ASUU Strike: DSS report cannot stop our protest —NLC says
Amid the Department of State Services advice, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Joint Action Committee, comprising the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Allied Institutions and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities are insisting on going ahead with their planned protest in solidarity with the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The DSS is said to have advised against the rally over security concerns.
But the labour unions are insisting that their protest in solidarity with ASUU over its six months old strike would be held on July 26 and 27 as already fixed.
It is about six months now since ASUU embarked on strike on February 14, 2022 over the Federal Government failure to honour the agreement it reached with the union.
Series of meetings between the government and the academic union failed to bring a solution to the impasse.
Consequently, labour unions decided to stage a protest march in solidarity with ASUU, but the Federal Government has been pleading and at the same time cautioning the unions against the planned protest.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, declared the proposed nationwide protest illegal, arguing that the NLC and other labour unions had no dispute with the government.
Similarly, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, on Thursday cautioned against the demonstration on the claims that a security report from the DSS said the rally might be hijacked by hoodlums.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who was recently given to weeks by President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve the impasse, has pleaded with ASUU to end the strike while the dialogue to resolve the issues continue.
In all these, NLC’s Head, Information and Public Affairs, Mr Benson Upah,
responding to Ngige on Friday in an interview with The Punch, said the union was not aware of any security report by the DSS.
According to him, the rally was a symbolic gesture to pressure the government to resolve the about six-month-old ASUU strike.
He said the union’s rallies were always peaceful and that participants had always conducted themselves in a peaceful manner.
He told the newspaper, “First and foremost, none of our rallies have ever been associated with violence; Nigerians can attest to that. We have always been peaceful; we will ensure we are not implicated. We will carry out our duty as usual.
“I’m not aware of any directive sent to us but I heard the Minister of Labour and Employment saying an advisory came to him, but this will not be the first time such an advisory will be issued.
“Left for the DSS, we will not hold any peaceful rally in this country. At the peak of Boko Haram attacks in Abuja we had our rally. All the rallies were peaceful. I think that is a testimony to our patriotic intention, our organisational capability, our vigilance and the voice of appreciation from Nigerians and we appreciate all of that. We have been able to conduct ourselves reasonably well.”
Speaking further he said, “Let us also take note of the fact that this is not a strike action but a peaceful rally. It’s a symbolic gesture so people should understand and know the difference. The police are welcomed. When we are holding rallies like this, we invite the police, not to seek their permission, because the law says we don’t need their permission and that we have been automatically granted the permission.”
Also on Friday, NASU General Secretary and spokesperson, SSANU/NASU JAC, Mr Peters Adeyemi, said at a press conference that SSANU President, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, stated that their members would participate in the rally dressed in their uniform.
Ibrahim said, “For your information, the four unions are affiliated to NLC. We pay our dues, it is not free. So we enjoy all the rights and privileges of NLC membership and therefore when the issue became intractable, we took this matter to NLC and being our umbrella body, NLC took certain steps, one of which is if the previous meetings did not yield any fruit, then there will be a protest rally.
“This rally is organised by the NLC and we will be there and our members will appear in our uniforms.
“Since the law enforcement agencies have been informed, we expect that they will give us protection. We expect that they will make sure that certain groups will not have access to where we are. So, it is not our duty to say this is how we will prevent others from coming. We will not allow ourselves to be used by any politician.”