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ASUU Strike: Group Drags FG to UN Over Failure To Meet Demands

River state governor Nyesome Wike

By Ayo Balogun, Lagos

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights over a serious breach of the obligations by Nigeria under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to progressively realize the right to education in accordance with the country’s maximum available resources.

The group said that this fundamental breach was due primarily to the persistent refusal by the government to honour the agreement with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Nigeria's Education minister (state) Nyesome Wike
Nigeria’s Education minister (state) Nyesome Wike

In a petition dated 25 October, 2013 and signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said that, “although, the government in 2009 agreed with ASUU to improve the governance structures and funding for the operation of universities across the country to around 26% for the period covering 2009-2020, the terms of the agreement have remained largely unfulfilled. Conditions of service for staff members of the country’s universities remain very poor. Further the right of the students to freedom of assembly and association is not fully and effectively respected by the authorities.”

The petition sent to the committee through the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, also stated that, under international law, Nigeria was required to demonstrate that, in aggregate, the measures being taken were sufficient to realize the right to education for Nigerian children in the shortest possible time using the maximum available resources.

“However, the continuing refusal by the government to honour agreements with ASUU constitutes a fundamental breach of these obligations, and shows lack of good faith by the government to implement its voluntary international commitments.

“One of the best financial investments States can make is education but the Nigerian government’s investment on education for many years has been only a drop in the ocean, especially when measured in the light of the country’s accrued revenue from oil, and its maximum available resources. No wonder, then, that the government has persistently failed to improve the infrastructural and academic environment at all levels of education in the country,” it stated.

According to SERAP, this situation was inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Covenant as well as the Committee’s own jurisprudence, calling on the Committee to demand that the Nigerian government should urgently and fully implement its agreement with ASUU, and ensure sufficient funding of universities across the country, saying that the committee should put pressure on the government to promote, protect and fulfil the right to education for the sake of millions of Nigerian children that continued to be denied this fundamental human right.

The group argued that education was not only a human right in itself but also an indispensable means of realizing other human rights, stressing that it was the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children could lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities.

“Education also has a vital role in empowering women, safeguarding children from exploitative and hazardous labour and sexual exploitation, promoting human rights and democracy, and protecting the environment.”

“As the Committee has stated, states must take deliberate, concrete and targeted steps as clearly as possible towards meeting the obligations recognized in the Covenant. But the persistent refusal by the government to sufficiently fund the country’s universities, and honor its own agreement to ASUU is a deliberate retrogressive measure, and shows lack of good faith,” the group insisted.

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