Thursday, 2 February 2017

ERC BACKS ASUP ONE-WEEK WARNING STRIKE


 Incessant strike in the education sector is a sign that Buhari has failed on all fronts

PRESS STATEMENT

Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has on Monday, January 30, begun a one-week warning strike to demand the implementation of the ASUP/Government agreement of 2010 on the review of the Federal Polytechnics Act.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) fully supports the warning strike. The conditions in public polytechnics across the country are very bad. Unfortunately, government does not care. Meanwhile, without well-funded and fully efficient polytechnics; the quest for Nigeria’s industrialization would remain a pipedream.

We condemn the penchant of the federal government to renege or fail to implement agreement with ASUP and other unions in the education sector. We therefore call on the government to immediately meet ASUP demands in order to avoid an indefinite strike which could lead to a total shutdown of the system.

It can also be recalled that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on a one-week warning strike in November 2016 while the Non-academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) also went on a one-week warning strike two weeks ago. To us in the ERC, these incessant strikes in the education sector have significantly proved that the current APC/Buhari led federal government is not different from the previous Jonathan/PDP led government. Just like its predecessors, the Buhari government has continued to deliberately underfund public education, thereby leaving the education sector in a state of total collapse. We therefore reiterate our call for adequate funding of education by federal state governments. However, in order to tackle the characteristic menace of misappropriation of resources and allocations by school managements, we call for democratic management of all decision making organs with the inclusion of elected representatives of workers and students     

Aside the non-implementation of the 2010 ASUP/FGN agreement, ASUP also listed other grievances which include alleged victimization of union officials, non-release of union check-off dues and undue interference in union activities, deliberate attempt at frustrating the resolutions of the meeting of the council on establishments, sustained poor funding of polytechnics and non-release of CONTISS 15 migration arrears. ASUP has further given a condition to the Federal government to either close down the system or redeem it from total collapse.

It can be noted that Nigerian tertiary institutions these days are characterized with dilapidated learning facilities, outdated libraries, non-payment of salaries and arrears, and general poor state of welfare. As if it is the solution, the managements of Nigerian tertiary institutions have turned to incessant increase in the tuition fee which has not in any way led to improvement in the learning conditions on various campuses. Instead, children of the working people are being denied access to public education through the outrageous charges and as a result, the rate of drop-outs has increased astronomically.

Against this background, the warning strike embarked upon by ASUP is a welcome development. However to gain popular support, we urge ASUP not to limit the strike to a sit-at-home action. Public mass actions like leafleting, rallies, congresses and public meetings should be organized to engage the public with a view to winning their sympathy for the struggle to reposition polytechnic education. This is also essential to gain the popular support of polytechnic students who have a lot to gain if ASUP demand are met.



                                                                                                                
Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                      Ibukun Omole                               
National Coordinator (07033697259)                                       National Secretary
                                                                           

ONLINE CALL FOR “MASSIVE NATIONWIDE PROTEST” SHOWS INTENSE ANGER IN SOCIETY


January 31, 2017
Urgent Plan and Mobilization Needed to Make the Protest a Reality

PRESS STATEMENT

Over the past few days, social media platforms have been agog over popular Nigerian artiste, Tuface (Innocent Idibia) call for massive nationwide protest on Sunday February 5, 2017. The spontaneous popularity enjoyed by the call shows the intense anger and frustration brewing within society at the gross failure of the Buhari/All Progressive Congress (APC) government which has succeeded in turning the glowing expectations of the people into disappointment within the space of barely 2 years.

According to the statement posted on his Instagram page “We the people of this country not living under the privileges of government allowances and remuneration have now accepted to take the bull by the horn to come out and protest this obnoxious and baseless policies and excuses of the government of the day”.

This is “A call for good governance. A call for urgent explanation into the reckless economic downturn nationwide. A call for nationwide protests as we say No to the Executive, No to legislatures, No to judiciary… You have all failed us. We the people are tired. We can no longer continue with all of you. All your excuses and mistakes are not funny. We do not wish to continue with a system and government that is not working but afflicting the people”.

Since this statement announcing the protest was posted online, a few other musical celebrities have reportedly endorsed it. This is aside countless number of people who have retweeted and shared the post several times thus making the call a major trending topic on social media.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) fully endorses this call. At this period of intense hardship, only mass struggle can begin to challenge and roll back the unrelenting assault on our living standards. We fully agree with the statement that the entire Buhari government has failed the working class and poor masses. However, the PDP and all other capitalist parties are equally guilty.

While the previous PDP/Jonathan government set the economy onto the path of a recession through mind-boggling corruption and looting of the proceeds of the oil boom, the Buhari government working within the confines of a failed capitalist system has helped to deepen the economic crisis the more. This he succeeded in doing by implementing measures that not only unleash the consequence of the crisis on those who benefitted nothing during the boom (e.g. working people, middle class, poor and ordinary Nigerians) but that would also ensure that even if growth picks up at some point in future, millions of people will continue to live in conditions of depression for many years to come.

Unfortunately, since the last one week that the announcement of the protest was made, there has been no further details released about how the protest is going to take place, where protesters would gather and of course what the demands should be. This has unfortunately created an element of confusion with many asking what they are meant to do on February 5.

The ERC calls on the organizers to urgently update the public about plans for the protest as well as gathering points in key cities and communities that the protests are meant to take place. This will go a long way to energize the mass of the people who are already primed for action. Perhaps for reasons of safety given the government penchant for repression the organizers may wish to keep further details of the planned protest secret. However the ERC feels that while safety is important, this should not now undermine the ability to effectively communicate important details of the protest as well as plans for wide mobilization.

In conclusion, the current development is an indictment on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). That musical celebrities like Tuface have to call for nationwide protest is because the labour leadership have failed to play their roles as the historical and traditional leaders of the struggles of the working class and oppressed masses. Instead of calling for strikes and mass actions, all the NLC and TUC have been doing is issuing harmless statements threatening actions that never take place. Meanwhile the conditions of hardship in which majority of Nigerians are wallowing continue to grow worse every day. There is a similarity between the current situation and that which existed in January 2012 when the working masses and youth were already on the streets across the country protesting the hike in pump price of fuel by the Jonathan/PDP administration before the NLC and TUC was able to call an indefinite general strike starting from January 9, 2012.  So bad is the situation in the labour movement that leadership of labour often lag behind the consciousness of their own members and the mass of working people outside of the unions.

Meanwhile, the enormous popularity that Tuface’s call for a nationwide protest has enjoyed shows that there is a developing mood for a fight back. People are tired of the situation and most especially the fact that nothing is being done by labour and civil society organizations. This should therefore be a wakeup call on the leadership of the NLC and TUC to act now. In its January 1st statement, the NLC had threatened that it would no more be able to guarantee industrial peace by May 1st if the national minimum wage is not reviewed. The current situation however shows that people are not prepared to wait till May 1st before fighting back not just on minimum wage but on all the other issues that affects all categories of working class and poor people. Therefore, the struggle must start now.

The ERC demands that an emergency meeting of the principal organs of the NLC and TUC to discuss the economic crisis and the intense hardship under which Nigerians are growing with a view to rolling out immediate plans of actions that would include a general strike and mass protest to begin the struggle to liberate the working people from the shackles and manacles of capitalism which is behind the failure and inability of the Buhari/APC administration to make any positive difference in the last 18 months. Most importantly labour urgently need to come out with a plan to build an alternative working peoples political party to fight for political power. This is because the failure of the Buhari administration is first and foremost a failure of capitalism and only the building of a socialist alternative can open the way for resolving the political and economic crisis afflicting Nigeria.


                                                                                                                
Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                           Ibukun Omole                               
National Coordinator (07033697259)                                  National Secretary
                                                                           

Monday, 23 January 2017

2017 APPROPRIATION BILL: ERC DEMANDS UPWARD REVIEW OF PROPOSED ALLOCATION TO EDUCATION


Press Statement

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) demands upward review of the proposed allocation to the education sector in the 2017 appropriation bill. The bill which was presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday 14 December 2016 contains a proposed allocation of a paltry 6 percent to the education sector.

According to the bill, a total of N540.01 billion will be spent on education in 2017 with N398.01 of this sum going for recurrent and N142 billion for capital (Vanguard newspaper, 22 December 2016). For a federal education budget that is meant to cater for 36 federal universities, 25 federal polytechnics, 22 federal colleges of education, 104 federal unity schools and many federal monotechnics , this allocation is too low and incapable of meeting the needs of the sector.

Already the federal government is in deficit to the tune of N800 billion on the NEEDS assessment intervention funds to revitalize public universities and over N60 billion Earned Academic Allowances to lecturers. This is aside debts owed non-teaching staffs in the federal universities, staffs of federal polytechnics and colleges of education as well as teachers in the 104 unity schools aside numerous collective agreements awaiting implementation.

Therefore, given the enormity of the crisis bedeviling the sector, a responsible government would commit massive funds to revitalize the education sector. Regrettably, it appears that the Buhari government is as clueless and irresponsible as the Jonathan/PDP government it replaced. At this stage, we must sound a note of warning to members of the National Assembly that they will be failing Nigerians if they choose to pass this appropriation bill without increasing the allocation to education. We therefore urge the members of the National Assembly to increase the budgetary allocation to education in the appropriation bill to at least 26 percent of the total budget as recommended by UNESCO.

Without mincing words, the education component of the 2017 appropriation bill is a letdown in many ways. First and foremost, it shows that just like past government, the Buhari government is neither concerned nor serious about addressing the crises bedeviling the sector. Secondly, it shows that all the lofty promises made on the campaign trail by President Buhari and the APC were mere hot air. 

Today, Nigerian students are studying in primitive conditions not compatible with the requirements of 21st century education. Many universities, polytechnics colleges of education and monotechnics lack the most basic facilities and materials for quality learning. Laboratories where they exist are decrepit with kerosene stoves being used as Bunsen burners. Classes are often overcrowded and held in ramshackle structures converted to lecture rooms. Most libraries are denuded of relevant materials and books. Recent warning strikes by ASUU in December last year and SSANU, NASU and NAAT in January 2017 are indications of what is to come. If the allocation to education in the 2017 budget is not increased as demanded, the result will be chaos and disruption of academic calendar as different workers unions embark on strikes to press home long-term demands on salary, allowances and working conditions. This is why the ERC is calling on the Federal government to increase the budgetary allocation  to education in the 2017 appropriation bill.

We are not unmindful that the country is in an economic recession. We are equally aware that several apologists of the federal government are always quick to use the economic recession to justify every anti-poor policies of this government including the paltry allocation to the education sector. But outside of the fact that this argument is at best specious and hypocritical, we are of the opinion that it will amount to gross irresponsibility on the part of the government to sacrifice public education under the guise of bailing out the economy out of recession. This will in no way help to surmount the economic quagmire but further deepen it. In actual fact, investments in public education, job creation, increase in the minimum wage and a plan to redirect the economy from profit to meeting people’s needs are the antidote to the economic crisis. Therefore, if the Federal Government is so much sincere to rescue the economy from recession, the salaries and allowances of political office holders, which is very outrageous, must be reduced to a level not higher than the national minimum wage and wastages like foreign trips, exotic vehicles and numerous others which are provided for in the proposed budget must be eliminated. The excess funds derived should be ploughed into funding public education, health care and other social services.

While calling for proper funding of education, the ERC equally deem it imperative to also call for democratic management of schools to ensure that the funds are not looted or mismanaged. Otherwise an increase in the education budget will only end up enriching Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts. There is already too much corruption in the education sector.  The spate of allegations against head of tertiary institutions bear this out. Only democratic management of schools through the involvement of elected representatives of staff unions and students unions in decision making organs can stem this tide of corruption and ensure that funds allocated to the education sector are judiciously spent..

 

                                                                                                                
Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                        Ibukun Omole                               
National Coordinator (07033697259)                               National Secretary

Thursday, 19 January 2017

ERC Solidarizes with US Students’ Walkout on Trump Inauguration Day


Press Statement

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) declares solidarity for the United States (US) national students’ walkout, otherwise known as lecture boycott by the students movement here in Nigeria, to protest US president-elect Donald Trump’s racist, misogynist and vicious capitalist agenda for America. The walkout is taking place on Friday 20 January 2017 as a part of series of mass activities to inaugurate the resistance to Trump.

The walkout, which will see thousands of high school and college students in the United States abandon classes was initiated by the Socialist Students – the sister organization of the ERC in the US. Just as the ERC is the students and youth campaign of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Socialist Student is the campaign of the Socialist Alternative (SA). Both SA and DSM are respectively co-thinkers and affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI).

We are in full agreement with our comrades in the Socialist Alternative and Socialist Students who have described the election of Donald Trump as a disaster.  This by no means translates that a Hillary Clinton victory would have brought any fundamental relief to working class Americans. Hillary, as Bernie Sanders correctly described her, is a servant of Wall Street and she remains so. Both Hillary and Trump were the most unpopular presidential candidates ever. This is why together with organizing mass resistance to Trump, the Socialist Alternative and Socialist Students are equally campaigning for a new political party opposed to the two parties of Wall Street – Democrats and Republicans – and devoted to standing up for the 99%.

No doubt a Trump presidency, despite his demagogic promises to provide well paid jobs, will have many negative consequences for the working masses and youth in the US and also globally. Trump has threatened to deport 2-3 million immigrants and to target Muslim immigrants for “extreme vetting.” Women’s reproductive health, democratic rights, and workers rights are all under threat. This is a big concern to many around the world especially here in Africa.

Hundreds of thousands of young people from Nigeria and Africa are in the United States for education and a brighter future. Many migrated to escape the horrors of poverty, wars and persecution back home. This is aside many professionals and working class people from Nigeria who are earning honest living by working in different sectors of the US economy and are sending the proceeds of their labour back home to feed families and dependants who are caught in the cycle of poverty here in Nigeria. All of these people are potential victims if Trump’s racist and vicious far-right capitalist agenda are allowed to succeed. This is why mass resistance must be built now within the US and internationally to resist his policies and unite against division.

Above all, Trump has a clear capitalist agenda which will see the condition of extreme inequality worsen in the United States and globally while the fat-cat bankers continue to corner enormous profits while getting tax breaks. This will be combined with a warmongering foreign policy that will raise tension and the spectre of armed conflicts around the world. All his rhetoric about standing up to China and opposing free trade are merely to protect the profit interests of US multinationals and manufacturing companies and not necessarily to protect jobs. It is becoming clear that Trump does not and will not speak for average working class Americans. His cabinet is already looking set to be the richest, being dominated as it is, by billionaires. No doubt, those who expect Trump to make “America great again” will be resoundingly disappointed.

Trump’s capture of the Republican nomination was a distorted reflection of the widespread opposition to the billionaire class, opposition that was also shown in the huge support Bernie Sanders received for his call for a “political revolution” against the billionaires. Before he’s been sworn in Trump’s approval rating is under 40%, while 48% of Americans see him negatively. In the election Trump was not the most popular candidate, Clinton won over 2.8 million more votes. All this shows the potential for building not just resistance but also a real alternative. 

At this crucial time, solidarity and unity among working people and youth is vital to resist Trump and start a movement to build a party of working people and a socialist future.

Yours-in-the-Struggle
 

                                                                                                                
Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                      Ibukun Omole                               
National Coordinator (07033697259)                                       National Secretary