Monday 28 October 2013


No to Attack on Democratic Right to Protest against Bad Policies
We Urge ASUU to Take the Struggle to the Next Level by Naming a Day of Nationwide Mass Protest
   Press Statement
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) welcomes the decision of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to engage in mass protests and demonstrations to further build support for the on-going strike. Recall that right from the first day of the strike the ERC had issued several public statements arguing for this very same strategy. We are confident that the strategy of mass action which has now been adopted by ASUU will go a long way to strengthen the strike and help popularise the striking lecturers' demands amongst the general populace.
Unfortunately however the protest actions by ASUU members have come under brutal attacks by the Nigerian police. On October 16, protesting members of ASUU at the Ebonyi State University (EBSU) were barricaded in their University premises by over 200 policemen obeying the orders of the Commissioner of Police to prevent the lecturers from marching on the streets of Abakaliki. Similarly on Monday 21 October, over 1000 policemen barricaded protesting lecturers of the University of Calabar (UNICAL) in their University premises. The police claimed to be acting on "orders from above". Also on Tuesday 22nd October 2013, Bayelsa Police prevented striking lecturers of the Niger Delta University (NDU) from holding a peaceful procession on the streets and threatened to arrest them. Equally on Thursday October 24 and Friday October 25, 2013 respectively at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State, peaceful protests by ASUU members were disrupted when policemen stormed and barricaded the campuses' entrance to prevent striking lecturers from taking their rallies into the towns.
We strongly condemn these attacks and the undemocratic restrictions imposed by the Police on protesting ASUU members across the country. The ERC believes Nigerians have the right to peaceful assembly. The idea that the police must first issue permit before an assembly can take place is an anachronistic and undemocratic carryover from Nigeria's colonial past and is not supported by the 1999 Constitution.
This condemnable and detestable treatment of University lecturers by the police is a national shame. It is nothing short of brutality and harassment. The Federal Government has completely lost any modicum of respect for the citizens. Is it not enough shame that our Universities have been shut for 4 months while academic activities in polytechnics are equally suspended in a country under the rule of an "elected" government? Now added to our Nation's roll call of ignominy is the ugly spectacle of a supposedly democratic government willfully ordering police armed with loaded guns, tear gas and horse whips to barricade its academics for simply exercising their democratic rights to freedom of assembly.
The Inspector General of Police obviously has questions to answer about these brutal attacks on democratic rights occurring right under the nose of a democratic government. In each of the three cases cited above, the Police have claimed they restricted the lecturers to their campuses to prevent hoodlums from hijacking their protests. The real reason however is that the government fear that the striking lecturers will get favourable response from the mass of students, youths and working people if they are able to take their protests into the streets and towns.
Few weeks ago, the same government and the same Police allowed a rented crowd of market women numbering hundreds to protest in Abuja and were even warmly received by a Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education. Equally days ago, another crowd led by the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) closed down the Asaba Onitsha Axis of the Niger Bridge and held up traffic for hours under the protective watch of the Police. Now the only difference between the lecturers and the second group of protesters is that while the lecturers correctly blames the Federal Government for the crisis in the education sector and the inevitability of strike action, the latter obviously paid by the Federal Government and cleverly using the frustration of genuine students as smokescreen put all blames on ASUU.
While we support the right of everyone irrespective of their positions for or against the strike to peaceful assembly and protest, we have very good reasons to believe the police are guilty of selective clampdown on striking lecturers and all those who in their quest to rescue public education from collapse supports the ASUU and ASUP strikes.
We warn the Inspector General of Police to call his men to order and desist from harassing University lecturers who are on strike and are protesting to fight for better funding of public education and provision of facilities in schools. Unless Nigerians support ASUU and ASUP to win the struggle to save public education from underfunding and profiteering, Nigeria will continue to drift perilously into perfidy and anomie. Already reports have it that about 46 million adults are illiterate. Likewise, over 10.5 million school-age children are out of school. It is these ignoble conditions in our education sector that ASUU and its members are striking and fighting to reverse and for which they deserve support and solidarity, not police harassment and insult.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                            Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator                              National Secretary
07033697259                                          07066249160

ERC Condemns Police Attacks on Protesting Primary School Pupils in Makurdi

    Sack the Benue State CP Now
NANS Has a Lot to learn From Benue Primary School Pupils

Press Statement

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                        
07033697259                                                             07066249160

Saturday 26 October 2013

ASUU STRIKE: ERC Lobbies Trade Unions to Declare a Day of Solidarity Strike

By Kayode Salako

Members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and other layers of student activists embarked on a lobby action on 24th October, 2013. The lobby action which was primarily meant to put pressure on NUT, NUEE, and NUPENG in naming a day of mass action following their recent threats issued some weeks ago on embarking on a solidarity strike with the striking ASUU and ASUP members. The action which was started at about 10am at the front of NUPENG office, Yaba, Lagos state with 15 comrades and 6 press men proceeded to NUT office, Lagos State wing. 

The action started with solidarity songs, followed by speech from ERC Deputy coordinator, Lateef Adams, to introduce why the lobby action has to take place, which he mentioned in his speech that it is to raise the tempo of the on- going struggle to save public education and to mount political pressure on the three unions (NUT, NUEE, NUPENG) that declared support for ASUU and ASUP strike in naming a day for their solidarity strike. 

At NUPENG Secretariat Lagos
  H T Soweto in his own address emphasized that the union members are the parents of the students at the suffering edge so there is a need for the unions (NUT, NUEE and NUPENG)  to declare a day for their solidarity strike to join the striking education workers in saving public education from total collapse. He also called the attention of the public to the recent armoured car scam by the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, who bought two bullet proof cars for her personal usage with $1.6 million public funds. It is needful to immediately state that the leadership of NUPENG whom we first visited refused to openly address us. But a copy of ERC open letter to NUPENG was submitted and received at NUPENG. 

 The lobby action then marched forward to the NUT office, Lagos State wing, where we were welcomed by the deputy chairman of the union, Adedoyin Adesina. Com. Lateef Adams gave a the reason for the solidarity visit and the need for more action from the union to save the collapsing public education sector. Com Soweto started his speech by appreciating the warm reception by the union. While condemning the attitude of the FG reneging on a signed agreement with education workers, he emphatically called on the leadership of NUTto name a day for their solidarity strike  which can compel the federal government to implement the agreements signed with ASUU and ASUP and other education workers. 

Soweto urged the NUT to cooperate with other sister workers’ unions to save the public education and join the fight for free quality education at all levels. The NUT Lagos state deputy chairman in his own remark, appreciated the solidarity visit of ERC, roles played by the organisation in the student movement. He also apologized on behalf of the union chairman who promised to be present but who was unavoidably absent.

NUT Lagos Deputy Chair, Adedoyin Adesina
 He further condemned the role play by the FG on the ongoing strike and promise to deliver ERC message to the appropriate quarter.

Joshua, President of Igala Youth Congress, who also participated at the lobby action, gave a solidarity message on behalf of other members of Igala Youth Congress. He also thanked the NUT for their warm reception. The lobby action ended with solidarity songs. 

This was immediately followed with a brief meeting on recent development regarding the adopted activities of ERC. Soweto highlighted the change in date for the proposed town hall meeting. ERC town hall meeting was originally slated to hold on November 7th at NLC secretariat, Yaba, but unfortunately the date coincides with the annual KOLAGBODI MEMORIAL LECTURE. It was thereby agreed that the date should be shifted to November 9th and the KOLAGBODI MEMORIAL LECTURE should be used to mobilize activists and civil society organisations that will participating at the memorial lecture for the town hall meeting of 9th November.