Insecurity and nationwide strikes by government workers have combined to project an image that suggests Nigeria’s federal government is losing its grip over the country.
Nigerians have continued to suffer from insecurity since the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to address unrelenting attacks by kidnappers and bandits that are operating in different parts of the country.
Then there are the daring incidents that received nationwide coverage such as the attack on the President’s advance team carrying media, security, and protocol officials in Katsina state days before Buhari was to head to his hometown in Daura for the celebration of Eid-el-Kabir that took place in early July. The attack on the President’s advance team left two people with some injuries.
In another incident on July 25, terrorists attacked the guards’ brigade, which is a section of the Nigerian security forces whose role is to protect the president and his family, the vice president, other very important persons as well as the buildings in the federal capital territory.
The attacks on the president’s team have left Nigerians feeling like nobody’s security is guaranteed. Combined with the insecurity is the collapsing social services that are most exemplified by the fact that university lecturers have been on strike since February 2022, with no remedy from the government, it now feels like Nigeria is falling apart.
Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have been on strike since February this year to demand an improvement in pay and the education system in Nigeria.
ASUU’s lingering industrial action in Nigerian public universities has paralyzed the country’s tertiary education since it began, but Buhari’s government seems to have failed to address the academics’ grievances.
With the government, coming off as nonchalant, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which brings together workers from different professions, has declared a warning protest in solidarity with ASUU.
“We are embarking on a two-day nationwide warning strike and consequently indefinite strike if the federal government doesn’t do anything to resolve ASUU issues,” says Ayuba Wabba, the NLC boss.
He added that with the industrial action by members of the ASUU entering its fifth month, some public universities would consider cancelling an academic session and merging 2021 and 2022 admission exercises.
“This is quite unfortunate and uncalled for,” he says.
Mr. Wabba says that after the solidarity strike that began July 26 and will end Wednesday, July 27, another 3-day protest will follow. He clarifies that the strike happening on Tuesday and Wednesday is intended to protest the government failing to act and leaving universities closed.
“We have taken three levels of decision. First is the protest, which is going to be national tomorrow. After the protest, a three-day national warning strike will start, and if they fail to resolve the issues and bring back our kids to school, we go on an indefinite strike,” he says.
Mr. Wabba adds that the government will do well to address the issues that NLC has raised but the government seems to have been taking a different path.
The government had attempted to intimidate workers into boycotting the protest, but this tactic appears to have failed. The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed had labelled the protest as being illegal, while the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige warned that the security report the government received from the Department of State Security (DSS) was not favourable to any public protest at the moment.
Timescape Magazine can report that the solidarity protest of the labour movement has been successful with reports from most states of the country revealing that members of the congress including Nigerians stormed the streets nationwide with placards emblazoned with different inscriptions.
Despite the heavy presence of security operatives, labour members, civil society groups and other unions gathered at the popular under bridge axis in Ikeja, Lagos State capital to stage the protests.
Alagbaka area of Akure in Ondo State was on lockdown as workers and other trade unions marched through to Oba Adesida Road chanting solidarity songs as they heeded the protest called by the NLC.
Report from Ilorin, Kwara State have it that the protesters went around popular areas such as the Post Office, Challenge, A-Division Roundabout and Government House located on Ahmadu Bello Way in the metropolis to submit their letter to the state government.
The situation in Port Harcourt, Rivers State is not different with workers in their different unions marching out en masse in support of the solidarity protest. ASUU’s zonal coordinator in the state, Prof. Stanley Ogoun told reporters that the protest is in the interest of all public servants and students in the country.
“The ongoing ASUU strike is not only degrading we students’ hope for the future, but it is also prompting many not to believe in education again. Why? Because our government fails us. This is a democratic system, and we need to be heard. Enough, we are tired,” said one of the students who joined the protest in Lagos.
Another student echoed: “It seems impossible to go through a Nigerian University on a four-year course without getting involved in this so-called strike.”