Nigerians Must Rise to Resist President Jonathan's Nascent Dictatorship
Protests Must Continue Until the Demands of ASUP and COEASU are Met
On Tuesday 29 April 2014, members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Education Rights Campaign (ERC) as well as students under the aegis of the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) were on a peaceful protest to the National Assembly when they were viciously attacked by heavily armed police.
The protesters began the march from the Federal secretariat at about 9am to the Ministry of Education where ASUP President Mr. Chibuzor Asomughai and COEASU president Mr. Asagha Nkoro, the National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Hassan Taiwo Soweto as well as the Assistant Secretary/Industrial Relation Officer of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Mr. Nuhu Toro addressed the crowd before they marched to the Ministry of Labour where the Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu addressed them. Having left the Ministry of Labour enroute the National Assembly, the police attacked and harassed the protesters for no reason whatsoever.
It will be recalled that ASUP has been on strike for 10 months cumulatively while COEASU has been on strike for 3 months. And the major cause of the strike is gross underfunding of public education and non-implementation of agreements with both unions.
The anti-poor Jonathan government as well as the other state governments have no agenda to provide free and quality public education for Nigerians.
The police descended on the protesters like wild beasts and attacked them with water cannons, baton and teargas. While engaged in this shameless act, the Police were totally unmindful of the age and status of the protesters who are lecturers of polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
Some of the protesters sustained injuries in the process. Several were knocked down by regular bursts from the water cannons mounted on two heavy duty trucks. Some fell in the ensuing melee and were almost trampled. A lecturer was hit in the stomach by a teargas canister shot deliberately into an orderly crowd of the Nation's citizens by policemen obeying the orders of a failed government. The same police and security forces who have failed to rein in the dreaded boko haram and under whose nose Nigerians daily lose their lives in regular acts of criminality. The same police and security forces under whose nose over 200 girls disappeared and several weeks after their whereabouts is still unknown.
The attack is an assault on the democratic rights of the protesters. This attack is similar to the attack on lecturers belonging to Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) in December 2013 when they embarked on peaceful protest.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns this mindless attack. It is obvious that the Jonathan government has descended to a police state with its attendant dictatorship. This is an indication that trade unions, workers, students and pro-people organization will be crushed by all means if government policies are challenged. Hence, there is a need for an organized fight back.
(1) We call on the labour movement, civil society and indeed all Nigerians with a conscience to rise up and vigorously condemn this brutal assault. This is crucial because this development taken together with all the previous undemocratic actions taken by this government clearly shows that the Jonathan's anti-poor government is fast turning into a vicious civilian dictatorship.
(2) This attack is one too many and is a wakeup call to the trade union movement. Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) must not see this attack on just ASUP and COEASU alone but an attack on the entire trade union movement and must take it with all the seriousness that it deserves because an injury to one is an injury to all. Hence, NLC and TUC must mobilize for sustained solidarity actions including declaring for a one day general strike to call attention to the decaying state of public education at all levels and back the strikes of ASUP and COEASU.
(3) We also call on NLC and TUC to withdraw any invitation they might have extended to President Goodluck Jonathan to attend or speak at this year's May Day ceremony because it will amount to a slap on the face of workers if the president who ordered such a vicious attacks on ASUP and COEASU members and other protesters is now seated among Nigerian workers on May day. This is important to send the right signals to those in government that the workers of Nigeria cannot be taken for granted and that the trade union movement is capable of defending the rights of its members.
Hassan Taiwo SowetoNational Coordinator