Sack the Benue State CP Now
NANS Has a Lot to learn From Benue Primary School Pupils
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns in strong terms the atrocious brutality meted by Police on protesting Primary School Pupils in Makurdi, Benue State on Thursday 24 October 2013. We demand the immediate removal of the State Commissioner of Police and his trial for ordering the firing of tear gas on little children. We call on Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam to tender an unreserved apology to the pupils and their parents and go ahead to immediately implement the N18,000 minimum wage law to teachers and all categories of workers in the State so schools can be reopened.
Interestingly the Governor of Benue State is no other than Gabriel Suswan who also chairs the Presidential Implementation Committee on NEEDS Assessment - a committee tasked with mediating in the strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Considering Governor Gabriel Suswam's own track record of willful breaking of the minimum wage law which is a legal obligation binding on Federal and State governments, it is no surprise that the Committee failed woefully in its task and instead contributed to the elongation of the ASUU strike which is now in its fourth month. As the saying goes, you cannot give what you do not have. Governor Suswam's despicable treatment of teachers and brutal clampdown on primary school pupils in his own State says all there need to be said about his alleged concern for public education.
The primary school pupils protested against the state government and in support of their teachers organised under the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) who are on strike to demand implementation of N18,000 minimum wage law. They protested on the streets of Makurdi chanting: "No Teachers, No School". We commend the pupils for displaying an uncommon level of consciousness which enabled them to understand that their teachers' demands if met would translate to a better education sector.
Regrettably this level of political consciousness and understanding is lacking in the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) going by the pro-government utterances, conduct and attitude of the NANS President, Yinka Gbadebo since the strike of University teachers started. While the Benue State primary school pupils, despite being children, understood clearly that in a conflict between their teachers and the State government the latter is and would always be an enemy they would not under any circumstances support, Yinka Gbadebo is busy parroting government propaganda and blackmail against members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). While the Benue primary school pupils stood shoulder to shoulder with their teachers to jointly fight for the cause of their schools and public education, Yinka Gbadebo turned NANS into a pro-government body and offered it cheap to the State as a platform for the planning, ventilation and execution of all kinds of anti-ASUU intrigues instead of proudly and respectfully joining and placing its banners in the frontlines of the battle to save public education.
Despite being little children, the Benue State pupils have offered NANS and University students in general a brilliant example of where genuine students should stand during a battle to save public education. All talks by the Benue State police and the State government of teachers using pupils to fight their battle is arrant nonsense and insult to the intelligence of the pupils who clearly know that aside from underfunding public education the State government has been deliberately refusing to pay teachers the N18,000 minimum wage. NANS, as a body, need to learn from the example of the Benue State pupils, retrace its steps, break its links with the State and realign itself with ASUU, NUT, the trade union movement and all the progressive forces organising to struggle for the improved funding and revitalisation of public education.
We of ERC calls on the entire labour movement to publicly condemn the violent dispersal of the protesting primary school pupils by police. Before now, we had warned of the creeping transmutation of the Jonathan's government into a bloody civilian dictatorship prepared to stifle every democratic initiatives of the working masses to defend themselves. However this new development in Benue State shows that it is not just the Jonathan's government but equally state and local council governments irrespective of political parties ruling them are fast becoming brazen, dictatorial and despotic in their bid to implement unpopular anti-poor policies.
The series of crimes and ignominy committed almost on a daily basis by this government in its bid to force down peoples throat the neo-liberal agenda of a privatised, neglected and commercialised education system as opposed to a public education system has become alarming. For instance over the last two weeks, the Nigerian police has been hunting down, attacking and restricting striking lecturers and all those who support the on-going struggle of University and Polytechnic lecturers to save public education.
But compared to all these, the attacks on Benue primary school pupils is especially shocking, wicked and unconscionable. This chilling brutality on little children in Makurdi whose only crime was their support for their teachers struggle for better working conditions is a new low in the blood-stained record of the Nigerian Police. Despite their age, the pupils were brutally dispersed by police who shot tear gas canisters in their midst. That no one died is not an excuse to maintain silence on this matter. In any case, the ERC does not feel we need to wait until little children are killed by police before speaking out.
Unless checked, we warn that these actions of the Police would be a precursor to more bloody clampdown in the coming period as the government continues to get more brazen. There must be a time when we all have to rise up to say enough is enough to the brutality and violence being daily committed by the government against Nigerian people.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator National Secretary