by Paul Osas
The House of Representatives, had earlier today, in a motion moved by Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) appealed to the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) to call off their present strike action in the interest of the nation, students, parents and teeming Nigerian masses.
The House noted that education is key to the development of any nation, thus Section 13 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) empowers all organs of government and all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the Educational objectives as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999; whilst Section 18 (1) of the said Constitution provides for the Educational objectives of the State towards its citizens.
Rep. Chinda observed that the incidence of recurring strike actions in the country, particularly in the education and oil industry is one too many and a sad development for the people of Nigeria.
He said, “That the said strike action by ASUU and NUPENG is certainly not in the best interest of students and the teeming masses as it has paralyzed academic activities on University campuses as well as negatively affected the socio-economic activities across the country.”
Quoting relevant sections of the constitution, the House noted that, 14(2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. That whilst ASUU has embarked on the present strike action due to government’s failure to implement an agreement reached with it in 2009 relating to ‘earned salary’, NUPENG is on a three (3) day warning strike in order to press home demand for government to end what it terms unfair labour practices’ by some International Oil Companies (IOCs), including Shell Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC) and others towards its members.
The House, highlighting its concerns said “that since the strike action by the two unions began yesterday, academic activities have been paralyzed in University campuses; and long queues have re-appeared at various fuel service stations across the country; whilst commuters and motorists suffer untold hardship.”
Then the House resorted to familiar action. It mandated its committee on Education and Petroleum Downstream to investigate the issues raised by ASUU and NUPENG, and urged the Federal government and all relevant Ministries, departments and agencies to immediately open discussions with ASUU and NUPENG so as to come up with a lasting solution that would adequately address the issues raised by both unions and forestall any further breakdown of academic and socio-economic activities in universities campuses and the Oil industry
Also, the House lambasted the Federal Government for its role in the saga, saying the FG has only provided “mere palliatives” which have so far been “very ineffective as it has failed to deal with the issues squarely.” Warning that “unless and until positive steps and efforts are taken to curb the incessant strike action in the nation’s Oil industry and universities, students, parents, guardians and teeming Nigerian masses would continue to suffer the negative effects of these strikes.”
The proceedings in the House did not mention the fact that the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has been on strike as well for over two months in an action that has mostly been relegated to the background. The fact that ASUU’s strike only in its second day has forced reactions from both the House and the Labour ministry, as well as occupied the headlines in the media shows the unfortunate position which polytechnics occupy in the pecking order.