Tuesday 28 May 2013

Strikes in Polytechnics: Students Protest in Abuja

ERC members actively participated
By Awe Michael 
ERC Bida Branch

Members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) the Federal Polytechnic Bida, Niger State Branch were among over one hundred students from different polytechnics in Nigeria who protested in Abuja on May 22, 2013 over the continued closure of polytechnics nationwide as a result of the failure of the government to implement the agreements it reached with academic and non-academic staff unions. The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) had gone on indefinitely strike to drive home their demands after the government contemptuously ignored the earlier warning strike.

The Abuja protest, which lasted for about six hours and was organized by the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS), was to call on the government to meet the demands of the striking staffs so that polytechnics can be re-opened nationwide.

ERC Members at the Protest March
The students marched behind the NAPS and ERC banners to the National Assembly Complex, Federal Ministry of Education and the Office of Chief of Staff to the President. Throughout the march there were police escorts trailing the protesters who also carried placards with various inscriptions like: "MEET ASUP AND SSANIP DEMAND NOW", "FUND EDUCATION WITH 26% BUDGET", "END TO DISPARITY BETWEEN HND AND BSC GRADUATES", "ESTABLISHMENT OF NATIONAL POLYTECHNIC COMMISION", "MEET ASUP DEMANDS NOW SO THAT WE CAN RESUME", and so on.

The protesting students were addressed by the respective Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Education and the Office Chief of Staff who promised to pass on the message to the appropriate authorities. We however only able to submit our letter of demands at the National Assembly as the security operatives stubbornly prevented us from gaining access to the main premises, let alone meeting any principal staff or officer of the Parliament. Incidentally, we met three other protesting groups including the workers of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) at the National Assembly Complex. 

While at the Ministry of Education, the President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), who had shortly earlier joined the march with 3 other persons, said that if 60% of ASUP and SSANIP demands were met, activities would resume in the polytechnic campuses. This was a clear misrepresentation conjured and smuggled into the demands of the protesting students by the NANS President. There was no meeting of students where a decision was arrived at that once 60 percent of staff demands are met the normal activities would resume in polytechnics. Besides, the NANS president did not have the mandate of the staff unions, whose strikes have shut down polytechnics, to put forward such benchmark.

We of the ERC commended the NAPS leadership for the Abuja protest march. We however urged them not to make it a one-off action. Rather it should just be one of the mass activities to be held. We call on the striking staff unions and polytechnic students to organise joint actions at all the state capitals. The staff unions must not limit the strike to a just stay-at-home action.

About 1,000 copies of the ERC leaflet (click here) were circulated throughout the protest march. Apart from Abuja, in Oyo, Osun, Niger and Lagos states, the ERC members have been circulating the leaflet which argues for mass support of the general public and students for the striking unions, and also calls for mass actions like symposia, protest marches and rallies by the striking staff unions and students in order to force the government to implement the agreement with the staff unions. The ERC Bida Branch has fixed a protest march in Minna, Niger State on Wednesday May 29 which is the anniversary of the return to civil rule.

No comments: