Akin Akande, Abuja
What was planned to be a peaceful demonstration by members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Abuja chapter against the Federal Government on Wednesday turned ugly men of Nigeria Police when they dispersed the protesters with tear gas.
Eyewitnesses told our correspondent that men of the Nigerian Police used tear gas to disperse the protesting lecturers as they were mobilising against the Federal Government for non-implementation of the agreement signed in 2009 with the union.
The Policemen, who stopped students and other people from entering the Gwagwalada campus of the university also turned vehicles and motorcycles back from entering.
Speaking to journalists, the UniAbuja Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Clement Chup, said ASUU sent a letter to the Commissioner of Police in Gwagalada to notify him of the planned.
He expressed shock that he and his members were prevented by Police from entering into the campus.
“We members of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU of University of Abuja had actually planned to carry out a peaceful demonstration yesterday (Wednesday). What we planned was to have a community matching just to match through some major streets in Abuja, to sensitize the public on the essence of our strike,” he said.
“You will agree with me that the strike that has been on for the past four months now is a course for worry for everybody. We wanted to tell members of the public that this is the reason why we are on strike because Federal Government have refused to implement the agreement they had with our members since 2009,” he also said.
The ASUU chairman also stated: “But unfortunately when we got to the campus this morning (Wednesday), we were prevented from entering the campus by Policemen. When they prevented us from entering the campus we sat down helplessly outside the gate, just chatting and trying to put heads together, the Policemen Came around and tear gassed us several times to disperse us”.
“We were wondering why, a security agent that are suppose to provide security for law abiding citizens would turn around and begin to oppress the same people they are suppose to provide security for. It was really a cause for worry, even as they threw over 13 canisters of tear gas at us. Some of us were soaked in the tear gas and one of us who has asthma condition was rushed to the hospital.
“We insisted that it is our right so at the end of the day we were able to carry out our protest at a point in front of the university gate. When they tried to stop us and they didn’t succeed they now allowed us to carry out our protest at the gate., where we displayed our banners, sang our solidarity song and left”.
“When the Policemen refused us entrance into the university campus, they asked us not to stay in front of the gate and we couldn’t understand why we couldn’t enter or stay around where we work,” he said.
“The first time they teargased us, we saw four canisters and they came several times after that, he alleged.
“There were over 100 of our members and they dispersed us several times and we came back. They didn’t only disperse us but they equally barricaded the roads leading to the campus. They even turned some of our members from coming towards the campus,” he said.
On whether, ASUU notified the Nigerian Police about their proposed protest, the zonal Chairman answered: “Few days before the protest we wrote the Commissioner of Police at Gwagalada to inform him about the protest of yesterday (Wednesday), and we gave him the letter on Monday.
“We didn’t request we rather notify them not request. We have seen a lot of pro-government groups with Police protection but why is it we are now being harassed. Three Police men even snatched our banners from us,” he said.
On when the strike would end, Dr. Chup said when the strike was declared in July 1, 2013 it was agreed that the strike would be total, comprehensive and indefinite, so the strike continues.
Meanwhile the Abuja Zonal coordinator of ASUU, Dr. Suleiman Muhammed, appealed to Nigerians to appeal to Federal Government to honour the 2009 Agreement.
“We are aware of the offers by the Federal Government but we insist that the 2009 Agreement must be implemented. We want to urged Nigerians to plead with the Federal Government, please implement the agreement so that we can have a universities that can be globally be competitive,” he said.
“We shouldn’t plead with the victims but we should plead with the Federal Government to implement the agreement,” he also said.
“We are bearing the brunt of the struggle because, our salaries have been stopped since August. We are determine to continue the sacrifice even this is the only way we can have first class universities in Nigeria,” he said.