Vanguard (Lagos)

4 December 2013

Nigeria: ASUU Strike - FG Bows, Extends Deadline to Dec 9

Abuja — The Federal Government, yesterday, reviewed the seven-day ultimatum given to striking university lecturers to resume today or be sacked as it now gave them till Monday, December 9. This came as most members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities remained adamant and vowed to continue with the strike until their demands were met.

ASUU president, Dr. Nasir Issa Fagge has also assured that once the government opens the bank account with N200 billion as requested by the union, the strike would be suspended.

Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, who announced the shift in the date for the compulsory resumption of Federal Universities to Monday, December 9, said it was as a mark of respect for the former National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Festus Iyayi, who died in an auto accident on his way to a National Executive Committee meeting of ASUU.

Speaking in Abuja, yesterday, Mr Wike said that the family of the late Professor Iyayi officially informed the ministry of the burial rites for the late ASUU President through the National Universities Commission, NUC, on Monday, hence the shift in the mandatory resumption date.

He said that the Federal Government will fully participate in the burial rites of the former ASUU President.

According to a statement by the minister's Special Assistant, Simeon Nwakaudu: "The decision to shift the date of the compulsory resumption of Federal Universities for academic activities has been taken as a result of the respect we have for the former ASUU President".

Wike stated that the Federal Government took the decision to re-open the universities in the interest of Nigerians and not to engender any form of show-down with ASUU.

He said Nigerians must appreciate the fact that the pro-chancellors and chairmen of the Federal Universities Governing Councils took the decision to re-open the schools, pointing out that the Federal Government's directive was to the vice-chancellors who are expected to comply with the directive of the pro-chancellors.

The minister also said that the Federal Government has already opened a dedicated account for the revival of infrastructure in the universities, while the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education has signed the resolution that the Federal Government will commit N1.3trillion into the revival of infrastructure in the universities.

He stated that despite the repeated misrepresentation of facts on the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement, the Federal Government had implemented over 80 per cent of the issues contained in the document, with only the payment of earned allowances and revitalisation of infrastructure pending.

Complying lecturers to get salary arrears

The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, NUC, Professor Julius Okojie, who briefed journalists in Abuja, yesterday, said the Federal Government was ready to pay the four-month salary arrears owed academic staff who returns to work.

According to him: "Councils have been directed to shift the resumption date to December 9. The new deadline, has already been communicated to the Pro-Chancellors Tuesday (yesterday) morning.

"The Federal Government as an employer of labour cannot just fold its arms while the institutions remain shut and its clients -- the students -- continue to suffer.

"You cannot pay someone who has failed to resume work. You are on strike and you want to be paid. What if some have already left the system? Some of our very bright lecturers may have got jobs elsewhere already."

Okojie noted that "the resumption order does not necessarily mean students would commence academic activities immediately but the school environment has to be put back in shape as reptiles may have taken over some places, and the Senate of each institution has to revisit the academic calendar. Students would be expected to resume one or two weeks after the December 9 resumption deadline,".

Okojie while responding to several issues raised by ASUU, insisted that it was a general consensus at the November 4, 2013 meeting with the President to have the Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry sign the resolutions reached after the meeting.

Okojie stressed that the issue of the inclusion of a non-victimization clause as now demanded by ASUU did not even come up at all during and after the meeting.

"Jega and Awuzie are past ASUU chairmen. Are they not holding good positions in Nigeria today? Why would anyone victimize someone for exercising his right? If anyone would do such a thing, not the Jonathan government. In fact the mood that day did not reflect such, we were all smiles and hugs. After that meeting we were all hopeful that was the end of the crises," he said.

He wondered why ASUU would return three weeks later, after it had failed to get back to government on November 8 as agreed, and demand addition of new clauses.

He said: "The 2009 Agreement stipulates that any party that wants a re-negotiation should inform the Ministry of Labour. If ASUU had said they would resume, but the outstanding issues must be addressed, government would have no choice,".

On the N200 billion revitalization fund which ASUU is demanding should be disbursed within two weeks, Okojie diclosed that the money has been deposited in an account in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

"The money cannot, however, be disbursed just anyhow because they are meant for capital projects", he said.

Okojie again appealed to the striking union to return to work in the interest of students who he described as the victims.

"One of the universities in Uganda where our children are enrolling, neigbouring countries do not even accept their degrees. Our children are going to schools with poorer degrees," he lamented.

ASUU gives condition for strike suspension

Meanwhile, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Dr. Nasir Issa Fagge, yesterday, gave conditions for the suspension of the six month old strike. Fagge who spoke on Channels Television, yesterday morning, said once government opens the bank account with N200 billion, requested by the union, the strike would be suspended.

He said "once that is done, and the committee that is supposed to disburse the funds starts working, our members will have no reason not to suspend the strike action". Dr. Faggie said the union insists on documentation.

He asked: "Why won't government make available this money so that we know the money is there and the universities commence drawing from this money to address the problem of decay in infrastructure, teaching and research facilities? When that is done, our members will suspend the strike."

The ASUU president dismissed insinuations in some quarters that the union had been split. On suggestions in some government quarters that ASUU was being influenced by opposition parties, Dr. Fagge said "ASUU is a union of cerebral intellectuals". He said the union is not influenced by religion, or ethnicity, saying however that members of the union are free to associate with any political party of their choice.

UNICAL resumes today

The University of Calabar has announced that the university resumes today for academic activities and directed all students who did not finish their registration to do so immediately.

But Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities, Unical chapter, Dr. James Ekprinya has warned parents that the university is still on strike and that any one that releases his ward is doing that at his peril.

The university in a press release by the Deputy Registrar, Academic division, Mr. Mike Monity stated that, "Normal Academic/Allied activities will resume tomorrow, the December 4, 2013 at the University of Calabar.

Monity in a release said the resumption was the decision reached at an emergency meeting of senate held at the senate chambers of the Institution.

It further stated that "the decision is in compliance with the directive issued by the Minister of Education" and that details of the revised university calendar would be disclosed in due course.

It also advised students with pending activities like second semester registration, Final year and Post Graduate research projects to start immediately as the school works out time table for lectures.

The ASUU chairman, Dr. Ekpirinya said that the congress rose from its congress with "a strong resolve to continue the strike until the agreements are implemented to the letter.

"We did not close school, we will not re-open it. We warn parents that any one who decides to send his or her ward to school is doing so at his or her peril."

Iyayi: UNIBEN ASUU vows to continue strike

University of Benin chapter of ASUU, yesterday, vowed to continue the current strike action and admonished President Goodluck Jonathan to embrace dialogue with the union rather than threats.

Meanwhile, no sign of resumption of academic activities at the university yesterday, despite the announcement by the university authorities Monday, calling on students and academic staff to resume duties.

When Vanguard visited the university, it was observed that registers were opened as directed by the Federal Government but none of the academic staff were sighted on campus. Rather members of the ASUU and students were observed preparing for the burial of the late former President of the union, Professor Festus Iyayi which is scheduled for this weekend.

Some of the students who spoke to Vanguard, condemned the Federal Government's order that the ASUU should resume duties or risk sack, just as they urged President Goodluck Jonathan to sack the supervising Minister of Education, Mr Nyesom Nwike, whom they described as a "sycophant".

Addressing journalists yesterday, chairman of the UNIBEN Chapter of the ASUU, Dr Anthony Monye-Emina who was recently involved in the accident that led to the death of ProfessorIyayi, advised parents to inform their children to stay at home, insisting that the strike action will not be called off until the Federal Government implements the agreements.

According to him: "We want to advise parents not to send their children back to campus in the event of any announcement of resumption of classes by the university administration in line with the supervisory Minister's directive. The union has not called off the strike. The President should continue on the path of honour to dialogue with the union as this is the only way to find an immediate and lasting solution to the crisis in the university system."

UNIJOS ASUU waits for directives

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNIJOS, chapter said, yesterday, that classes would only resume in the institution if directed by the national body.

The chapter Chairman, Dr David Jangdam told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos that the lecturers were waiting for directives from the nation body before the five-month strike could be called off.

"Classes will only resume if directed by the national body," he said. Jangdam told NAN that the decision of the national body was final and binding on all local chapters. A correspondent of NAN, who visited both the temporary and permanent sites of the university in Jos reports that they were deserted.

NAN further reports that the only visible presence was those of security personnel at the various entry and exit points. Jangdam also rejected suggestions that the lecturers had not been fair to university education in the country. "Nigerians should ask the leaders why the educational sector is usually the least in their priorities," he said.

He, however, said that the union on Monday met with the institutions Student Union Government (SUG), at their instance to explain its position on the continued strike.

The SUG President, Mr Ajik Magaji told NAN that he would not comment on the outcome of the meeting for now. He described the strike by ASUU as a huge threat to national security while blaming the Federal Government for reneging on agreements.

Magaji lamented that the strike had caused the students a whole session. "In UNIJOS, for instance, we lost a complete session to strikes; some of our classmates in other schools have graduated and we are still here," he said.

ASUU -UNAAB warns members against signing register

The University of Agriculture Abeokuta chapter of ASUU has vowed not to be cowed by the sack threat by the Federal Government, warning its members against signing the register by the University.

Addressing newsmen, yesterday, at the COPLANT auditorium of the University, the chairperson for ASUU -UNAAB, Dr. Biodun Badmus said the Union would not resume as directed by the Federal Government.

Badmus who was flanked by some past leaders of the union in the university advised the Federal Government to implement the agreement made with the Union for the sake of the students in the country.

Speaking on the plans by the union against any member that signs the register, Dr. Badmus said that the union would not hesitate to discipline any member of the Union who signs back to work register.

He said " Of course, even in the days of Jesus Christ there are Judases, it is envisaged and the union has its practices and code of conduct and there are laid down procedures to thrash out such areas should anybody sign back to work".

While proffering solution to the problem, the Union leader said "the ball is in the court of the Federal Government, ASUU has not closed its doors to dialogue. We appeal to the Federal Government to do what is needful. "If any meeting should be called, the National officers of ASUU are ready to meet the government to resolve the issue on ground".

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