A mass protest by the various unions in the education sector, civil and human rights groups, students and parents over the ongoing strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Thursday grounded commercial activities in some parts of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Members of academic unions – ASUU, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics, College of Education Academic Staff Union and the Nigeria Union of Teachers – as well as youth and women groups, artisans and students stormed the streets of Abeokuta, chanting solidarity songs.
The protest monitored by the various security agencies resulted in traffic gridlock along major roads in the state capital.
Public universities across the country have been shut down since July 1, due to the failure of the Federal Government to implement agreement it entered into with ASUU since 2009.
The protesters who stormed the streets as early as 7.00am, took their demonstration from the NNPC Mega Station junction along IBB Boulevard, through Kuto to Isabo and Kemta, Sapon and Ibara bearing placards with various inscriptions.
Some of the inscriptions on their placards read, “Save Our Future”, “Don’t Gamble With our Lives,” “Education is our Right,” “Jonathan, You Are Sleeping over this matter too much,” “Our Leaders are Our Problem,” and “Okonjo- Iweala, a liar: FG is not Broke,” among others.
The Secretary, Joint Action Front, Abiodun Aremu, in his address to the protesters said that government at all levels in the country had been operating anti-poor policies of education.
Aremu noted that the government was not bothered about public education, saying JAF was in solidarity with all the unions in the education sector over the prolonged strike by ASUU.
Also while addressing the protesters, Chairperson of JAF and former president of ASUU, Dr. Dipo Fashina, said, “Save public education strike is to insist that governments in Nigeria fund education in line with the international standard of 26 percent and make education tuition free at all levels.
Fashina said, “Funding of education adequately means the repair and building of new infrastructure in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and the provision of up-to-date facilities.
“Government is irresponsible to public education, operate anti-poor policies and this is clearly expressed in their lack of disposition to public education. Funding of public education is not given the proper priority it deserves, because the children of those in governments and their friends are being trained in private schools in Nigeria and foreign countries with the looted public funds.
“Nigerians must know that the politicians, top civil servants, some traditional rulers and their cronies of contractors and patrons were beneficiaries of public education. Some of them set up private schools and universities in Nigeria and abroad with stolen fund from the public coffers.”
Fashina stressed that government should be blamed for all the crises in the education sector.
He added that the unions in the education sector were not making fresh demands.
Also, JAF in a press release signed by Aremu, alleged that the government had been deceptive on the implementation of the 2009 agreement, arguing that the claim by Okonjo-Iweala that the country is broke was a fallacy.