ERC Condemns Rising Incidence of Police Clampdown on Protesters
The Struggle to Save Public Education Will Go On Despite Clampdown
As the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) continues, the Police and the State Security Service (SSS) have recently become active in clamping down on students, workers and activists protesting against government refusal to meet ASUU's and other Staff Unions' demands.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemn these renewed attacks on the democratic rights to organise and peacefully protest. The struggle to compel the anti-public education federal government to meet the demands of ASUU, ASUP, COEASU, SSANU, NASU and all unions will continue despite these clampdowns.
Two cases in point are the militarisation of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 and the forceful dispersal of a protest called by the NANS JCC Lagos Axis for that day and also the arrest, harassment and detention of some students activists at the University of Ibadan (U.I) on Wednesday 25, September 2013. The arrested students, some of whom are members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), had gathered at the University for a press conference organised to sensitize the public on the lingering ASUU strike and government underfunding of public education.
Similarly on 19 September 2013 at the protest called by the Joint Action Front (JAF) to build support for the ASUU strike as well as other unions in the education sector in Abeokuta Ogun State, police presence doubled the number of protesters! This show of force by the police was not just an harmless display. Actually it was meant to frighten people from joining protest and to also show that the government is capable of stopping the rising movement in the education sector.
All right-thinking Nigerians, the labour movement and civil society must condemn this resort to police repression by the government. We specifically call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to publicly condemn these assaults on the democratic rights to assemble and protest.
We equally urge the NLC and TUC to give sufficient support to the struggles of ASUU and all other unions that are on strike or have embarked on strike to accomplish demands bordering on members pay, conditions and funding of public education. A 2-day solidarity general strike called by the NLC and TUC will give a powerful boost to the struggle to save public education and pile pressure on government to consider meeting the demands of the unions.
However these militaristic tactics rather than strengthen President Jonathan's anti-poor government are in themselves unimpeachable evidence of the unpopularity and complete loss of credibility of the government and its anti-poor policies among the mass of Nigerian people.
We urge ASUU and all other unions fighting to save public education not to relent. We urge parents and members of the public to continue to add their voice to the increasing voices condemning the warped priority of a government that spends hundreds of billions to bail out banks but stoutly refuses to allocate resources to rescue public education from decay and collapse. We again urge ASUU to take the struggle a notch higher by naming a day for nationwide mass protest and demonstration.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto