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23 September 2017
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) welcomes the conditional suspension of the 36-day old strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the 9-day old strikes of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
We commend the staff unions for a battle well fought. We also salute students and parents for showing understanding and solidarity while the strikes lasted.
No doubt, a significant achievement of these strikes is that the workers' unions in the public university system have, by their determined actions, demonstrated that struggle pays and that if we fight consistently we can win important concessions.
We however note the conditional nature of the suspension of the strikes. According to ASUU leadership, the union would immediately resume the strike action by the end of October 2017 if the Federal Government fails to fulfill its promises to meet the demands including the payment of part of the balance of the N1.3 trillion Public University Revitalization Funds. Similarly, according to a report by the Guardian newspaper of Friday 22nd September 2017, SSANU, NASU and NAAT "would come back in a month to review the level of compliance with the agreement and shall not hesitate to resume the strike if government reneges on the agreements reached or delays in any aspect".
This places the ball back in the court of the Federal government. We shall hold the government responsible if ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT are compelled to embark on another strike as a result of its negligence. Now that Nigeria has exited recession and there is improvement in government revenue, the usual excuse that government is cash-strapped is no more acceptable. We therefore urge the Federal government to mobilize the resources required to meet the demands of ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT within the stipulated time in order to ensure that the academic calendar is not again disrupted.
As we have repeatedly argued, Nigeria has enough resources to fund and provide free and quality education at all levels. The major obstacle are widespread corruption of the thieving ruling elite and the inequitable, bankrupt and outmoded capitalist system which places priority on profit rather than genuine needs of the people.
While struggles can win temporary concessions and improvements, a lasting solution is only possible if the working class and poor masses struggle to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with a revolutionary workers and poor people's government armed with socialist policies. This would require the formation and building of a mass workers alternative political party to dislodge the ruling APC, PDP and other anti-education and anti-poor parties in power.
It is clear that without the working class capturing political power, it would be impossible to reverse the ugly paradox of a country blessed with abundant human and natural resources but parading one of the worst literacy rates and out-of-school children population in the world.
We therefore urge ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT to link their current struggles to the need for a mass working people political alternative. In particular, we challenge them to also champion the process of convening a national conference of trade unions, socialist groups, human rights and civil society organizations, students and youth groups and pro-working masses organizations to discuss the need to form and build a political alternative to fight for political power.