Some civil society groups and students’ organisations, on Tuesday, staged a protest march against the prolonged impasse between the Federal Government and the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The placard-carrying protesters said the Federal Government-ASUU disagreement had paralysed academic work in the universities.
The angry groups include the 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.
They converged on the Nigeria Union of Journalists’ Press Centre, in Benin, berating the Federal Government over what they described as government’s unwillingness to address the rot in the nation’s universities.
The protesters, who brandished placards with inscriptions such as, “We are Nigerian Undergraduates Unemployed,” “Education is a Right,” and “Federal Government Answer ASUU,” among others, said the breakdown in the FG/ASUU talk should be blamed on the former.
Former ASUU chairman, University of Benin chapter, Dr. Kashetu Ilavbare, said the presence of some of the ASUU members in the midst of the protesters was to guide them, so that they would not take the laws into their hands.
He said, “We don’t have anything to do with them; but we got information that they were on the road, so we came to guide them so that they will not destroy anything and 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 one Omobude Agho, called on patriotic Nigerians to support the action and to 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 has resumed its strike because the Federal Government of Nigeria 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, lab 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.
“ASUU has used all alternatives possible in labour relations: lobbying, negotiations, letters, warning strikes, begging, press releases and conferences. However, government has refused to honour the agreement that it willingly signed with ASUU.”