The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has condemned the Federal Government’s lackluster approach to addressing the crisis rocking tertiary institutions in the country, and failure to implement agreements reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other related unions to improve the working conditions of workers in the country.
CAPPA also took a swipe at security agents for the shooting of protesting students at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in Ondo State.
In a statement issued in Lagos, CAPPA urged the Nigerian government to not only uphold the safety of students but also refrain from using security agencies to intimidate them for engaging in what is generally adjudged as peaceful demonstrations.
Media reports and videos making the rounds show military men invaded the protest ground shooting sporadically, and injuring unarmed student-protestors who had occupied the Ilesa-Akure expressway to express displeasure over the indefinite shutdown of public universities in the country for three months now. In the last two weeks, students of various universities in the country have embarked on peaceful protests, particularly in Osun, Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Edo, and Ondo States, to demand an end to the debilitating strike so they can resume classes.
CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: ‘’The actions of the Nigerian soldiers in Akure are utterly reprehensible and constitute another serious attack on freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly in this country. Nothing, not even provocation, justifies the army firing at unarmed protestors”.
Oluwafemi noted that the travails of students under the current administration ought to draw outrage from Nigerians, even as he added that by now, all people of conscience should be sufficiently displeased and act in solidarity with the students.
Berating the security agencies, he said that the Nigerian army and police are duty-bound to protect people from harm, not the other way round.
“The clampdown of the students in Ondo State reminds us of the atrocious involvement and roles of security agents in the ‘‘Lekki Tollgate Massacre’ and it is still an upsetting experience for many Nigerians.’’
” Security agencies must refrain from reopening old wounds by operating strictly within the rules of engagement and avoid actions likely to destabilize the peace of the country. We call on the Nigerian government and relevant authorities to immediately investigate this incident and take responsibility for the treatment of students injured. They must also bring to book, security operatives involved in the unfortunate incident.’’
So far, four University staff unions are on strike. They are ASUU, Senior Staff Union of Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT). Utterances and conducts of the government give no assurance that a resolution to the dispute will come anytime soon. Instead, it is getting clearer by the day that the federal government is more interested in the 2023 general elections than the concerns and future of poor students.
In CAPPA’s view, the demands of the striking unions are legitimate, and implementing these demands is the only pathway to salvaging and repositioning the country’s decrepit and collapsing public universities. Instead of laying blame on ASUU for embarking on strike, the union and its members ought to be celebrated for their patriotism and commitment to sticking with their core duty of imparting knowledge despite gross welfare conditions.