Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Lecturers Defy Govt

Kano, Bauchi, Abuja, Minna, Lagos, Yola, Akure, Port Harcourt, Jos, Benin — University lecturers have defied the government's directive to resume work, saying they would rather lose their jobs than succumb to intimidation.

The Federal Government gave members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) until yesterday to call of their five-month strike or lose their jobs.

Daily Trust's correspondents who went round most federal universities found that lecturers have not returned to the classrooms.

Some of the universities have opened attendance registers, but most teachers refused to sign in their names.

ASUU has been on strike since July 1, demanding better funding for universities and improved welfare for lecturers.

Following a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan early last month, the union was set to end the strike when one of its former leaders, Prof FestusIyayi, died in a road accident.

A meeting of the union's executive was postponed because of the death. But when the meeting eventually held, ASUU wrote a letter to Jonathan demanding an immediate release of N200 billion "revitalisation" funds for the universities, payment of salary arrears and a review of the 2009 agreement next year.

Government said those demands were outrageous, and therefore issued a week's ultimatum, which was later extended to yesterday, for the teachers to return to the classrooms.

At the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and Bayero University Kano (BUK), no attendance registers were opened by the authorities, and some lecturers were seen in their offices but they did not hold classes.

The campuses remained mostly deserted as no students returned.

Chairman of ASUU in BUK, Dr. Muhammad Kabir Aliyu, and his ABU counterpart Dr. Mahmud Lawal, said the strike would continue until the Federal Government met the union's demands.

"It is not that we are enjoying this strike, but it is something that becomes necessary in order to save the education sector from total collapse," Aliyu said.

"This strike continues until our national executive decides otherwise. Therefore parents and students should put pressure on the Federal Government for them to fulfill the promises they made."

He added: "Even if they open the register, nobody would sign them because signing the register would amount to signing one's death warrant, as history would remember that person as a betrayer."

For his part, Lawal said intimidation and stopping lecturers' salaries would not force them back to the classroom.

In Lagos, lecturers and students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) as well as the Lagos State University (LASU) also failed to resume yesterday.

Jean Akanawan, a 300 level student of Biology at UNILAG said she came to the school to assist her younger brother who has just been admitted to 100 level to process his registration but that the authorities had not even asked lecturers and students to resume.

"All we have seen on the school website is that fresh students should be coming to proceed with their registration while there is no definite resumption for the returning students," Akanawan said.

In their separate reactions, chairman of ASUU in LASU Adekunle Idris and Karo Oghenero of UNILAG said the strike would continue for as long as it takes the government to honour its agreement with the union.

"If government thinks bullying us will work, I think it will be better to have a re-think on that," Idris said.

At the Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH) in Yola, local ASUU leader Augustine Anthony Ndaghu said over 300 lecturers voted for the strike to continue.

"With this development, I don't think our members would comply with the deadline given by the authorities. Ours is a peaceful strike as far as nobody will attempt to force us back to classroom. We are also not going to stop any lecturer who wants to teach," he said.

No students were seen on campus, even though authorities said the university had never closed.

A spokesman for the university, Mustafa Migawa, said forms were sent to departments for lectures to fill out and indicate their intention to resume work.

"For now I can't say how many lecturers have filled the forms signifying their interest to resume work," he said.

Chairman of ASUU in Adamawa State University, Mubi, Mr Molem Ishaku, also said the strike would continue in spite of the no-work-no pay threat by the university's management.

'Empty threat'

In Akure, lecturers of the Federal University of Technology defied the resumption order and ignored the attendance register opened at each department. But authorities have since announced that lectures would resume on January 6, 2014, because of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

At the Ondo State-owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, teachers have refused to go back to the classroom.

ASUU chairman Busuyi Mekusi told Daily Trust that at the last congress meeting a few days ago, the union "reaffirmed its commitment to the on-going strike." He said members had been urged "to disregard every unlawful means to harass them to submission."

Also, normal academic activities have not resumed at the University of Port Harcourt. Professor Anthonia Okerengwo, chairman of ASUU, told reporters in Port Harcourt that the union members were not moved by the threats of sack by the Federal Government.

At the Choba Campus of the university, a few students were seen moving into the campus but no lectures were being held.

A spokesman for the university, Dr William Wodi, said the university has been opened for full academic activities. He said lecturers willing to teach had returned to the classes.

"The university is open for full academic activity. If you look round you find out that lecturers are coming to class to teach. I am a lecturer, I have class tomorrow and I am assuring you that I will come to class tomorrow to teach," he said.

In Sokoto, both campuses of the Usmanu Danfodio University were shunned by the lecturers and students yesterday.

Local ASUU chairman Dr. Faruk Tambuwal said: "Our position on the strike remains the same and the strike continues." He said government's sack threat was an "empty one which is not going to work."

The university's management had complied with the Federal Government directive to open duty resumption registers in the two campuses.

But Tambuwal said lecturers had resolved that "nobody will sign the registers even if they were opened."

The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi had fixed tomorrow as the deadline for lecturers to resume, by union leaders said the strike would go on.

University spokesman Alhaji Zailani Bappah said registers had been opened for lecturers willing to resume to sign.

He said any lecturer who refused to sign the register will be issued a query and his answer will determine the necessary action that will be taken.

Dr. Lawan Abubakar, ASUU chairman, said the union would not cave in.

"If we resume now without addressing the problems that led us to strike, we fail the students, parents, we fail our meeting with the president, we also fail Nigerians," he said. The two campuses of the University of Jos also remained without lecturers yesterday as ASUU members kept faith with their resolve to defy the government's resumption ultimatum.

No students were seen on campus, as authorities had asked them to stay away until further notice.

It is the same story at the University of Maiduguri, and Federal University of Technology, Minna, as lecturers there stayed away from classrooms.

At the University of Benin, the situation appeared a bit different. Some lecturers were seen at the Ugbowo and Ekenwan campuses, which is a departure from what obtained in the past months when all offices were locked.

One of the lecturers, Dr Osa Osadolor, said lecturers were around but would not teach because the strike was still in force.

A spokesman for the university, Harris Osarenren, said some lecturers resumed work and signed the attendance register.

For his part, ASUU chairman Dr Anthony Monye Enima said the strike continues. He said those who signed the resumption register were not members of the union.

At the Ekiti State University, new students resumed yesterday even as ASUU members remained adamant on the strike.

The new students were seen being screened on the campus under tight security.

Heavy presence of policemen was noticed within and outside the university premises.

Minister: 50% of lecturers resumed

Meanwhile, Education Minister Nyesom Wike has called a meeting tomorrow in Abuja with all vice chancellors of federal universities, where he said they would be required to submit the bank account details of their institutions for the government to deposit project funds.

In a public notice published yesterday, Wike said the meeting with the vice chancellors would discuss the areas of project priority for the institutions.

Also yesterday, the minister said at least 50 percent of university lecturers across the country have signed the attendance registers signifying that they have gone back to work.

Wike's spokesman Simeon Nwakaudu told Daily Trust by telephone that the lecturers started signing registers since Friday. He said resumption of lecturers would continue to improve in the next days. He said by the time the universities review their academic calendars, lectures would have resumed fully.

Asked what the government would do on expiration of the ultimatum, Nwakaudu said: "Everything is down to the governing councils of universities as the directives to reopen the universities were initially given by them."

He, however, said the engagement with the lecturers would continue and that everything "will be resolved amicably."

Isa SA'idu, Ahmed Mohammed, Abdulwasiu Hassan, Aliyu M. Hamagam, Nurudeen Oyewole, Kabiru R. Anwar, Bola Ojuola, Victor Edozie, Onimisi Alao, Lami Sadiq and Vincent Egunyanga

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