Friday 19 July 2013

Reports of ERC solidarity activities to back on-going ASUU strike

Strikes in the Education Sector: Need for Unity of Education Workers and Students in Struggle

By Hassan Taiwo Soweto
ERC National Coordinator

Over the last three months, the education sector has been racked by one disruption after the other. It is not even yet up to a week that Polytechnic staffs under the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Senior Staff of Association of Nigeria Polytechnic (SSANIP) suspended their almost three months strike over a promise from the government to address their demands. The strike, which was suspended with a threat of resumption if after a month it is not seen that government truly wants to meet their demands, rattled the government. Not just because of the determination of the Polytechnic lecturers but also because of the solidarity of polytechnic students. 

ERC Joins SSANIP Protest Rally on June 4 at Yabatech Lagos

Aside the efforts of groups like the ERC and the new group COSATEC, the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) despite the political limitation of its leadership organised a number of protests which helped to ply pressure on the government. 

ERC with COSATEC on June 24 in Lagos
Compared to this, NANS which is the umbrella body of all students publicly opposed the strike of University lecturers. The senseless arguments advanced by the rightwing NANS leaders for this counterproductive strategy is not worthy of examination here. What should worry ordinary students is that this attitude of the NANS leadership essentially means capitulation to the government and its neo-liberal policies of education underfunding. It means NANS is not only ready to fight neo-liberal education policies, it would also try its best to weaken the efforts of those fighting.

ERC  at May 22 NAPS Rally in Abuja
The ERC believes the demands of ASUU if met would genuinely lead to improvement in the education system and as such is worth supporting by students. Students suffer the most from cuts in education funding, fee hike and decaying facilities. Added to the woes of students is the phenomenon of unemployment which in practice means that only a few hundreds of the tens of thousands gruduating yearly can ever find a job. 

NANS backing the government against a strike aimed at compelling the government to use Nigeria's enormous wealth to fund education is therefore essentially a betrayal of the interests of students. The best strategy that would enormously favour students interest is for NANS to openly solidarise with the University lecturers in their strike while also declaring nationwide mass actions of students to put forward specific students' demands for improved funding, reversal of hiked fees, repair of broken and decayed teaching and hostel infrastructures, restoration of banned unions, recall of victimised stidents activists etc. This kind of strategy which unifies students and education workers in collective struggle would have succeeded in putting enormous pressure on government such that the ultimate result would be that not only University workers but also students would win concessions at the end of the day

It is such a unity in struggle of students and education workers that the ERC has been arguing for since the beginning of the strikes. Despite the opposition of the rightwing leaders of students and the atrophy of the mass organisations of students, we have managed over the last three months to launch solidarity activities to support the strikes in polytechnics and universities while also advancing students' specific demands. This consists of pasting of posters and handing out leaflets to students and the public. Also public meetings, symposium and rallies have been called.

At the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile ife, ERC members have not allowed the fact the University is on break to discourage them. They have pasted posters and circulated leaflets. They are equally playing important roles in the on-going discussion among the "left" student groups on campus to organise public mass actions to fully back the strike. At the University of Ibadan (UI), the ERC was able to organise a successful public meeting which brought students and University lecturers to discuss how to jointly respond to the attacks on public education. Finally at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), we were able to organise a protest rally whose modest success is all the more surprising considering the over 10-year long absence of a students’ union in the University and the conspiracy of the faculty presidents and the University Management in scaring students from attending the rally.

Below we present the fascinating reports of these activities at UNILAG and UI which are just the first leg of the planned activities of the ERC to campaign for a united struggle to win the strike and defeat government anti-poor education policies.

ERC Holds Rally in UNILAG on Strikes in Universities and Polytechnics

By Lateef Adams
ERC Coordinator
Lagos State

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) on Wednesday July 17 held a rally at the University of Lagos as part of the activities of the organization to mobilize mass support for the struggle of education workers in universities and polytechnics in order to mount pressure on the government to implement the agreements it has reached with the staff unions in education sector. The strike actions by Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) shut down the polytechnic nationwide for almost three months.  These strikes have been called off this week but there are no indications that the agreements have been implemented.

On solidarity March
The rally which started at the front of the main gate of the university as early as 8 am with chanting of solidarity songs by members of the ERC drew students from University of Lagos and Yaba College of Technology.  However, before the rally started the police, on the invitation of UNILAG management had stationed their men who came in three vans to militarize the venue. We were not however intimidated by the presence of the police. It was part of the desperate efforts of the management to prevent the rally from being held.

 n response to the mass circulation of ERC flier and leaflet to mobilize for the rally, the university management had sent mass text message sent to all the students warning against attending rally. Earlier, a pro-management group called Council of Faculty Presidents had issued flier to instill in students fears of dire consequence of attending the rally. For instance, the flier warns that “any student who joins any protest does so at his/her own risk”, and stresses that it is important for students not to join the rally so that “hostels are not closed down and students are not evicted from the hostels”.  It is atrocious and distasteful that the faculty presidents are only interested in keeping students at the hostel even without academic activities taking place and not in efforts to mount pressure on the government so that academic activities can resume.  It is therefore significant that about 50 people most of whom the students of the university attended the rally.  

Biodun Aremu, Secretary JAF addressing the rally
Almost all speakers invited were in attendance, representing the ASUU was Dr. Babatunde Jegede, the union treasurer Unilag branch, who took time to list out the agreement the union reached in 2009 that is still awaiting implementation. After describing the deplorable state of the institution, he warned that if actions are not taking to force the thieving ruling elite to improve the sector in the country that soon public education will totally collapse. Other  speakers at the event were Dr. Dele Ashiru member of the ASUU and former Students Union President in UNILAG , c Biodun Aremu Secretary Joint Action Front (JAF), comrade Austin Okoh (SSANIP Chairman YABATECH), AJ Dagga Tolar (NUT Chairman Ajeromi Ifelodun), Rashidat Adesina (Assistant Secretary JAF) and Comrade Chinedu Bosah (Protem Chairperson Socialist Party of Nigeria, Lagos State).

All speakers at the rally drew similar premises that the present rulers are not interested in funding education as a result of neo-liberal capitalist agenda and therefore neglect agreement reached with workers. The same ruling elite who fail to improve budgetary allocations to education do not fail to award themselves jumbo pay and allowances.

The rally was rounded off with a solidarity march through the main road on the campus to the ASUU secretariat where a meeting Ibadan Zone of the union was being held. The number of students as we were marching as some claimed that they would be victimized if seen by management at the ASUU Secretariat.

The ASUU members at the meeting came out to welcome the students and pro-labour activists. In his solidarity speech, the ERC coordinator UNILAG Lateef Adams raised the need for ASUU not to limit the strike to a stay-at-home action but rather organise a series of mass activities including a day of action that will witness mass protest of lecturers in the country.  He also called for a joint struggle of the education workers unions and students to fight against underfunding and non implementation of agreement reached by government. The experience of the commercialization of education in LASU where the government, after huge drop in the number of students as a result of high fees, is planning to start the rationalization of courses which will result in sack of staffs (both academic and non academic) was cited.

 AJ Dagga Tolar urged the union as they meet to call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to declare a 48 hour general strike on the education sector since the collapse of education affect all sectors of the economy.

The ASUU members who addressed the gathering included Dr. Segun Ajiboye, ASUU Chair University of Ibadan and Dr. Ademola Aremu ASUU National Treasurer.

By Michael Ogundele
ERC Coordinator
Oyo State
As part of the effort to deepen the mobilization education workers and students towards a struggle   for the proper funding of public education, members of the Education Right Campaign (ERC), University of Ibadan branch, on Tuesday 16th July, 2013, organized a public meeting of students and Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) to discuss the ongoing ASUU strike.

The meeting which actually started at about 12:30pm at the SRC Chamber of the Students’ Union building University of Ibadan was attended by many National and local officers of ASUU, socialist activists and students Leaders. Notably among these were: Dr. `Demola Aremu, ASUU National Treasurer; Dr. Tajudeen Akanji, Convener of ASUU committee on Students and labour related matters; Dr. Segun Ajiboye, Chairman, ASUU-UI;  Dr. Gbenga Olajide, Chairman ASUU-UI strike monitoring committee;  Comrade, Abbey Trotsky,  Secretary, Oyo State Chapter of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM); Babatunde Badmus, President Student Union –UI and Adeyemo Monsuru Coordinator of NANS zone D.

Holding this kind of public meeting at a critical period when the Federal Government of Nigeria is using all forms of propaganda machineries at its disposal to misinform the Nigeria public including students actually provided an opportunity for the ASUU leadership to actually and clearly explain to participants in the meeting who were largely students issues that are involved in the ASUU/FGN agreement signed by both parties since 2009. 

 Dr Demola Aremu while leading the discussion stated that the only demand of ASUU is that government should honour the agreement it signed with the union 2009 after almost five years of negotiation. Against the government propaganda that all that ASUU is fighting for is earned allowance, Aremu emphasized that the main priority of the ASUU demands is the improve funding of public education by the government to 26% of annual budgetary allocation as recommended by UNESCO towards the revitalization of the university system.

Aremu went further to reveal that not all university teachers who are currently participating in the ongoing ASUU strike are entitled to the so called earned allowance which he defined as just incentives meant for the extra workload done by university teachers. After outlining the  very few categories of university teachers who will benefit from the earned allowance if implemented,  he therefore maintained that the earned allowance itself is a reflection of poor funding of public education which will become unnecessary should Nigeria public education is adequately funded.

 On NEMECO, Aremu revealed that is an independent Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) floated by the ASUU to be in charge of managing the 7.5% contributory pension the federal government has been deducting from the salaries of all ASUU members for the past four years. He revealed that the need for an ASUU independent PFA was conceived especially when it was obvious that virtually all the existing PFA’s in the country the FGN wanted to impose on ASUU are actually owned by individuals who were in charge of many failed banks in the country. Aremu therefore questions the rationale behind the continued refusal of government to register the NEMECO, the PFA through which ASUU hope to guarantee the security of the pension contributions of its members.

Ademola Aremu ASUU National Treasurer speaking at the symposium
In his submission, Aremu charged students with the fact that the struggle for proper funding of public education which ASUU is leading is collective fight of students, education workers and members of civil society. Therefore call on students to have independent plans of mass actions to save the public education from total collapse.

 Abbey Trotsky, while addressing the meeting maintained that the poor funding of public education as well as other social services is an expression of various neoliberal policies which remain the economic philosophy of various capitalist governments in charge of Nigeria economy.  He therefore stressed that the aspiration of education workers, students and many change-seeking Nigerians can only come to reality only when a pro-working people government with socialist programme of nationalization of the commanding height of Nigeria economy under the control and management of workers and poor is in power.

He submitted by calling on ASUU members and students to join the effort of members of DSM who had launched the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN)  as a step of building a broad working people political party toward the formation of a government that will be sensitive to the need and aspiration of Nigeria working but suffering masses.

One of the highlights of this meeting was the fear expressed by many of the students who participated in the discussion against the certainty that pumping more money into the education sector will automatically guarantee any significant improvement in both the living and learning condition of students especially when various management  of Nigerian universities had individually and collectively failed in making sure that various form of fee hikes which Nigeria students suffered in the recent time translates to any improvement  in their condition of learning.

 Dr Segun Ajiboye in responding to some of the contributions from the students, assure the students that one of the demands of ASUU is the constitution of budget committee which will comprises of elected representatives of students, workers unions and member of the management so as to ensure a democratic management and control over the spending of whatever resources at the disposal of the university system.

Dr Tajudeen Akanji charged students not to be on lookers but rather to unite with education workers in fighting for proper funding and revitalization of public education.

The public meeting attended about 60 persons was brought to end with solidarity songs

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Strikes in Universities and Poly: ERC Holds Rally in Lagos (Photo News)

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) held a rally today at University of Lagos with about 50 including students of UNILAG and Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech) and pro-labour activists in attendance. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff of Nigeria Polytechnics (SSANIP) and Joint Action Front (JAF) were ably represented.  It was significant that the rally held against the backdrop of the aggressive demobilization of students from attending the rally by the university management and their lapdogs, Council of Faculty Presidents.  The management sent text messages to all the students against the rally while the Faculty Presidents massively circulated a flier.   Also present at the rally were police who came in three vans to militarise the rally. However, nobody was assaulted by the police. Full Report Later 

Abiodun Aremu, JAF Secretary

Austin Okoh, SSANIP Chair Yabatech

Chinedu Bosah, Protem Chair Socialist Party of Nigeria Lagos state

Rasheedat Adeshina JAF Assistant Secretary

Babatunde Jegede, ASUU Treasurer UNILAG

Segun Ajiboye, ASUU Chair University of Ibadan

Ademola Aremu ASUU National Treasurer

Dagga Tolar, Chair Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Ajeromi Ifelodun LG Lagos

ASUU Strike: ERC Holds Symposium at University of Ibadan (Photo News)

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) held a symposium on Tuesday July 16 on the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the University of Ibadan. In attendance were students and members of ASUU. More report later

Abbey Trotsky, Secretary Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) Oyo State

Segun Ajiboye, ASUU Chair UI

Ademola Aremu, National Treasurer ASUU

Participants at the Symposiun

Tuesday 16 July 2013


We Demand His Arrest for Alleged Sponsoring of The Murder of 5 Union Leaders of OAU on July 10, 1999

The ERC strongly condemns the Osun and Oyo States governments for appointing an alleged murderer, Professor Wale Omole as the Pro-Chancellor and Governing Council Chairman of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH). This appointment is an insult to the memory of the five Union leaders murdered in cold blood on July 10, 1999 by cultists widely believed to have been sponsored by Prof Wale Omole while he was the Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). We call on the two state governments to reverse themselves on this ignoble and embarrassing appointment.

We do not for a moment believe the duo of Governor Aregbesola and Ajimobi are ignorant of Prof Wale Omole's brutal, despotic and bloodied antecedent as a university administrator. However assuming they have forgotten, we would endeavour to rejig their memory.

For 8 years he was the Vice Chancellor of OAU, Prof Wale Omole terrorised students and staff of the University. Not only was he ever-ready to impose any unpopular anti-poor education policies of the military regimes, his own brutal tenure became a sad testament of the militarization of an ivory tower. Wale Omole acting the script of the military regimes saw independent unionism, especially the buoyant, ideological-driven and radical unionism of OAU, as an impediment to pro-market education policies and from early on in his tenure strove to clip the wings of radical students and staff unions.

The OAU students union which was very active in the mass struggle to end military rule naturally became a target for clampdown. This was a period when Abacha's gun men were ravaging the pro-democracy camp killing activists and clamping many, including journalists, into prison without trial. Prof Wale Omole became more than a willing tool, more accurately a maniacal enthusiast, for the Abacha military regime in its bid to snuff life out of the students wing of the pro-democracy struggle. He banned the OAU students union several times during his tenure. Tens of student activists and union leaders were summarily expelled. In 1995, Prof Wale Omole expelled the then President of the Students Union, Anthony Fasayo and many other leaders and activists of the union. For the next seven years, OAU students continued to fight for their reinstatement thereby suffering more victimisation in the process.

In 1999, a radical Union leadership emerged under the leadership of Akinyemi Iwilade (a.ka. Afrika) who was the secretary general and Lanre Adeleke (a.k.a Legacy) who was the president. Under their tenure, the struggle against the anti-poor education policies of Wale Omole's administration and for recall of victimised activists received a new boost. Students protests, boycotts and demonstrations against the management and the military regime became the order of the day. Many anti-poor policies of the University administration including an attempt to increase fees were defeated. Faced with a determined Union leadership ready to fight it to a standstill, Wale Omole's University administration drew a line in the sand. As suspension and expulsion no more frightened students, Prof Wale Omole placed his hope on cult groups which was then becoming a menace in the University due to the brutal attacks on independent unionism and their encouragement by the management.

On March 7 1999, the Students' Union led by Secretary General of the Union Akinyemi Iwilade (Afrika) apprehended some cultists belonging to Black Axe confraternity with arms including guns with several rounds of ammunition. They were interrogated by students and then handed over to university management who transferred them to the police. Just as it is now, Universities then claimed to have official zero-tolerance for cultism which includes expulsion of  any known cultist. But lo and behold, these cultists apprehended by students were freed by a corrupt magistrate who later became a lecturer in the university for want of evidence even though he ordered the destruction the evidence presented which inclueded the Black Axe regalia and other cult paraphernalia and the transfer of their guns to the police armory. No doubt this was done in connivance with the police and university management. While the case was on the university management refused to produce witness while students had been sent home as a result of struggle for reinstatement of victimized student activities. By the time the University re-opened, these cultists returned to campus  and were seen walking free on campus and even sat for examination! All protests by the Union to Prof Wale Omole was ignored. As far as he was concerned, gun-wielding cultists were more tolerable on campus than student activists.

Four months after, on  July 10, the same  Black Axe confraternity whose members were apprehended in March struck murdering in cold blood the Secretary General of the Union Akinyemi Iwilade (Afrika) who led students to apprehend them  and four other students. Curiously they freely gained entry into the University, killed their victims and freely exited without any hindrance! Many other union activists including the union president who were to be killed escaped only by whiskers. No student or member of the University community who witnessed the gruesome murder can ever forget nor forgive Professor Wale Omole. Statements of members of the University management as well as members of the University security unit to the police showed that the University gate was practically thrown wide open for the cultists. However in the days that followed July 10, OAU students mobilised from Ife to Ibadan, Lagos etc and succeeded in arresting a few of the cult members. In their statements, they acknowledged Prof Wale Omole as their sponsor.

Today all the arrested cultists have been discharged and acquitted by Nigeria's corrupt judicial system. Prof Wale Omole himself although chased out of campus by students did not stand trial for a day. Every year since 1999, OAU students commemorate the July 10 killings crying repeatedly for justice. For this reason, the decision of the Oyo and Osun State Government to edify an alleged murderer like Prof Wale Omole by appointing him pro-chancellor of a University is not just an insult to students, it is equally a disservice to the parents and families of the deceased who still feel pained and wronged by the State and its corrupt judicial system.

It is all the more disheartening that the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Bola Tinubu who was also appointed Chancellor of LAUTECH has no qualms in sitting with a known persecutor of Pro-democracy activists like Prof Wale Omole in the University administration. Where then, we ask, is Bola Tinubu's democratic credentials and his alleged claim of being a pro-democracy fighter during the dark days of military despotism?

We are sure that there are a lot of credible individuals who could be appointed as the pro-chancellor of LAUTECH. Prof Wale Omole is certainly not fit for such office nor any credible public office at all. There is nothing students and staff of LAUTECH can benefit from his appointment as Pro-Chancellor except a continuation of his anti-poor education policies and brutalities for which he was driven from OAU in 1999. Rather he should be placed on trial to answer for his roles in the July 10 murder.

We call on LAUTECH and OAU students to protest this appointment. We call on the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to publicly reject the appointment and organise protests and demonstrations to compel the Oyo and Osun state governments to reverse the appointment.

Most importantly, this whole scenario again justifies ERC's persistent call for the democratisation of Universities which should include giving students and staff of every tertiary institutions the right to decide through a democratic vote  appointments into any official position of their schools. Without this, one can only imagine what kind of ignoble characters would be smuggled into the administration of our tertiary institutions and educational system in the future.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                                                      
National Coordinator