By Ikhili Ebalu, Benin City
The organized labour in Edo State on Tuesday joined their colleagues nationwide to support the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) protest against the prolonged closure of public universities across the country.
The two-day nationwide protest, which was prompted by failure of the Federal Government to resolve the persistent issues with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), also had employees from various affiliate unions in tertiary institutions, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), health workers, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) among other participants.
The labour unions, in a rally to air their grievances over the lingering issues between the Federal Government and the academic body, marched round Benin City and terminated at the government house, where they submitted a letter to Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
The protesters displayed placards with various inscriptions such as “University teachers deserve a living wage; our children have been at home for too long government; stop playing with the lives of our future leaders, and stopping our salaries won’t deter us from fighting for our rights”.
Odion Olaye, acting NLC chairman, Edo State Council, while adressing protesters, said “We are here on a solidarity protest on behalf of the affiliate unions in universities that have been on strike for the past five months. The NLC president called an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, where the congress took a resolution that they have put so many efforts at the apex to address the issue by writing to the ministers involved but all to no avail.
“Hence, we decided to go on a solidarity protest with the affiliate unions operating in universities with a view to providing solution,” Olaye said.
Broderick Osewa, chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), University of Benin chapter, commended the organised labour for the support, urging well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on government to do the needful.
Osaigbovo Iyoha, Chief of Staff to Edo State governor, who received the petition, assured that the letter would be forwarded to the governor for a possible intervention to the lingering disputes between the Federal Government and the striking workers.
“It is a shame that the Federal Government, even though at the state level, we have tried to talk them for intervention, but today, after five months, our sons and daughters are still at home after our universities pressed for a betterment in their environment.