Tuesday 29 April 2014


Nigerians Must Rise to Resist President Jonathan's Nascent Dictatorship

Protests Must Continue Until the Demands of ASUP and COEASU are Met
On Tuesday 29 April 2014, members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Education Rights Campaign (ERC) as well as students under the aegis of the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) were on a peaceful protest to the National Assembly when they were viciously attacked by heavily armed police.
The protesters began the march from the Federal secretariat at about 9am to the Ministry of Education where ASUP President Mr. Chibuzor Asomughai and COEASU president Mr. Asagha Nkoro, the National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Hassan Taiwo Soweto as well as the Assistant Secretary/Industrial Relation Officer of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Mr. Nuhu Toro addressed the crowd before they marched to the Ministry of Labour where the Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu addressed them. Having left the Ministry of Labour enroute the National Assembly, the police attacked and harassed the protesters for no reason whatsoever.
It will be recalled that ASUP has been on strike for 10 months cumulatively while COEASU has been on strike for 3 months. And the major cause of the strike is gross underfunding of public education and non-implementation of agreements with both unions.
The anti-poor Jonathan government as well as the other state governments have no agenda to provide free and quality public education for Nigerians. 
The police descended on the protesters like wild beasts and attacked them with water cannons, baton and teargas. While engaged in this shameless act, the Police were totally unmindful of the age and status of the protesters who are lecturers of polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
Some of the protesters sustained injuries in the process. Several were knocked down by regular bursts from the water cannons mounted on two heavy duty trucks. Some fell in the ensuing melee and were almost trampled. A lecturer was hit in the stomach by a teargas canister shot deliberately into an orderly crowd of the Nation's citizens by policemen obeying the orders of a failed government. The same police and security forces who have failed to rein in the dreaded boko haram and under whose nose Nigerians daily lose their lives in regular acts of criminality. The same police and security forces under whose nose over 200 girls disappeared and several weeks after their whereabouts is still unknown.
The attack is an assault on the democratic rights of the protesters. This attack is similar to the attack on lecturers belonging to Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) in December 2013 when they embarked on peaceful protest.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns this mindless attack. It is obvious that the Jonathan government has descended to a police state with its attendant dictatorship. This is an indication that trade unions, workers, students and pro-people organization will be crushed by all means if government policies are challenged. Hence, there is a need for an organized fight back.
(1) We call on the labour movement, civil society and indeed all Nigerians with a conscience to rise up and vigorously condemn this brutal assault. This is crucial because this development taken together with all the previous undemocratic actions taken by this government clearly shows that the Jonathan's anti-poor government is fast turning into a vicious civilian dictatorship.
(2) This attack is one too many and is a wakeup call to the trade union movement. Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) must not see this attack on just ASUP and COEASU alone but an attack on the entire trade union movement and must take it with all the seriousness that it deserves because an injury to one is an injury to all. Hence, NLC and TUC must mobilize for sustained solidarity actions including declaring for a one day general strike to call attention to the decaying state of public education at all levels and back the strikes of ASUP and COEASU.
(3) We also call on NLC and TUC to withdraw any invitation they might have extended to President Goodluck Jonathan to attend or speak at this year's May Day ceremony because it will amount to a slap on the face of workers if the president who ordered such a vicious attacks on ASUP and COEASU members and other protesters is now seated among Nigerian workers on May day. This is important to send the right signals to those in government that the workers of Nigeria cannot be taken for granted and that the trade union movement is capable of defending the rights of its members.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                                 
National Coordinator         

Breaking News: Police Repress ASUP and COEASU Protest in Abuja

The police are currently repressing the mass protests by polytechnics and colleges of education lecturers and students including ERC in Abuja with tear gas and hot water cannon. The protest march had earlier stopped at Ministries of Education and Labour and on the way to the National Assembly when it was heavily repressed.

 The police at the behest of the government attacked the democratic rights of the protesters in order to prevent them from getting to their (government) “citadel of democracy”.
 Incidentally, two days from now President Jonathan and other anti-worker politicians clad in borrowed trade union attires will be at May Day taking salute from the workers whose rights they have suppressed.

 In protest against this assault on democratic rights of workers and students the ERC calls on NLC and TUC to withdraw the May Day invitation they might have sent to the President and top government functionaries.  

One of the highlights this May Day should be a protest and demand on government to implement agreements with ASUP and COEASU so that polytechnic and colleges of education can be reopened.   Polytechnics and Colleges of Education have been shut down for 11 months and 3 months respectively as a result of the failure of the government to implement agreement with ASUP and COEASU.

Wednesday 23 April 2014


Press Statement

To avert another industrial crisis at the Lagos State University (LASU), the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on the Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola to immediately and without further ado reverse the astronomical fees of the University and meet all demands of students and workers unions in the University.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) LASU chapter has issued an ultimatum to the government to meet its demands failing which the lecturers will embark on strike after 30th April 2014. This was after sufficient warnings had been issued over the last few months to the University authority on the various demands of the union which borders on the University's fee hike and welfare of its members.

Having lost about three months this year alone to crisis, it will be completely insensitive if the Lagos State government fails to meet the demands of ASUU and avoid the strike.

This is why we call on the Lagos State government to stop the "hide and seek" game it is playing and take the only honourable path opened to it which is to reverse the fee hike and increase the funding of the University in order to address the infrastructural deficit of the institution.

As we have made clear severally, the major interest of the ERC is a LASU that is affordable and accessible to all Lagosians and  Nigerians. This kind of LASU is unachievable on the basis of the present level of fees. Governor Fashola has at different fora made the point that the University's fees were hiked to such criminal levels because of the State's desire to transform LASU from a glorified secondary school to a world class University.

While we will like to see LASU transformed into a world class University, we do not agree with Governor Fashola that this is only possible on the basis of hiking fees. We believe that if the resources of the State are judiciously managed and corruption and habitual use of state resources to enrich political godfathers and business cronies stopped, there will be enough money to fund LASU and all other state-owned institutions adequately. Unfortunately, it appears that Governor Fashola lacks the political will to stop the corruption in his government in order to find the money needed to fund LASU and other social services.

Whereas in the 70s and 80s when most of Nigeria's leaders went to University and studied under conditions far better than what obtains now, it was not on the basis of astronomical hike of fees. It is public knowledge that Governor Fashola graduated from the University of Benin. It is equally public knowledge that public Universities in that period charged low fees despite their high standards and compared to the situation today.

Today Governor Fashola is asking children of civil servants who earn N18,000 monthly minimum wage and poor masses to pay between N193,750 and N350,000 as school fees in a University established with taxpayers money. We say no to this. We cannot agree that the children of workers and poor people should be banned from benefiting from University education just because the Governor wants to transform LASU into a world class University. While we agree that there can be no University created for the poor alone, we respectfully ask Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola not to also turn LASU into a University for the rich alone but leave it alone as a public University it was created to be.

That one of the key demands of ASUU is for the reversal of the outrageous fees is another confirmation that the mass majority of people in LASU are opposed to the policy and that the position of the state government that the fee is irreversible is a minority position supported only by members of Fashola's kitchen cabinet and the House of Assembly members. 

Since January 22, 2014 when the ERC together with other forces launched a campaign to fight for the reversal of LASU fee hike, the cacophony of voices calling for the fees' reversal has increased. Indeed if a poll is conducted in Lagos today, we are confident that a majority of Lagosians will openly vote for reversal of the fees.

If therefore the Lagos State government is truly democratic, it should not be difficult for it to bow to the force of public opinion by immediately reversing the fees.
We in the ERC shall continue to campaign for the reversal of the hiked fees because it is anti-poor and also because we are convinced that Nigeria is endowed enough to provide free, functional and democratically-managed education at all levels. It is the ruinous and anti-poor capitalist policies supported by all ruling political parties including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) that are responsible for the paradox wherein despite the huge resources at the behest of Nigeria, our education system is broken and a majority of our people are poor.

Together with our campaign for free education, the ERC shall also fight for a socialist alternative to the capitalist rot. We urge students, workers and all Lagosians and Nigerians who share in our passionate belief that LASU hiked fee is anti-poor and must be reversed to join hands with us in actualising this demand.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                               
National Coordinator                                                       

ASUP AND COEASU STRIKES: Federal Government is Playing Games With the Future of Nigeria's Youth

                            ERC Calls for Mass Protests and Demonstrations
                       Press Statement
The refusal of the Federal Government to meet the demands the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) and the consequent shutdown of the Nation's public Polytechnics and Colleges of Education for months now is worrisome
The blame for the prolongation of the strikes and the consequential suffering of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education students lies on the shoulders of the President Jonathan government.
We urge students, parents, workers and concerned members of the public to join the two unions in their struggle to save public education.
In direct contradiction of his middle name "goodluck", President Jonathan's administration has meant nothing but BADLUCK to the entire education sector, students and workers alike. Under President Jonathan's capitalist government, the fortunes of Nigeria's education sector has seriously nosedived with over 40% of youth illiterate.
The Federal government has not hidden its complete disregard and disdain for the welfare of academic workers of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education as well as the long-suffering students of both sub-sectors of public education.
ASUP has been on strike for about nine months cumulatively while COEASU strike has lasted for three months. To us in ERC, the demands of both unions can be met in a few days if we have a responsible and responsive government.
Unfortunately, President Jonathan's government and indeed all the governments at State and local levels are far from being responsible. In actuality, they are all anti-poor capitalist governments that defend the interests of the rich against that of the mass majority of Nigerians who are poor. One of the reasons why government does not care if public schools are shut for eternity as a result of strikes is because the rich and the politicians do not patronise public schools. Using looted funds, they often send their children either to expensive private schools in Nigeria, Europe or the United States.
The ERC believes that only a government whose office holders live as the masses and whose children attend the same schools as the working masses can be proactive in preventing strikes through prompt implementation of demands and agreements. If the Supervising Minister of Education Nyesom Wike for instance has his children schooling in any public Polytechnic or College of Education in Nigeria, it may be difficult for him to maintain the same kind of rougish and provocative attitude with which he has been conducting negotiation with ASUP and COEASU. However, this kind of pro-working people government is impossible under capitalism. It is only under socialism that we can have a government that fully and truly represents the vast majority of the population.
We hold that the demands of ASUP and COEASU are genuine and if seriously implemented can help produce a well trained manpower that can enhance Nigeria's technological development and also quality teachers that can help to revive Nigeria's ailing public education system.
We  call on ASUP and COEASU to unite in the struggle to save public education and most importantly to name a day for a nationwide mass protest and demonstration. It does not pay to struggle alone. United action is the most potent way to defeat government's divide and rule tactics and also to quickly compel the government to meet demands.
We use this medium to call on both striking unions to start immediate mobilization of  their members and Nigerian students to the street to protest against the nonchalant attitude of the government.
We call on the leadership of the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) not to sit on the fence but to mobilize Nigerian students in support of the striking unions.
We call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) as well as pro-labour organisations like the Joint Action Front (JAF) to declare solidarity actions in support of the demands of ASUP and COEASU.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                               
National Coordinator