ASUU strike: FG should respect Collective Bargaining Agreement— NLC

AS public universities in the country remain closed, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has told the Federal Government to respect the Collective Bargaining Agreements it signed with unions in tertiary institutions and other sectors.

It also lamented that majority of the affected students in the ongoing strike embarked upon by the four university-based unions are children from poor homes whose parents cannot afford to pay the outrageous fees charged by private universities.

The labour movement also demanded that government ensures the swift and safe return of all abductees in the Abuja-Kaduna bound train attack and also payment of compensation for all those killed and injured in the attack.

These, among others, were contained in the Easter message issued yesterday by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in Abuja.

The NLC in the message reiterated its call for the scrapping of the Electric Power Sector privatization programme, given its alleged monumental failure to make affordable and constant electric power available to Nigerians.

On the continuous closure of universities as a result of the alleged failure of government to keep to the terms of Memorandum of Understanding, MoU and Memorandum of Action, MoA, NLC said: “We demand respect for Collective Bargaining Agreements signed with unions in our tertiary institutions and other sectors. States yet to fully implement the national minimum wage should do so immediately.”

The labour centre frowned on the inability of some state governments to pay the new minimum wage after about four years it was passed into law.

“It is difficult to imagine that many workers in Nigeria are yet to enjoy the national minimum wage almost four years after being signed into law. Particularly culpable are Cross River, Taraba and Zamfara states.

“Nigerian pensioners are not spared as many of them are denied their gratuity and pension arrears. Tragically, while wages remain the same and sometimes are unpaid, the cost of living keeps skyrocketing. Inflation has eroded the purchasing power of workers as the Naira continues to lose its value.

‘We must stress that all workers including military, police, and para-military deserve decent wages and pension,” NLC stated.

Continuing, it said: ”We demand that government must ensure the swift and safe return of all abductees. We also demand compensation for all those killed and injured in the attack.

“Millions of Nigerian university students especially those attending public citadels of higher learning are celebrating Easter outside the precincts of their campuses not by reason of choice but because our country cut short their hopes.

“The inability of the government to deliver on commitments it reached with our university workers both academic and non-academic has ensured that the streak of instability battering and buffeting our tertiary education system remains unresolved.

“It is even most tragic that majority of the affected students are children from poor homes whose parents cannot afford to pay the outrageous fees charged by private universities.

“Tragically, while students from poor homes are held back by frustrating cycles of strike actions, the children of the rich and powerful are in private campuses learning. There is no sadder premiere of the Social Apartheid in our society than the intermittent and protracted strike actions in our public universities.

On the attack on Abuja-Kaduna bound train by terrorists, NLC said: “For Christians, Easter is a perfect picturesque of groan, gory and glory. What started as a gloom of doom on Good Friday ended as the bloom of bliss on Easter Sunday. The empty grave still testifies that life triumphs over death, good overcomes evil, hope prevails eventually over despair and that joy surely resurrects in the morning. This hope that we collectively share is a hope that will never die.

“The events of the past few weeks in Nigeria have severely tested our faith and our hope. The recent mass killings in Plateau State, the terrorist assault on Kaduna Airport and the Abuja-Kaduna train bomb attack that killed innocent passengers, including the Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress, Musa Lawal Ozigi and Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Kwara State, Akinsola Akinwunmi and subsequent kidnapping of tens of passengers have come not only as a shocker to most Nigerians but also as an awakening to the reality of the expansion of the wings of evil on our shores.”

Energy crisis

On energy crisis, the NLC stated: “Of very great concern to us is the deteriorating energy crisis in our country. In the past few weeks, Nigeria has been plunged in a terrible ordeal of scarcity of refined petroleum products.

“The cost of diesel, aviation fuel and Premium Motor Spirit has generally soared to unprecedented heights. At a point, the airlines threatened to shut down operations even as the price of air tickets have been increased by more than 100 per cent.

“Owing to diesel scarcity and high cost, the few surviving industries in our country are being forced to either completely shut down or to significantly scale down their operations with grave implications for job security. This compounds the unemployment crisis in Nigeria.

“Most banks have been forced to reduce their working hours with dire consequences for national productivity and economic growth.

“The prevailing chaos in our energy sector is traceable to the embrace of neoliberal and anti-people policies by successive governments. The full deregulation of diesel, and aviation fuel has failed to deliver on its promises of abundant products supply and cheaper prices.

“Today, Nigerians pay far more for diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel and yet these products are hardly available. While the promoters of deregulation have suddenly lost their tongues, the burden of this grand failure has been transferred to Nigerian workers and the public.

“The same challenge in the downstream petroleum sub-sector manifests in our electricity sub-sector. Since the privatization of the power generation and distribution assets in Nigeria, the promise of constant supply of electricity remains a mirage.

“In the past one month, Nigeria has experienced about four episodes of national electricity grid collapse. Before this time, public electricity supply had deteriorated to some of its lowest in our history.

“This is despite humungous tax payers’ money that government invested as support funds for private investors that bought our public electricity assets. Yet, in the midst of these privatization anomalies, Nigerian electricity consumers are still denied pre-paid meters and forced to pay highly inflated estimated billings. If this is not neo-colonization of the Nigerian people, what then is?

“The Electric Power Sector Reform Act demands the review of the privatization exercise every five years. The power sector reform has been on for more than five years, yet, there are no concrete plans to review the privatization exercise.

“Congress reiterates the call for the scrapping of the Electric Power Sector privatization programme given its monumental failure to make affordable and constant electric power available to power the potentials of Nigerians and their businesses.

“We also call for the total jettisoning of a deregulation policy that in the eyes of its cash-out promoters translates to wholesale importation of refined petroleum products which benefits only middlemen profiteers and their partners in the corridors of power.

“Nigeria can and should refine its crude oil to generate refined petroleum products, including diesel, which is one of the easiest refined bye-products of crude oil, especially using modular refineries. Nigeria can make refined products constantly available to ordinary Nigerians at very affordable cost.

“It is salutary that amid these very challenging and depressing conditions, Nigerian workers continue to show faith in their country and demonstrate the never dying hope for a better tomorrow. This is the reason we still turn up at our duty posts, despite being owed arrears of salaries.”

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