Nwachukwu Aniym, ASUU chairman, University of Uyo, says no plea will move the union to call the four-month old strike if the federal government fails to play its part
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Nov. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE face-off between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the federal government has taken another dimension. The university lecturers have taken to the streets in various states to press home their demands. In Akwa Ibom State, ASUU branch of the University of Uyo, on Wednesday October 23, staged a rally at the state capital in a bid to sensitise members of the public on the union’s demands from the government.
But the peaceful protest was stalled by the police at the university’s gate. Nwachukwu Anyim, ASUU, chairman, University of Uyo, branch, told Realnews that the rally was planned as part of efforts by the body to safeguard the university system from total collapse and also correct insinuations by members of the public that ASUU was making selfish and outrageous demands. “Our intention is to address ordinary Nigerians on the street, to sensitise them, to make them to become aware that the strike is in the interest of our students and parents and that the students we are training should be able to fit into the society very well when they graduate. Of course, companies are beginning to complain that the graduates we are producing are half-baked. It is not as if we don’t have the manpower, we have the manpower. What we lack is the infrastructure. The lecturers we have in Nigeria are some of the best in the world and that is why when you go abroad you see our colleagues as heads of departments in some of the top universities. All we are saying is that if the infrastructure are there, our members who have travelled abroad would be able to return,” he said.
According to Anayim, the union was not ready to shift grounds unless government fulfilled the 2009 agreement with the union. He said that ASUU was still on strike basically because it was not negotiating with the government, rather asking government to honour the agreement it signed with it in 2009 and the report of the needs assessment team it sent to the universities. “We signed agreement with the government in 2009. In addition, we also have a memorandum of understanding with government in 2012. Remember that we are talking about an agreement that took many years to negotiate before it was signed. And for several years, government has never set aside anything up till this moment. So, if government had honoured its agreements with the union, then we would not be talking about whether it is capable of doing that or not. By the way, we think that government is capable of honouring the agreement.”
Anyim also debunked the insinuation in some quarters that the strike is being politicised. “My response and the response of the union is that there is nothing political about the strike. The claims by the union were confirmed by the needs assessment team that government itself sent to the universities to access their needs. And the federal executive council adopted the report of the team that showed the decay in the system. We are not making any fresh demands; we are not asking for increment in salaries and we are not asking government to do anything that is outside of the agreement and the report of the team that it set up. Since it has accepted the report of that committee, all we are saying is that it should implement it. I want to point out clearly that the money would not go to any member of the union. It will be used to restructure hostels, libraries and laboratories in the universities. Things must be put into perspectives. Our members cannot continue to work under the condition they are working right now.”
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to the union to end its four-month strike in the interest of Nigerian students. He said ASUU was fighting a just cause, but urged the union to be patriotic by calling off the strike, noting that the industrial action could endanger the destiny of Nigeria’s future leaders, if allowed to drag on.
“I want to beg ASUU to reconsider its stand on the current impasse rocking our universities, which has kept students out of the universities for four months. This hard stand and protracted crisis could endanger the collective destiny of millions of the future leaders, because the future of the country should not be derailed on the altar of industrial dispute,” the President said.
According to the president, it would have been different if his administration had not listened to the union’s grievances or was not ready to honour the agreements. “We have promised that all agreements will be honoured, so they should reconsider their stand. If the strike is borne out of genuine intention, I want to believe that ASUU has been able to prove a point by keeping students out of school for four months. And if it is borne out of other reasons, they still need to believe that no sector of the economy is operating at its best.”
Nyesom Wike, minister of education, has assured Nigerian students that the ongoing strike by ASUU would be over in a few months. The minister stated this at the anniversary lecture of the National Universities Commission, NUC, in Abuja. He reiterated the federal government’s commitment in resolving the ongoing strike by the ASUU. “The federal government is very concerned about the state of public tertiary institutions in the country. The federal government is really worried about the ongoing strike of ASUU and the strike would be resolved within a few months,” he said.
The Senate has also appealed to striking lecturers in the country to return to work to prevent further devaluation of the country’s educational fortunes. The Senate also blamed government negotiators for being ignorant by signing an agreement that could not be implemented.
David Mark, Senate president, was mandated to meet with President Jonathan and the ASUU in order to bring an end to the strike. Mark, however, made a personal plea to the union to suspend its action in the interest of Nigerian youths, who have been out of school wasting away for four months as negotiations have not yielded any positive result. The Senate also mandated its committee on education to continue its involvement in the negotiations for the resolution of the crisis
The university lecturers had been strike since July 1, this year when ASUU mandated its members to embark on strike over the refusal of the government to implement a 2009 agreement it signed with the union. Part of the agreement centred on increased funding to arrest the progressive rot in the universities and the welfare of members.