Rights groups, students protest ASUU strike in Edo

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Accuse govt of insensitivity as FG begs ASUU
BENIN CITY—ECONOMIC activities ground to a halt for over one hour in Benin City, Tuesday, as a coalition of civil society organisations and students protested against the attitude of the Federal Government to the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.

The protest came as President Goodluck Jonathan appealed to the leadership of ASUU to call off the strike.

The placard-carrying groups, including Concerned Nigerian Students, Coalition of Edo Youths Organisation, Edo Youth Congress, Edo State Students, Comrade Across the Nation, South-South Youth League and Edo Youth for Good Government, described the Federal Government’s seeming refusal to meet the demands of ASUU as wicked and expressed support for ASUU.

File photo: students protesting ASUU strike in Lagos

The protesters, who brandished placards, some of which read, “we are Nigerian undergraduates unemployed,” “Education is a right,” “Federal Government answer ASUU,” said the present impasse in FG/ASUU talk breakdown should be blamed on government.

Former ASUU chairman, University of Benin chapter, Dr Kashetu Ilavbare, who was sighted around the protesters, said the presence of some of ASUU members was to guide the protesters to prevent them from taking laws into their hands.

A contingent of policemen from the Edo State Police Command was observed at strategic points and this was to ensure that the protest was not hijacked by hoodlums.

Ilavbare said: “We don’t have anything to do with them, but we got information they were on the road, so we came to guide them, so that they will not destroy; to make it peaceful.

“You can see they are rational people. There is need for infrastructure both in the schools and outside, so that is why we are trying to ensure they don’t go on the rampage.”

The protesters in a statement read by Omobude Agho, called on patriotic Nigerians to support the action and enlighten parents and others on why they were agitating.

The statement read in part: “Investigations have shown that the issues at stake are far and above the demand for higher wages. ASUU went on strike because the Federal Government has failed to honour the agreement that it entered into with ASUU in 2009.

“This agreement provided for government funding of quality higher education for Nigerians. Provision of teaching and learning facilities, laboratory equipment for science students and research grants, payment of earned allowances, retirement age and progressive increase in annual budgetary allocation to the educational sector of 26 per cent, which is the UN standard.”

Meanwhile, President Jonathan has called on the leadership of ASUU to call off the on-going strike embarked by the union.

The President made the appeal in a message delivered on his behalf by the Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, at the commissioning of projects at the Federal University of Technology Owerri, FUTO.

The President said: “There is no justification for the strike as government as shown enough commitment to the cause of tertiary education in Nigeria. I appeal to ASUU leadership to call off the strike as keeping the students at home is not in the best interest of the nation.

“No government in the world can release the amount of money ASUU leadership is asking for in one installment.”

He, however, reiterated government’s commitment to enhance the quality of university education in the country.

The President further disclosed that government had released N100 billion for infrastructural development in the nation’s universities and another N30 billion as earned allowances for the academic staff.

He expressed delight for the completion of the projects, adding that they were coming at a time some other institutions were crying for improvement in infrastructure.

President Jonatha added: “I would like to assure Nigerians that more funds would be released periodically for infrastructural development in schools. I am optimistic that ASUU will soon call off the strike.”

Vice Chancellor of FUTO, Professor Chigozie Asiabaka, recalled that one monumental challenge that confronted his administration when he came on board was the acute problem of infrastructural under-development of the university.

Asiabaka said: “At that period, the university was faced with untold and obvious dearth of classrooms, lecture theatres, power supply, student hostels, office accommodation, library space and facilities, unfriendly environment and unwholesome landscape.”

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