By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Chinonso Alozie & Prince Okafor
LAGOS — The National Association of Nigerians Students, NANS, yesterday grounded activities at the country’s main gateway, the Murtala Muhammad Airport, Ikeja, in protest against the continued strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which has kept students at home for over seven months.
The students’ body also vowed to extend the protest to the Apapa Wharf and Tin Can Island ports and the Third Mainland Bridge today.
ASUU embarked on strike on February 14 to protest the Federal Government’s failure to meet the demands of its members, among which implementation of the agreement it signed with the government in 2009 on Earned Allowances and replacement of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, and University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS.
Not even the early morning downpour stopped the students from trooping out for the protest as early as 6am, as they set out to stop all flights out of Lagos, especially the first flights.
Consequently, all access roads to both local and international wings of the airport were blocked to motorists, causing serious traffic gridlocks, which compelled passengers to trek kilometers with their luggage to connect their flights.
Touts took advantage of the situation to make brisk business, charging passengers as much as between N2,000 and N3,000 to convey each passenger’s luggage to terminals of the airport.
Commuters, travellers stranded, pays touts to carry luggage
Some bed-ridden travellers were seen being pushed on wheel chairs to the terminal due to the blockade.
Several passengers also missed their flights, as operators flew half-empty out of Lagos.
A stranded commuter and employee of the Federal Government, Oyetunji Sanusi, said he got stuck in the traffic on his way to work at at 8:30 a m.
“I have suffered today (yesterday). This is 2:30pm and I am still here. The agitation is worth it but the hardship it has caused is unimaginable. My appeal to the government is that they should find a lasting solution to this issue.’’
Another very angry commuter, Francis Phillips, said he had been to 88 countries of the world, adding that Nigeria remained the worst.
“Even the spoon we use to eat here is sub-standard. I am stranded here and my wife is stranded at the local airport. Even in Somalia, it doesn’t happen like this. It is a shame,” he said.
He added that everyone had the right to protest but regretted that those who should be targetted were not affected by the protests.
“They are busy sharing money because they don’t know their right from their left,” he said.
Also, a sick commuter who said his house was just about five minutes from the airport, said he needed to pass to access his drugs.
He said: “I have been here since 7 a m and my car is parked somewhere there. I need to get home to take my drugs and eat but I am afraid to leave my car here.”
Although the police had on Sunday, warned the students to steer clear of the airport to stave off confrontation from operatives, they however, provided security cover for the protesting students and even pleaded with them to stop action which they refused.
They were conveyed to the airport axis in over 20 vans, cars to prevent the protest from being hijacked by hoodlums.
Police beg students, says route to airport’s international corridor
Addressing the students, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Airport Road, Kayode Sunday, said: “This issue has been on for a long time. We have been pleading with them and the police command is supporting us.
“All the security agents in Nigeria are working together to talk to the students to sheathe their swords. Nobody is happy they are at home for months. However, we want then to free the road.
“Although they have created a corridor where vehicles can move, we are managing them and they are cooperating with us.
“The protest is peaceful and we also have not allowed hoodlums to hijack the protest but we believe and the students have promised us that at 2pm, they will vacate the corridor. This is an international corridor and we need to secure the premises.”
Until ASUU strike is called off, we won’t quit airport — NANS
Spokesman of NANS, South West zone, Opeoluwa Awoyinfa , told newsmen that they would continued the siege on the airport until ASUU called off its strike and resume work.
Awoyinfa, who disclosed that the protest would be extended to the Third Mainland Bridge and the two ports in Lagos today, expressed regrets that President Muhammadu Buhari and Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, chose to travel out of the country when university students were still at home as a result of the strike.
“We want the international bodies too to see the shame that is going on in our education sector, so they can also help us to beg our government to listen to us.
“Campaigns for the 2023 elections will begin on September 28, 2022,so if the students keep quiet, the federal government will only focus on elections. Any country that wants to develop must invest in education. The federal government must do the needful so that the strike will be called off. Our future is wasting, the pandemic already took a year from us and now we are going to be having about three sets of 100 level students by December.
Reps bid to meet stakeholders in education tomorrow
In a similar development, the leadership of the House of Representatives will meet with stakeholders in the education sector inclusive the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, today.
The notice of the meeting was contained in a letter written to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu by the clerk of the House, Dr. Yahaya Danzaria, on behalf of the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila and made available to journalists in Abuja yesterday.
He letter read in part: “Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, hereby invites you to a Stakeholders meeting towards finding a lasting solution to the lingering strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
“In the light of the foregoing, the House hereby request for another opportunity to come together with stakeholders and leadership of ASUU to seek a amicable resolution without prejudice to the fact that the matter is already in the Industrial Court.
“You are further required to submit a written presentation of ASUU’s perspective on this matter to the House before the meeting day. While looking forward to your esteemed presence, please accept the assurances of the highest consideration of the speaker.”
Court rules on FG’s motion to end ASUU strike tomorrow
Also yesterday, the National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Abuja slated tomorrow to rule on an application the Federal Government filed for an interlocutory order to compel the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to call off its ongoing strike action.
Justice Polycarp Hamman adjourned the application for ruling, after he entertained arguments from both counsel to FG, Mr. James Igwe and that of ASUU, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN.
FG’s lawyer, Igwe, had at the resumed proceedings in the matter on Monday, prayed the court to order the striking varsity lecturers to in the interim, return to the classroom, pending the determination of the suit.
He maintained that the matter was not only urgent, but of a great national interest as millions of students have been at home since February 14.
“Sections 47 of the Trade Dispute Act gives your lordship the power to direct that no worker should continue to embark on strike pending when the applications are heard and determined”, he argued. Igwe said there was need for the matter to be expeditiously determined to enable university students to return to school.
According to him, since the dispute between FG and lectures is already before the court for adjudication, it would be proper and in the interest of justice for the strike action to be called off.
On his part, ASUU’s lawyer, Mr. Falana, SAN, said the union was currently meeting with stakeholders to ensure an amicable resolution of all the thorny issues.
Falana, therefore, appealed to the government to cooperate with the union to resolve the issue.
Imo University pulls out, opens for academic session
Meanwhile, the management of Imo State University, IMSU, yesterday pulled out of the over seven months strike embarked upon by ASUU and announced that it had opened the university for academic activities.
Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the university, Ralph Njoku, who disclosed this in a statement, said the decision was taken by the management to prevent the university so many students desirous of education, especially applicants yet to be matriculated.
However, he said the school had no issue with ASUU and that the decision was to prevent shortchanging the next generation.
He said: “The management has decided to open the university for academic activities. We don’t have any issue with ASUU. we just opened the school for academic activities. Lecturers who are willing will now come to start lecturing.”
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