Students, under the aegis of the National Association of Nigerian Students, on Monday made good their threat to ground activities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos when they defied early morning downpour to block access roads to both the international and domestic terminals of the airport.
The action was in continuation of their protests against the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The blockage of the access roads left air passengers stranded, forcing airlines to reschedule most of their flights.
The students, however, told The PUNCH that they will be taking their protest to Apapa Ports on Tuesday (today).
The association’s South West Coordinator, Adegboye Olatunji, disclosed this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Monday.
“We will be moving to Apapa seaports on Tuesday if the Federal Government refuses to do the needful. Students are tired of staying at home,” Olatunji said.
Lagos airport roads
As of 8am on Monday, NANS members stopped passengers at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Toll gate plaza from accessing the airport to board their flights.
The students later moved to the domestic airport, causing a standstill situation along the airport road and Mobolaji Bank Anthony Road leading to the local airport.
Activities were affected at both Domestic Terminal I also known as the General Aviation Terminal and Terminal II as the students prevented passengers from accessing the airport.
The protesting students wielded placards with inscriptions such as ‘Our education is more important than your election’ and ‘Education is a right, open our schools,’ among others.
The blockage led to traffic gridlock around Ikeja environs as motorists and commuters were stranded.
As the gridlock persisted, most commuters and air travellers resorted to trekking with their luggage on their heads.
There was also a heavy presence of security operatives at the location.
The immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata was also caught up in the protest as he had to walk towards the Hajj Camp where he joined his driver.
Speaking to our correspondent, Akpata said he would have done the same if he was a student.
“I was a student in this country, if I had sat at home for close to a year for whatever reason, I would be on the street,” he said.
Meanwhile, a mild drama played out when some military men later approached the protesting students, asking them to round off their protest. This was met with stiff resistance by the students who insisted on barricading the road for eight hours.
The security operatives said the protesting students had exceeded the time they were meant to stay on the road.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the Airport, Kayode Sunday, said “We had an agreement that they were going to leave the road by 2 pm, and they have exceeded the time. This is an international corridor. We are managing the situation and I believe they are going to vacate this place anytime from now.”
A Deputy Senate President, NANS, Elvis Ekundina, said the government’s action was killing students gradually, saying many had become a nuisance to their families and society due to the strike.
Speaking on the conduct of security agencies during the protest, Olatunji said, “Securities agencies complied and I can say it’s the best I have ever witnessed. NPF and Nigerian Army all did well and were in solidarity with us.”
Airlines reschedule flights
The protest forced airlines to reschedule their flights.
Arik Air, in a notice of flight disruption cited by one of our correspondents, asked passengers who were affected to approach its contact centre to reschedule their flights.
The notice titled ‘Notice of flight disruption due to NAS action,’ read in part, “Please be informed that you may experience disruptions to your flights, especially out of Lagos, due to the protest by the National Association of Nigerian Students. Should you want to reschedule your flight, kindly call our contact centre.”
The Kwara State Police Command on Monday said there was no plan by NANS members shut down the Ilorin International Airport.
The command’s Public Relations Officer, Ajayi Okasanmi, in a statement said the state branch of NANS has assured the command that there is no such plan.
Okasanmi said the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Paul Odama, on hearing the news of the planned shutting down of the airport held a meeting with the president and some executive members of NANS in the state and they denied planning any protest.
But the President of the Student Union Government, University of Ilorin, Taofeek Opeyemi, denied that student leaders in the state met with the police boss.
Court rules Wednesday
Meanwhile, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Abuja Division will on Wednesday, deliver its ruling on the application filed by the Federal Government, seeking to stop ASUU from continuing its indefinite strike pending the determination of the substantive suit and every other application on the matter.
The vacation judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman, announced the date for his ruling after hearing the application on Monday.
When the case was called, counsel for ASUU, Femi Falana (SAN), informed the court that he had filed a preliminary objection on Friday, which was served on the applicants on Monday.
The Federal Government through its counsel, James Igwe (SAN), objected, saying the procedure was not followed.
After all the arguments on the facts and the law, Justice Hamman agreed with the Federal Government and took the application for an interlocutory injunction.
Justice Hamman adjourned the matter to Wednesday, September 21, 2022, for ruling on the interlocutory injunction.
The Imo State University, Owerri, on Monday announced that it had pulled out of the seven-month-old strike embarked upon by ASUU.
The university asked its students and staff members to resume on Tuesday.
The university’s Public Relations Officer, Ralph Njoku, told one of our correspondents that the university decided to pull out of the strike in the interest of the students and staff members.
But the Vice President of ASUU and its former branch chairman at the University of Jos, Dr Chris Piwuna, dismissed the resumption notice in an interview with The PUNCH.
He said, “Is the PRO of the university a member of our union? Does he have the mandate to speak for our members? Did we consult with him or his VC before we embarked on the action?
“Our members remain resilient and single-minded about our overall goal to rescue our public universities from the clutches of the neo-liberal, neo-colonialist.”