Some researchers have described the ongoing strike by research institutes' workers across the country as a threat to food security. The researchers, who spoke on Wednesday in Ibadan, called on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to end the industrial action in the interest of the country. Supreme recalls that research institutes' workers have been on a nationwide strike since Oct.12.
Prof. Lateef Sanni of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, said that although the strike might not have any significant effect on a short term, the effect might be enormous on a long term. According to Sanni, a professor of Food Science and Technology, any country that keeps shutting down research institutes should not expect available, accessible and affordable foods. He said if Nigeria want to be like Singapore, for example, then must put welfare of citizens in minds and actions. With the climate change and change in the lands, disease and stress-tolerant breeds and varieties need to be rolled out, and these can only come from robust and uninterrupted research. Excellent leadership should be promoted; also should support the middle class bearing the ripple effects in the various families and reduce external interferences in the running of research institutions in the country.
Also, Dr Sunday Oladele, Executive Director, National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), Ibadan, said that the strike was embarked upon to remind government of the workers' demands. It has been unhealthy situations in the various research institutes since the strike started, although workers on grade level 12 and below have been at home since, owing to COVID-19 pandemic. He said consequent upon this, many of the experiments, both in the laboratories and on the fields for development of improved materials as well as multiplication of promising materials for them to be available for the farmers, traders and research scientists, have been terribly affected. This, by extension, can ripple effect on food and nutrition security in Nigeria. Oladele urged government to look into the matter and settle the institutes as soon as possible. According to him, settling the workers will avert the food shortage that is likely to face the country in 2022, aside the challenges of climate change. He said the welfare of research institutes' employees is paramount to efficient work delivery.
To Dr Idris Badiru, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ibadan, beyond using the research institutes as job creation centres, government should also review its needs for them. He emphasised that if Nigeria really need research institutes, they should fund them adequately; but if they are close, there will be consequences. He said strikes are becoming too common in the country and they portend no good for anyone, considering the man-hours being lost. This shows our lack of responsiveness to issues as a people. Supreme reports that the institutes are demanding payment of one year arrears of 53.37 per cent salary increment since 2009 and immediate conclusion of the review of conditions/scheme of service. They are also demanding the withdrawal of the circular on non-skipping of grade level 10 and establishment of National Research Institutes Commission (NARICOM), among others.