Students under the platform of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) have stormed the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos to press down their demands for the government to resolve the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike which has dragged on for almost seven months.
As early as 7.00 am, the students with various placards had taken over all the entry and exit points of the airport, causing gridlock on the busy Airport and Moboljai Bank Anthony Roads.
Recall that NANS had last week said it would ground activities at the local and international airports across the country beginning from Monday, September 19 over the lingering strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
NANS said its decision to ground airports activities was due to the successes recorded in its road protest during which several highways were blocked.
The students had blocked some sections of the country’s highways recently in protest over the ASUU strike that has left public universities shut since seven months.
The leadership of NANS, which spoke in Akure, the Ondo State capital, said the grounding of airports was to make the rich share in the pains of the students occasioned by the prolonged strike action.
Chairman, NANS National Task Force on ‘End ASUU Strike Now,’ Comrade Ojo Raymond Olumide, said students were tired of pleading with both parties to end the strike.
Olumide asked ASUU not to call off the strike after any increment in their salary but to insist on other demands that led to the strike action.
According to him: “We shall begin another round of protest next week by storming the airspaces on Monday, 19th September 2022 to #OccupyTheAirports. We want to let the world know about the pains and anguish students are going through.
“Nigerian students whose parents create the commonwealth cannot continue to be suffering at home alongside our lecturers while the few who gain from our sweats and blood have their kids abroad.
“We call on students to rise and join us as we take our destinies into our hands. Our demands remain consistently clear and simple. We call on ASUU leadership for a meeting as soon as possible to discuss solidarity actions and plan for the next phase of the struggles.”
He explained the students’ body need not inform the police about the planned protest to ground airports because they were not subjected to security agencies
“Grounding the airport is for us to get solidarity and we will keep on grounding the local and international airports and they know the effect of us grounding the airport.
“The only thing we request for them is to open our campuses back. We Call on the Buhari government to pay all outstanding arrears and salaries of the lecturers. The policy of “No Work No Pay” is a fascist one. It is, therefore condemnable and nonacceptable to all the millions of students in Nigeria.
“We will, by this statement, not beg again. We shall be mobilizing all students to shut down the country. No Education! No Movement,” he said.
This is the second time NANS would be issuing threats that could have significant effects on the country. Earlier in May in the build-up to the presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), the students had vowed that the conventions would not hold until the federal government ASUU resolve their differences and suspend the ongoing industrial action in the universities. They later soft pedaled on the threat.
The current strike began on February 14 following the failure of the Federal Government to renegotiate the agreement it signed with ASUU in 2009, demand by the teachers for the replacement of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), with the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), as the payment platform in the university sector, among others.
The lecturers insist that IPPIS has never been implemented in any university system anywhere. Among its drawbacks, they say, is that it will shut the door against foreign scholars, contract officers and researchers needed to be poached from existing universities to stabilize new ones.
But the Federal Government insists that the payment system is for transparency and neither intended to trample upon university autonomy nor designed to subsume the university into the civil service.
Between 2020 and the current strike, students have lost two sessions cumulatively to impasse between the teachers and the government.