Condemns Brutalization of Protesting Workers and students by Soldiers
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Lagos State Chapter hereby calls on the Lagos State government to quickly find a quick and amicable resolution to the ongoing strike action of workers’ unions of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) in order to enable the long-suffering students of the institution resume their studies.
We also condemn the invitation of armed soldiers from the 174 Battalion by the rector of the institution, Mr. Samuel Sogunro, to assault the striking workers and students who had gathered at the school gate on Wednesday 7 June 2017 for a peaceful protest. According to a report by the Nation newspaper (8/6/2017), several workers and the students who joined them in solidarity were brutalized by the rampaging soldiers on the order of the Polytechnic Rector.
ERC Lagos condemns the army for this reprehensible assault on citizen’s rights to freedom of expression and association. We urge the army to stick to its constitutional role of defending the country against external aggression and not to turn its officers into the paid thugs of despotic heads of higher institutions to assault workers and students fighting for their legitimate rights.
The three staff unions in LASPOTECH - Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) - embarked on an industrial action over non-payment of 87-month accumulated arrears of the consolidated tertiary Institutions salary structure (CONTISS) 15 migration after the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum issued to the management to pay.
As far as we are concerned, the demands of the workers unions are legitimate. This demand if met will bring enhance workers’ productivity and quality service delivery. Therefore, ERC Lagos supports the striking workers unions in LASPOTECH and urge the state government as the funding authority of the institution to immediately pay up the 87-month arrears of CONTISS 15 migration so that the workers can return to their duty posts and students can resume their studies which have been suspended since the strike started.
No doubt, Lagos is a rich state considering its huge federal allocation and the enormous Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) it gets every month. If these huge resources are democratically managed by a pro-working people government, then it would not only be possible to provide the funds required to meet the striking workers’ demands, it would also be possible to adequately fund LASPOTECH and other state-owned institutions so as to ensure decadent teaching infrastructures are improved and modernized for quality learning.
Meanwhile, ERC Lagos understands that LASPOTECH students need to return back to class as soon as possible given that they have spent a whole year for an academic session that ordinarily should not last more than 7 to 8 months. We therefore urge students to join hands with the striking staff unions in order to compel government to meet their demands. But while joining the striking workers, it is important for workers and students to use this strike as a basis to beam light on all the crises afflicting LASPOTECH with a view to calling state government attention to all these issues.
Therefore while fighting for payment of the 87-month arrears of CONTISS 15 migration, the struggle must also be used to begin to raise demands on the chronic underfunding of the institution, the high fees, victimization and attack on democratic rights as well as the terrible welfare conditions under which students study. This is the only way to ensure this struggle leads to real and substantial progress for LASPOTECH in terms of the welfare of both students and workers. We also call on members of the public is for them to solidarize with the struggle of the staff unions with demand on the state government to meet workers’ demands so that students can go resume their studies.
While we call for the solidarity of the public and students, we call on the staff unions themselves to embark on a series of activities like mass circulation of leaflets and media briefing to sensitize the public on their plights and mobilise mass support for their struggle. We also urge them to be steadfast in the struggle and make it a mass-based one with mass meetings and congresses where decisions on tactics and strategies of the struggle are democratically taken by the mass of the workers themselves in order to avoid compromise. ERC LAGOS believes victory cometh by struggle as we reiterate our call on the state government to wake up to its responsibility and accede to the demands of the striking workers’ unions.
ERC LAGOS Coordinator