Tuesday 18 March 2014


Next Step Should Be a Unified Protest by Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Students

By Adams Lateef (ERC National Deputy Coordinator).

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and the Concerned Students Against Education Commercialization (COSATEC) on Monday 17th March held a peaceful demonstration in Lagos to condemn the Federal Government's refusal to implement the agreement it reached with the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) which have kept students at home for several months.

Cumulatively, the ASUP strike is now in its 9th month. Sometimes in July last year, the first leg of the strike was suspended by the Union to give government a benefit of doubt. With no sign that government was ready to implement its promises and agreement, the lecturers resumed the strike which has lasted up till now.

The protest which commenced at about 9am starting from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) junction had students from the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) and members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) from both UNILAG and YABATECH as well as members of COSATEC participating. With the chanting of solidarity songs from that spot to WAEC/YABATECH junction, more students from around the campus were motivated to join. At this time the rally had built-up traffic along Herbert Marcaulay road.

Various speakers at the demonstration condemned government refusal to implement agreement it reached with ASUP, which caused the lecturers to resume their suspended strike. Students also used the occasion to condemn the planned national conference that was to commence that same day. Nothing meaningful will result from it as we have witnessed in the past same ruling elite organizing similar conferences. Several billions of naira has been budgeted for the Confab that will last for only 3-months. Students expressed anger that such huge resources could not be put into improving the education sector.

While the protest march moved from WAEC Bus Stop to Jibowu, the gathering was addressed by the leadership of COSATECH, Yabatech Union leaders and the ERC. One of the student leaders, Faniyi James of Yabatech urged the students to be calm and stress the reason for the protest which was to condemn government insensitivity towards the on-going ASUP strike. He mentioned that students in the polytechnics have remained at home for over 8 months due to government refusal to implement agreement it signed with the striking lecturers.

HT Soweto, National Coordinator, ERC
ERC National coordinator Hassan Taiwo Soweto in his speech first appealed to the students and the armed policemen present to observe a one minute silence to the departed 20 unemployed Nigerian youths who lost their lives over the weekend while in search for better job at the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) screening. He further urged students to remain committed to the struggle for a better education in the country as the ruling elite is not interested in funding education.

The demonstration was attended by over a hundred students moving along the popular Ikorodu road. The express road was shut down for hours. At different junctions (Onipanu and Anthony) several minutes were also spent to address the media.

A student Leader
 The planning of the protest took several days and involved students from YABATECH, College of Education Akoka and ERC members at the University and Polytechnic. Unfortunately, the students from the College of Education Akoka later backed out of the planned protest which was meant to be a joint campaign.
Lateef Adams ERC National Deputy Coordinator
The ERC shall continue to campaign for improved funding of the education sector and provision of free and functional education at all levels which we believe is possible if the abundant resources Nigeria is endowed with is judiciously used and democratically managed by the working people of this country. Central to this is the need for unity of Polytechnic and Colleges of Education students as well as striking lecturers from both sides to struggle together to defeat government anti-poor education policies.

We call on all students to unite against all anti-students policies. We urge that the next step should be a unified day of action to demand a halt to neo-liberal policies of education commercialization in the country.

Sunday 16 March 2014


ERC Demands Sack of Minister of Interior and NIS Comptroller General
Calls for a Day of Mourning and Mass Protests

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is outraged at the avoidable wastage of the lives of scores of unemployed Nigerian youths during Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment test over the weekend. The promising youths had gone for the test to seek means of keeping body and soul together only for them to be forced into their early graves by the irresponsibility and callousness of Nigerian government.

At some centres where the tests were conducted, deaths and grievious injuries were recorded. Official sources have explained this to be a product of the impatience of the candidates to gain entry into the venues of the test. As usual victim-blaming and arms-wriggling is the default response of the Federal Government to any national calamity including those caused by its gross incompetence and the abject failure of its policies and projects.

In Abuja and many other centres, reports show that more applicants beyond what the centres could accomodate were invited to write the tests. For instance at the Abuja National Stadium which has a maximum seating capacity of 60,000, over 65,000 applicants were invited. To make matters worse, only a few of the about 30 entry points into the stadium were opened. The same stories exist in many other centres.

As far as we are concerned in the ERC, the blame for the death rests primarily on the shoulders of the Federal Government and particularly the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Ministry of Interior which appear to have turned the recruitment test to an opportunity to make quick money. According to reports, only 4,556 vacancies were advertised but the NIS accepted application fee of N1,000 each from over 500,000 applicants making a clean return of over N500 million! This is unconscionable! This is unacceptable!! The NIS and the President Jonathan's capitalist government are preying on the misery of hapless Nigerian youths especially graduates who suffer years without gainful employment.

The ERC believes it is the social responsibility of the government as the custodian of society's commonwealth to provide a decent job for every citizen. All talks about young graduates becoming employers of labour is nonsense especially in a society where public infrastructures like electricity supply, water supply and transportation infrastructures needed to support self employment are lacking.

Actually, the crisis of chronic unemployment which plagues the nation is a product of the inherent unjust nature of the capitalist system which prioritises profit and privilege of a few over people's needs. As a result of capitalism, Nigeria is locked in an absurd contradiction of such magnitude that even the Finance Minister Okonjo Iweala for all her famed qualifications as a foremost economist is left in a quandary.

It is not as if there are no jobs. There are actually more potential skilled job opportunities than the current number of unemployed graduates can fill. In the secondary and primary schools for instance, over 200,000 skilled teachers are needed to close the yawning gap in the teacher:pupil ratio. In the health sector, there are not enough doctors and other health professionals. In the tertiary institutions, there is a yawning need for more academic staff. We need more engineers and technicians to be employed to drive the Nation's industrialisation, so also do we need thousands of farmers, agricultural scientists, agronomists etc to drive the much-needed agricultural revolution and food security. So there are jobs. The fundamental cause of our predicament in this Nation is the contradiction of capitalism, which prioritizes maximization of profits of few superrich against welfare of the majority, coupled with legendary kleptocracy called governance in Nigeria. This explains the refusal of the government to invest in turning these potential job openings into actual jobs so that the army of unemployed youths can apply for them.

This is why the ERC while staunchly advocating the rights for free and public-funded public education never fails to call for a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by an alternative socialist system as the only real way out of Nigeria's seemingly insurmountable crisis. For as long as this unjust system of capitalism remains, the kind of unconscionable wastage of the lives of our youths while hunting for jobs which ordinarily is their right will continue to occur.

The public has been expressing outrage at this mindless wastage of the lives of the youth of the Nation. We now demand that this outrage be turned into a flood of mass indignation and protest at an incompetent government and its unjust system of capitalism which has caused this wastage of the lives of our youth. We specifically call on the labour movement, civil society organizations and unemployed youths to organise a day of National mourning and mass procession to protest and demand the following:

(1) Immediate Sack of Minister of Interior Mr. Abba Moro and Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service Mr. David Shikfu Parradang for gross incompetence and complicity in the death of unemployed youths over the weekend
(2) Refund of the N1,000 application fee and other payments to all applicants
(3) Provision of decent and well-paid jobs to all unemployed youths commensurate to their qualifications and skills
(4) Payment of unemployment benefit to all those requiring jobs but are not employed.
(5) Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and their democratic management to ensure benefits for the mass majority unlike presently when only a few actually benefits.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                   Michael Ogundele                                          
National Coordinator                                                    National Secretary                                       
07033697259                                                                   07066249160    

Friday 14 March 2014


· Condemns NANS Participation
Press Statement
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) declares President Jonathan's National Conference a charade. The National Conference is an expensive sideshow that is not designed to address the country's challenges like mass unemployment, rotten public education sector, and degenerate public health services etc.
We condemn the participation of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) at the National Conference which has been convened by a deeply unpopular government looking for any straw to hang onto.
We do not expect any positive outcome from the conference as it is not a SOVEREIGN conference of the elected representatives of working and oppressed masses of Nigeria. Rather it is a gathering meant to rebuild the damaged reputation of the government by presenting a semblance that Nigerians are talking when indeed what is happening is that a few people have been invited closer to dine with the government and thereby reduce the opposition against this brutally anti-poor government.
ERC urge the mass of students not to entertain a single shred of hope that the six delegates presented by National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) will ever represent their best interests. The reasons are not far-fetched:
(1) NANS as an organisation has in the recent years failed woefully to represent the best interests of students concerning issues such as education funding and democratic management of schools. During the last strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which was waged for adequate funding of the public universities, the national leadership of NANS came out in support of the Federal government. Right now public Polytechnics and Colleges of Education have been shut for months yet NANS has not deemed it urgent to call a nationwide protest to compel government to meet ASUP and COEASU's demands. Against this background, it should be clear to all discerning minds that the six delegate slots allocated to NANS is not an appreciation of the weight of the students population in society as some impressionable minds have said. Rather it is actually a celebration of the complete ideological capitulation of NANS to the government.
(2) The six delegates that would purportedly speak for students at the National Conference were not elected directly by the mass of students. So hasty and undemocratic was the Yinka-Gbadebo NANS leadership's urge to partake in the criminal wastage of our collective wealth which the National Conference actually is that the mass of students were not even consulted through local congresses to draw up a collective agenda which the six delegates are meant to canvass at the National Conference.
We therefore urge all Students' Unions across tertiary institutions to condemn NANS participation at the National Conference.
Instead of participating in a National Conference whose resolutions just like the Obasanjo Conference would be dumped in the lobby of the National Assembly and that is the end of it, NANS should begin an immediate mobilisation of rank and file of Nigeria students across various campuses to build a mass campaign for meeting of the demands of ASUP and COEASU, reversal of hiked fees at the Lagos State University (LASU), dropping of criminal charges against UNIUYO 44, proper funding of public education sector, right to independent students' unionism, against privatisation and commercialisation of public education sector and democratic running of schools.
We make bold to say none of these salient issues would be addressed by the National Conference and these are the issues that NANS need to fight over on the streets of Nigeria instead of scheming to benefit from the N7 billion National Conference largesse.
To us in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), the pretentious political prognosis of the Jonathan National Confab will not in any way solve Nigeria's socio-political problems or salvage the poor conditions of the country's public education sector.
The national confab with delegates appointed from different ethnic, cultural, professional groups and civil societies is designed to promote President Jonathan's second term bid and not to address the country's political and socio-economic problems.
We strongly oppose this expensive sideshow and task the trade union movement to immediately call for mass actions towards mobilising the entire working class and poor masses to fight against underfunding of public education, mass unemployment, privatization  and for provision of living minimum wage for workers, public ownership and democratic management of key sectors of the country economy.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                          Michael Ogundele                             
National Coordinator                                                          National Secretary                            
07033697259                                                                        07066249160