Civil rights groups under the aegis of the Joint Action Front (JAF), on Thursday, protested the 12-week-old showdown between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government in Abeokuta, paralysing commercial activities in some parts of Ogun State’s capital city.
ASUU walked out of the classrooms on July 1 in protest of the non-implementation of a 2009 earned allowance agreement it had with the federal government. Palliatives by the government to bring the lecturers back to the classroom were rejected by the union, which vowed a no-going-back until the agreement was fully implemented.
The protest was tagged, ‘Protest to Save Public Education.”
The protesters led by JAF’s Chairperson, Dr. Dipo Fashina, gathered at the NNPC Mega Station junction along IBB Boulevard from where they marched to Kuto and linked Kemta area.
Fashina, who once headed ASUU, said in an address to the protesters that saving public education is “to insist that governments in Nigeria fund education in line with the 26 per cent 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,” he added.
Fashina slammed the federal government for its “anti-poor policies,” which he said “is clearly expressed in their lack of disposition to public education.”
He said, “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 acceding to their legitimate demands.”
Fashina also blamed the federal government for the on-going strikes in Nigerian universities. He did not spare the state governments either, blaming them for a number of industrial action embarked on by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) since 2009.
Making a list of the government’s failings, he said, “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 said, listing the reasons for the grievances with government.