23 May 2014

Nigeria: Teachers Protest Over Chibok Schoolgirls, Colleagues

Bauchi, Port Harcourt, Kano, Ilorin, Ado Ekiti, Maiduguri, Lagos, Katsina, Port Harcourt, Damaturu — Teachers across the country yesterday held protests demanding the release of the over 200 schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram last month, along with marches against the killing of 173 of their members by the insurgents and urged the federal government to increase security in schools.

The teachers carried placards as they protested around the Abuja city center with messages such as; "Our girls, our pride," "We want them alive and safe," "Sit up, government".

Their procession took off from the Education Resource Center of the FCT through Wuse Zone 7 and back to the centre. Addressing newsmen before the procession, FCT NUT chairman, Hassan Jibir, said the union remained resolute in its resolve to continue the campaign even as they mourned the death of their colleagues.

President of the union, Michael Olukoya, said they would not stop campaigning the girls are brought back safe and alive and the perpetrators of the crime are punished.

In Bauchi, the state chairman of the NUT, Comrade Danjuma Sale, addressed teachers who marched along the streets to the Government House. He said: "We demand that both the federal and respective state governments exhibit true concern for the families of the 173 teachers-170 in Borno and three in Yobe who were killed by paying them adequate compensation". He appealed to government to provide conducive and peaceful environments for teaching and learning.

The Kano chapter of the NUT which also demanded the immediate release of the girls described the killing of teachers as an assault to humanity and an attack on their profession. It urged government to intensify efforts to rescue the girls and initiate strong measures to secure lives and property of citizens as well as criminalize any threats to the educational system.

Activities in schools in Kwara State stood still as teachers complied with the directive of the NUT headquarters to stay away from their schools in sympathy with the parents and guardians of the school girls, as well as families of teachers who lost their lives to insurgency. Virtually all public schools in the 16 local government areas of the state were shut due to the protest. Teachers were not on ground at most of the schools visited by our correspondent in Ilorin like C and S College, Sabo- Oke, Baboko Community Secondary school, Queen Elizabeth school, Ilorin, St. Anthony Secondary school, among others.

Speaking with newsmen, the NUT Chairman in the state, Alhaji Musa Abubakar who led the procession said, "The Nigeria Union of Teachers joins the world to call on insurgents and their collaborators to bring back our girls safe and alive". Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed who received them commended the teachers for the peaceful rally, noting that there must be unity of purpose among the nation's stakeholders to bring back the girls. Ahmed urged all Nigerians irrespective of their religious, political or ethnic differences to unite against terrorism.

Pupils in Ado Ekiti returned home from schools as early as 9am, saying the teachers asked them to go back home. State NUT chairman, Kayode Akosile, said it was unacceptable that over 200 girls could be kidnapped for over a month and nobody has any clue to their whereabouts and urged the federal government to expedite action on their rescue.

The NUT in Borno said 26 people who are family members of six teachers killed in a secondary school in Dikwa have been held by the Boko Haram since March when they were abducted.

In March, some insurgents stormed the Government Secondary School in Dikwa where they killed six teachers and abducted their family members. Those seized include wives, children and mothers of the deceased teachers. Deputy Chairman of the Borno NUT, Comrade Bako Lawan who led union members to the Government House in Maiduguri decried the continuous closure of schools in the state due to the activities of the Boko Haram and urged government to provide adequate security in all schools or teachers would remain at home even when schools re-open.

Our correspondent observed poor communication in Lagos as the message appeared not to have circulated well. Pupils went to schools as early as 7am only to realise that there would be no classes for the day.

Among the schools that were locked as at 10 am within the state capital are Agidingbi Primary and Secondary Schools, Vetland School Secondary School, Lagos State Model College, Meiran, Ile Ewe Primary School and Community Secondary School.

The teachers in a letter addressed to Governor Babatunde Fashola which was delivered to Mr. Kayode Opeifa demanded the release of the girls, saying they had been depressed since the abduction.

"It is pertinent at this time to call on the Nigerian government to bring back our girls safe and alive by demonstrating enough responsibility and concern to guarantee security of lives and property which is the primary responsibility of any government," said Comrade Adesegun Raheem, Lagos State Chairman, NUT.

President of the NUT in Katsina, Micheal Olukoya, who was represented by the state chairman, Sayyadi Hassan Dayyi, called on the insurgents to release the girls and asked the federal government to demonstrate enough responsibility to guarantee their safe return. He urged the government to declare a state of emergency in the education sector which he said would make lives secure in the school system and guarantee conducive learning environment across the country.

In Port Harcourt, teachers dressed in black attires marched along the major roads to the Government House where they were received by the Permanent Secretary, Government House, Fortune Oguru. NUT chairman Godfrey Nwogu, in his address, charged the federal government to demonstrate concern in the protection of lives and property of members of the public and expedite action on the release of the students. Responding on behalf of Governor Chibuike Amaechi, the Permanent Secretary described the abduction and incessant killings in the North as a "national and international tragedy", assuring that he would convey their message to the governor.

Yobe State Labour Chairman, Comrade Lawan Ibrahim who led the rally said the porous nature of academic institutions and their vulnerability to attacks by the Boko Haram had caused serious threats and damages to schools in the zone. Lawal said schools in the North-east are no longer safe and advocated for insurance cover for teachers and students in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. The NUT women representative in the state, Hauwa Ibrahim, said they would not rest on the struggle until school environments are made conducive for teaching and learning.

Teachers thronged the Adamawa Government House in Yola to put pressure on government to extend their appeal to federal government to do more to ensure the release of the girls. The state NUT chairman, Comrade Dauda Maina, said the abduction shocked teachers all over the country. Governor Murtala Nyako commended the union for adding their voices to those of other responsible Nigerians and their friends abroad, saying their demands would be communicated to the federal government. He described the action of the Boko Haram as barbaric and unscrupulous, urging Nigerians to unite against the violent few who want to destroy the country and cause disaffection among the people.

Speaking at Government House in Sokoto, state Chairman of the NUT, Comrade Cika Maidamma Alkamawa, expressed concern over the abduction, saying: "The innocent school girls are raw materials for the nation's future development. We therefore appeal to Boko Haram to bring back our girls alive".

Ahmed Mohammed, Nazifi Dawud Khalid, Abdullateef Aliyu, Doyin Adebusuyi, Yahaya Ibrahim, Femi Akinola, Atika Balal, Victor Edozie, Hamisu Kabir Matazu,  Kabiru R. Anwar

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