in national service.”
“We have been at home for over 80 days. The strike by ASUU has again been extended by three months.”
Also, the Deputy National President of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said the body would continue to appeal to the government to accede to ASUU’s demands for the sake of students.
He said: “Nobody is happening with what is happening in our tertiary institutions. The issue of the strike is getting protracted.
“Government should do the needful and reach a compromise with ASUU. It should address it once and for all.”