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Published On: Wed, Apr 30th, 2014

The plight of workers in Nigeria: A case study of tertiary institutions

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ASUUP StrikeBy Evelyn Okakwu

As Nigeria puts together various programs for to mark the workers day, the plight of Nigerians especially in the work force comes to light. The average Nigerian worker lives his life on remuneration that can be referred to as ‘survival wages’. Yet still a lot more is wrong with the Nigerian worker of our time. With many problems ranging from massive unemployment or relative underemployment of Nigerian Staff, to undue dismissal of workers.

Others include the nonpayment of salaries and other management problems leading to the shutdown of sectors in what is popularly regarded as strike actions.

The inability of the average Nigerian youth to secure due and adequate employment is also another factor to consider in this season. But more importantly is the need to look critically into the action of the sector responsible for ensuring the security of lives and property, and its recent act of undue attempting to foil the plans of the ASSUP and its counterparts from the colleges of education, during the protest organized by the joint members of the Nigerian polytechnic and colleges of education unions.

The recent report by the Nigerian media on the reaction of the Nigerian police towards the plight of the workers union who staged a protest against government’s continued refusal to react to the plight of ASUP and the union of polytechnic workers makes it quite necessary to reanalyze the true place of the average Nigerian worker before its set of employers, which mostly includes the government.

On the 29th of April, the members of the workers union of polytechnic and Universities, decided to stage peaceful protest against governments continued refusal to meet the plight of its people. The delegates which include members of both unions had visited the ministry of education with a failed attempt to meet with the minister of education, and decided to proceed from that point to the National Assembly, when the Nigerian police, based in the capital city Abuja, decided to take it upon itself to stop their movement by exposing them to harmful substances like teargas and shooting in the air to scare this people.

If the police explain its action to mean an intended attempt to maintain law and order, then the place of the Nigerian worker may necessarily be reiterated to the Nigerian people in the plight to ensure law and order.

The Africa independent television took an analytical look into the issue during which the Minister of education says that the salaries ware taken away, for the reason of the fact that the workers are supposed to either work and get paid or not work, and desist from collecting remuneration for work they did not do. “ASSUP had agreed in a meeting that they will agree to collect installment payment, only for them to go back and write to us that they will not collect installment payment. We called them for another meeting, telling them that this is not so possible, how you can tell us that you have accepted these installment payments only for you to come back and write that you will not accept it.

They have not communicated to me to say that they have accepted. That has not been done. But we cannot just say that the government is not serious.

They are also talking of bridging the gap between the HND and the University holders, as I am speaking to you now the secretary to the government of the federation has written to me about the need to inaugurate a committee that will facilitate the implementation of that issue. ASSUP cannot say that it want the implementation of this committee between two weeks. So many issues are involved that has to be sorted out. You will discuss something government today, and the next minute you will come up to say that government is not doing anything. They wrote to me telling me that we had said no work no pay; that we are happy that they are not working. They also said that that method will not work because government had threatened ASSUP before.

What they want is to refuse to work, and then government will now take tax payers money pay them for work that they have not done?

Olabode Akinyade: while commenting on the issue had this to say: “If the government does not want to fund the educational sector, then it should just go ahead and scrap it.

Another woman who describes herself as the Staff of the Kaduna Polytechnic also says that government is just been unfair to the Polytechnic sector. They have not agreed to pay such a small amount which is just about 1/10 of what they agreed to pay to the University sector.

But the ASSUP officials’ response to the accusations by the minister that ASSUP had agreed to receive an installment payment goes thus: “There is the need for the persons or people responsible for dealing with certain issues in this country to learn to take the matter serious. The minister has forgotten that at that meeting he was referring to their was a lot of media practitioners in attendance, and the meeting was fully recorded. The Minister would have told us where we said that we had agreed to the said installment payment, then we will now refresh the minister’ memory since he wants us to be discussing the issue in this manner.

He invited us to a meeting and also invited the press and a set of students to interact with us in the meeting. When we insisted that the press and the students will not be in attendance at the meeting we are expecting to take very seriously he now sent them out, after announcing to them that already government had approved and already government will pay the areas. Then when they left he now told us that: ‘Now that is for the media, let us discuss.’ He then presented a proposal to us telling us that the areas will be paid in march and in November and we said no that we want a one off payment; he insisted, without allowing us to really discuss, then we said if we are to collect installment payment. You will have to pay one immediately, and pay the next within the next 2 or 3 months later. The reasons were obvious, by November in this country, knowing what will happen in 2015, nobody will be talking about areas considering the state of the nation”.

They insisted that ASSUP will not be blackmailed with the issue of salary areas. “In 2009 ASSUP entered into an agreement that is still pending as we speak. And you are asking us why we are embarking on a strike? If you have owed us since 2009 and we are asking you to pay us and you have agreed that you will pay us, then why are you now blackmailing us?

The members of the Union of colleges of Education expressed shock at the statements of the minister adding that since the inception of the strike in December 2013, the minister has not met with them. The minister has not called us for a meeting any where he cannot talk about a meeting us in any venue for any reason. So if the mister can say this at this point, then I am really disappointed. Somebody died as at 2009 and the death benefits have not been paid till 2014, the wife is not working five children have been out for school for lack of funds; the children and family are there suffering and you say we are asking for something that is wrong? They queried.

“If the minister is saying that he has met with us and we have not agreed to come t terms then I say it is not so”. They added.

Certainly, the action of those who have led the prolonged closure of these schools can best be described as disturbing. But even more disturbing is the reaction of the police towards a protest that was somewhat peaceful.

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