Alex Batubo

The attempts to close down the panels of enquiry into police brutality are the just the latest indicator of how weak the Buhari government has become.  The police went to court claiming that the panels were unconstitutional.  Within a few days, widespread opposition to this move, led to the police case to be withdrawn.  In this situation, with such a weak government, now is the time for trade unions to push their cases.

ASUU closed down public universities for the last eight months or more.  Their key demand is for proper funding for “revitalisation” of the universities.  The concessions from the government, so far, are insulting.  They include only a promise to pay some owed salaries (earned allowances) and only N30bn for “revitalisation” of the universities sector.  At that rate, it would take nearly 30 years to implement the 2012 Needs Assessment Report.  This was a Government report that estimated that N1,300 billion was needed to revitalise the country’s universities.  Only N200 billion was ever paid, in 2013, and this Government has not made any contribution to this program.  Now is the time for ASUU to push for proper funding of the sector – there is unlikely to be a better chance to win.

Burhari clearly won the popular vote in 2015, but he has failed to implement the promises he made to win that election.  He has failed to end Boko Haram insurgency despite claiming that Boko Haram had been ‘technically defeated’.  The murder of tens of rice farmers in late November has made this very clear.  This act angered most people, both because of the loss of life, but also because it showed yet again that the army are unable to protect common people going about their daily lives.

Buhari has equally failed on his other promises.  Despite privatisation and huge price increases, the supply of electricity is not significantly better.  Buhari’s budget for 2021 yet again proposes spending less on health in real terms than the PDP budget for 2015.  Similarly, the share of the budget devoted to education has fallen every year from over 12% in 2015 to less than six per cent for 2021.

All these failures has made the government loose support.  That is why the government immediately agreed to the demands of the #EndSARS protestors and then went a step further and agreed not to automatically transfer SARS officers to the regular police. 

The lack of confidence of the government is also shown in its reactions to the killings in Lekki and other places.  The army at first denying that they were there, then denying they had live bullets and then the Governor trying to claim that only two people were killed.

This weakness is now being transferred into the electoral field, with the Governor of Edo State winning the election as a PDP candidate after he was not chosen by the APC.  Similarly, the recent bye-elections have confirmed this trend.  In the Lagos East senatorial elections only one in ten of the electorate could be bothered to vote.

With a very weak government struggling to know what to do next, now is the time for ASUU to hold out for proper funding of higher education.  The TUC National Executive Council (NEC) recently expressed is solidarity with ASUU and called on the Federal Government to settle the dispute. The #EndSARS II protestors are now back on the streets calling for the government to meet the demands of ASUU.

It is also the time for the health unions to push for their demands. Health workers are currently on strike in Ondo, Imo and Delta States, for example. Especially when health workers in Delta State are being threatened with arrest, now is the time for these strikes to be expanded into a common strike of all the health unions in JOHESU, as is being suggested.  The NLC should also be coming out to defend its members in the health sector. 

An injury to one is an injury to all!  The workers united will never be defeated!


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