By Abdulwahed Omar
The Nigeria Labour Congress calls on President GoodluckEbele Jonathan to decisively tackle the crises in the education sector in order to prevent a total shut-down of the sector. We urge Mr President to muster all the necessary will and skill to confront the issues that threaten this vital sector. As President of the country, he has the onerous task of rising to the challenge of restoring normalcy to the sector whether the issues are political as he has made the nation to believe or whether they are purely industrial.
The threat of a total shut-down is present and immediate and deserves all the urgency and mobilisation Mr President could muster. The developments in the Education Sector are symptomatic of greater ills in the polity.
The strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), for instance is in its fourth month and has almost certainly disrupted an entire academic session with collateral consequences.
The three other leading unions in the Education Sector, viz, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Academic Institutions (NASU); the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); National Association of Academic Technologies (NAAT); and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) have all threatened to go on strike within the next few days except their demands are met.
Also the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has signalled its readiness to embark on a solidarity strike if government fails to resolve within two weeks the issues of contestation with ASUU.
Most of these demands if not all, are not new, but are subsisting agreements which government is expected to honour. Some of these agreements border on salaries which government has agreed to pay but has elected to observe in the breach instead.For example the case with the Senior Staff Association of the Nigerian Universities, whose members are being owed for over 3 months.
The avoidable strike action by ASUU has caused enough disruption or damage to the sector. The implications for the polity are grave and should be avoided, at least for the sake of our children.
We also urge Mr President to discountenance the impression that the strike actions against his government are politically-motivated as nothing could be farther from the truth. Those who pursue this line of thinking are the ones who do not wish Mr President well. Rather than tell him the truth, they prefer to indulge in sycophancy, hypocrisy and boot-licking because it serves their personal motives.
In order for Mr President to convince himself about the absence of any ulterior motive against his administration by any of the unions, especially ASUU which has come under accusation, we crave the indulgence of Mr President to insist on being availed the details of these agreements.
The Nigeria Labour Congress is not oblivious of the present challenges in the economy but it is convinced that with requisite discipline, will, prioritisation and genuine dialogue, the government can reach a truce not just with the unions but could halt the decline in the economy.
Abdulwahed Ibrahim Omar