Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Workers under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and their affiliates thronged the Unity Fountain in Abuja early Wednesday morning to kick off their mega rally, meant to press home demands on the federal government to speedily resolve its dispute with unions within the Nigerian university system.
The protesting workers, who besieged the Unity Fountain in Abuja caused traffic jam as motorists tried to seek alternative routes to avoid the Federal Secretariat area of the Federal Capital City (FCT).
For more than five months, the university unions including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Non Academic Staff Union of University and Allied Institutions (NASU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have been on strike with no end yet in sight.
Thousands of the workers, at the Unity Fountain, were briefly addressed by labour leaders before proceeding to the National Assembly.
The workers, who are expected to also march to the Presidency, were addressed by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who urged them to be orderly in their conduct.
He slammed the federal government for paying lip service to education and the welfare of workers in tertiary institutions.
According to him, most of those at the helm of affairs in the country currently were beneficiaries of a thriving education sector in the past as they enjoyed free and quality education.
Wabba also dismissed insinuations by government that their rally will lead to civil unrest, saying that on the contrary, the actions of the government are fueling social disturbances.
He said there is nowhere in the world that protesters were denied their right to protest except in Nigeria.
Wabba also criticised the no-work-no-pay policy of the government with respect to the ongoing strike in the universities, describing such actions as draconian.