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  • Features
  • Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Constitutional Rights, Lack of Empathy Are Reasons Four Nigerian Unions Are On Strike

Constitutional Rights, Lack of Empathy Are Reasons Four Nige

Despite the high poverty and unemployment rate in Nigeria, four key unions in the country have shut down the smooth running of activities in their sectors due to the Federal Government’s inability to meet up with their demands.

The unions went on strike due to delay in policy implementation, nonpayment of salaries, arrears, and welfare packages for member staff, which by extension, are the constitutional rights of the workers but the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to recognize.

The strike actions continue due to the manner and approach of the Buhari’s administration in addressing the issues raised. It is currently and directly affecting Nigeria's health, education, judiciary, and parliamentary sectors.

The striking unions included the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN).

Before any of these unions embarked on the strike actions, they issued ultimatums to the government but the government would not look at the issue until they embarked on strike.

PASAN Embarks on Strike on March 22, 2021

The national leadership of the parliamentary workers declared an indefinite strike across the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over financial autonomy.

The Financial Autonomy Act of 2018 and Presidential Order 10 have been begging for implementation on the table of President Buhari since 2018. The Union claimed it has explored all available alternatives to reach out to Buhari’s administration to attend to its demands but all efforts failed and strike is the last option.

“The union having exhausted all attempts aimed at asking for the implementation of the financial autonomy by the Federal Government after 21 days, 14 days and seven days ultimatums; at this juncture, the union has no other option than to direct our members to embark on an indefinite strike,” the National President of PASAN, Usman Muhammed said at a press conference.

But Buhari signed the executive order granting financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states in May 2020. However, the order was suspended after the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, met with Buhari shortly after the signing. The suspension triggered rumours that the governors are frustrating the development. Adding wings to the rumour's sail, the Sokoto State Governor and Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum, Aminu Tambuwa, said the governors and other stakeholders will soon meet to discuss the framework for the implementation of financial autonomy.

This brings to two, the cases of blocking financial autonomy pinned to the governors. They have also been accused of blocking the quest for local government autonomy.

The PASAN strike will in the long run disrupt activities in the legislative arms of the Nigerian government. The arms constitute representatives of the people. Most angry Nigerians take their protests to the National Assembly to register their anger to the government. Thus, the inactiveness of the National Assembly may block the communication line between the people and the government. 

NARD Announces Strike on Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The resident doctors, following a 90-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government to address pressing issues, announced what it described as “indefinite strikes.”

The President of the union, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, said in one of his interviews that: “NARD and her members had at each time in the spirit of patriotism, shown uncommon understanding and extreme patience in the face of poor working conditions.

“Nigerian doctors currently have about the worst remuneration across the world and this has only worsened in recent time.

“The paltry $10 monthly hazard allowance a year after a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Federal Government is yet to be reviewed.

“Currently, well over 2,500 of our members are owed salaries ranging from three to five months even as they contended with the triple outbreaks of Yellow fever, Lassa fever, and COVID – 19 pandemic, among others.”

The doctors, among several other demands, called for the sack of the registrar of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), Dr. Tajudeen Sanusi, for his alleged failure to demonstrate competence in the handling of the central placement of house officers.

This, according to them, will give room for smooth implementation of the central placement of house officers without further delays.

The NARD strike has crippled activities in many Federal Teaching Hospital and Federal Medical Centres across the country. Patients were asked to go back home due to the strike and many emergency cases could not be attended to. While all these are happening in Nigeria, President, Muhammadu Buhari, has been in London for a Medical check since the beginning of the strike. The strike has entered 12 days as of Monday, April 12, 2021.

The union which suspended its strike on Saturday has threatened that it will resume the strike action if its demands were not met within the next four weeks

JUSUN Goes on Strike on Tuesday, April 6, 2020

The union in its last National Executive meeting on March 13, 2021, in Abuja, issued a 21-day ultimatum to the government to implement the financial autonomy of the judiciary.

The ultimatum came with a threat that “failure of which JUSUN will have no other option but to resume the suspended national strike action.”

The lawyer to the union, Mariam Usuf-Gusau, in one of her interviews, has questioned: “How can state high courts beg from governors for what is constitutionally theirs?”

President Muhammadu Buhari on May 22, 2020, signed Executive Order 10 for the enforcement of the financial autonomy status granted to the state legislature and judiciary in the Nigerian Constitution.

Executive Order 10 of 2020 compelled all states to include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first line of their budgets.

The Order also made it mandatory for the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from the source amount due to the state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state, this is for states that refused to grant such autonomy.

Just like the PASAN, the JUSUN strike has put activities in the judiciary on hold. With many pending cases in the Nigerian courts, the courts cannot attend to any court pending cases as a result of the strike. Nigerians can't file cases in any court of law. Practically, the strike has put on hold the possibility of challenging any unlawful act in any court of law.

ASUP Announces the Commencement of Strike Action on April 6, 2021

The Polytechnic lecturers embarked on strike over the shortcomings of the new salary scheme. The strike commenced after the Federal Government failed to reach an agreement with the union in a meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

Aside from the new salary scheme that tops the agenda of the union, they are also demanding payment of salaries and promotion allowances owed lecturers by some state governments.

Despite the long Covid-19 lockdown break that Nigerian students were subjected to in 2020, the Nigerian government decided to ignore the plight of the striking lecturers despite being on strike to make their plight known.

In an article published by Springer International Handbook of Education, as of 2003, Nigeria has 55 polytechnics with about 400,000 students. This figure is expected to have increased because in 2014, the Rector of Kwara State Polytechnic,  Mas’ud Elelu, said the Government Polytechnics in Nigeria are overstretched.

Elelu associated the overstretching in the polytechnics to the inability of the institution to adhere to their carrying capacity. He added that this has hindered the mobilization of the students for the National Youth Service Corps. Thus, Nigerian polytechnics already have many problems but shutting down is another headache for the institutions.

It is essential to note that the four striking unions have a direct impact on the economy and the smooth running of the affairs of the country.

 

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