Motorists and pedestrians were held hostage for several hours in Benin city, the Edo state capital as the organized labour in Edo State on Tuesday joined their colleagues nationwide to support the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in a protest against the prolonged closure of public universities across the country.
The traffic situation was later brought under control by the intervention of combined team of the law enforcement agents supported by the Edo state traffic management agency (EDSMA)
Affiliate unions on roll call at the protest included the Nigeeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Health Workers, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and employees from various affiliate unions in tertiary institutions.
The protesters displayed placards with various inscriptions such as “University teachers deserve a living wage; our children have been at home for too long government; stop playing with the lives of our future leaders, and stopping our salaries won’t deter us from fighting for our rights”.
They marched round Benin City and terminated at the government house, where they submitted a protest letter to the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
Addressing the protesters, the Acting NLC Chairman, Edo State Council, Odion Olaye, noted that the solidarity protest was for the affiliate unions in Nigerian universities that had been on strike for the past five months.
“The NLC President called an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, where the Congress took a resolution that they have put so many efforts at the apex to address the issue by writing to the ministers involved but all to no avail.
“Hence, we decided to go on a solidarity protest with the affiliate unions operating in universities with a view to providing solution”, Olaye added.
On his part, the Chairman of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) UNIBEN chapter, Broderick Osewa, commended the organised labour for the support, even as he urged well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to do the needful.
In his remark, Osaigbovo Iyoha, the Chief of Staff to Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who received the petition, assured that the letter would be forwarded to the governor for a possible intervention to the lingering disputes between the Federal Government and the striking workers.
“It is a shame that the Federal Government, even though at the state level, we have tried to talk them for intervention, but today, after five months, our sons and daughters are still at home after our universities pressed for a betterment in their environment”, he said.
The protracted industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), was prompted by alleged failure of the Federal Government to resolve persistent issues with the academic union.