BY V. AL-PEA
Students of the Plateau state government owned tertiary institutions converged at the main entrances of their schools as they peacefully protest the resumption of strike by their lecturers. At the Plateau State Polytechnic Jos campus, armed security personnel were deployed to maintain law and order. As the security personnel cordoned the students and circumscribed the protest within the school premises, some of the officers were seen talking to the leaders of the students union on the need to maintain calm and peace as they protest obviously in view of the volatile security situation in the state.
The Secretary General of the Students Union Government (SUG) of the polytechnic, Rottin Bitrus Bature who spoke to our reporters lamented the State Government’s “irresponsibility” to education. Speaking further, Bature said, “actually what’s happening is quite pathetic. We‘ve stayed at home for a year in the name of strike and while the strike was suspended we came to school, we were compelled to pay our tuition fees, we renewed our expired house rents and now we are being compelled to go back home again”. Bature also said they are denied admission in neighbouring states because of the situation in Jos hence the need for them to protest and express their plight to the outside world becomes imperative.
One of the lecturers who pleaded anonymity blamed government for the suffering of the students at the receiving end of the industrial action.
“The issue of tax, the State Government claimed it is from the Federal Government and they implemented it hundred percent when it came to the issue of salary enhancement which was also from the Federal Government the State government declined implementation. So we are saying if the State Government can implement tax by one hundred percent why can’t they implement the salary increase by the same margin if they are both from the same source? So far the State Government has offered us only ten percent instead of our fifty-three percent demand”.
The striking lecturers had earlier requested payment of at least two or three month’s salary of their outstanding six months salary, which the government was able to pay that of one month only. Efforts by TMV to speak with someone on the side of the government proved abortive.
It will be recalled that the workers had been on strike for about eight months until in August when the elders of the state stepped into the matter and brought it to an end on the condition that negotiation between government and the workers would continue in the interest of the students. The state government, who had the leverage to open negotiation with the workers failed in those regards, which has triggered another indefinite strike.
Virtually all aspects of activities in the state have been crippled by labour industrial actions. On the 29th of September, 2011 the state chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) declared an indefinite strike over the non payment of the 18, 000: 00 naira minimum wage by the state government. In a show of solidarity for the plight of the workers, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Amalgamated Union (AU) and other unions in the state also embarked on strike. Consequently, banks and public offices were forced to close shop. The union of petroleum workers and filling station owners also declared a 24-hour strike. Within the period, filling stations remained closed as they refused to sell to customers.
In the heat of all this, the Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Yiljap Abraham announced this morning that the state Governor, Da Jonah Jang was embarking on a one month Annual leave. Speaking further, Abraham said it was the first time his boss was going on leave since he assumed leadership of the state for a second term. Although Abraham said there was no cause for alarm since his boss’s deputy, Longjang had been constitutionally empowered to act in the absence of the governor, Jang was berated by a cross section of the public who were of the view that he should have addressed these sensitive and pressing issues himself before he went on leave. “It is this same governor who declared a state of emergency on education during his first tenure. Now you can see he has refused to pay lecturers.” Mr. John Baraje, a public analyst, stated.