University lecturers under the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Unizik) Chapter, Awka in Anambra State, on Thursday, staged a protest against the Nigerian government refusal to pay them salaries for the eight months they embarked on industrial action.
The aggrieved lecturers barricaded the Enugu-Onitsha expressway in Awka, the state capital in protest against the half salaries they received in October after they called off the strike.
ASUU embarked on strike on February 14 over the government’s failure to meet its demands including improved funding for tertiary institutions in the country.
The Federal government during the ASUU strike that lasted for eight months maintained that it will enforce the “No work, no pay” police on the lecturers but at the negotiation which led the end of the strike following the intervention of the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the government reportedly promised to pay the lecturers for the strike period.
However, in October after the strike was called off, members of ASUU were paid half salaries, counting from the day the industrial action ended. This has since generated another heat as the aggrieved lecturers have been threatening to embark on sit-at-home or embark on another indefinite strike.
On Thursday, members of the UNIZIK chapter of ASUU gathered at the Union Secretariat from where they moved down to the University gate by the Enugu-Onitsha highway and barricaded the busy road for some minutes while they expressed their grievance over the government action.
The protesting lecturers carried placards with various inscriptions including “Nigerian professors’ salaries are less than 500 dollars”, “No to commercialisation of Nigerian public Universities”, “Stop casualisation of Nigerian academics”, amongst others.
The chairman of ASUU, Unizik chapter, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, who spoke with newsmen shortly after the protest said apart from the current issue of hal salary payment, the aim of the protest was also to remind the Nigerian Government to implement the agreement it entered with the union after the suspension of its strike in 2020.
Ufoaroh demanded that the Nigerian Government should consider the re-negotiated document of the 2009 condition of services of its members, a payment platform for Universities workers to all public Universities in Nigeria, improvement of funds to the education sector especially, for public Universities, the white paper publication of the Judicial panel report to various Universities to enable us to know what the reports are all about and the Federal Government should enact a law to control the proliferation of State Universities by the State Government without proper funding.
In his words, Ufoaroh said, “As I speak to you, the intervention of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, has not yearned for any positive resort. We are yet to see the outcome of his intervention.
“What the Federal Government has been saying all this while is still under promising note.
“We suspended the strike because of individual intervention and the Court of Appeal Judgement.
“We are using this protest to ask the masses to appeal to the government to do the needful now, to avert a further crisis in the nation’s universities.”
In a solidarity message with the aggrieved lecturers, the UNIZIK Vice Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, said his heart bled because of the deplorable condition lecturers were working in Nigeria’s education system.
Esimone lamented that “Nigerian professors’ salary is currently less than 500 dollars. That is terrible. The government knows that in terms of knowledge and human capacity, Nigerian lecturers cannot be compared to other places in the world. So why should they be subjected to this deplorable condition they found themselves?”