The Federal Government has ordered all Vice-Chancellors of Federal Universities that are currently on strike to immediately reopen for academic and allied activities.
Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike who stated this while briefing journalists in Abuja, said it was rather unfortunate that after a 13 hour meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja on the 4th of November, 2013, three weeks after the meeting, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU came up with new conditions for them to call off the five months old strike.
He said it was obvious that the new conditions of ASUU was not in the interest of the nation.
The conditions that were given by ASUU included, that President Jonathan should facilitate the endorsement of resolutions reached with him and must be signed by high ranking government official preferably the Attorney-General of the Federation but not a Permanent Secretary.
The lecturers at their NEC meeting last week in Kano, demanded that government should pay the four-month salary arrears being owed varsity lecturers while there should be immediate implementation of the N1.2tn offered by the government to public varsities, starting with the release of N100bn this year, before the strike can be called off.
Subsequently, the The Federal Government directed the universities’ Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors to ensure that lecturers who resumed for work were provided with the enabling environment for academic and allied activities, even as it warned that any lecturer who failed to resume on or before Dec. 4, automatically ceased to be a member of staff of the institution.
It also directed the Vice-Chancellors to advertise vacancies (internal and external) in their institutions.
However, in its reaction to the Federal Government’s ultimatum, ASUU said that it would not be intimidated by the Federal Government’s directive to resume work on or before Dec. 4 without resolving the industrial dispute.
ASUU National Treasurer, Dr. Ademola Aremu, said the union was shocked that the government could have such plan when there was a shortfall of 60,000 lecturers in Nigerian universities, owing to the government’s failure to employ enough teachers.
He added that the threat would not hinder the union’s determination to ensure that Nigerian universities were well funded.
“It is a pity if the Federal Government is not willing to perfect the resolutions reached with the union. This is why we find it difficult to trust our leaders by their words.
“How can someone be threatening to sack lecturers when universities are already short-staffed by almost 60,000? We are not in a military era. The military tried it and failed. This one will fail again. They can re-open the schools. ASUU did not shut the universities; it was the school management that ordered the students to go back home,” Aremu said.
The ASUU treasurer added that the Federal Government was wasting the time of Nigerians and youths in the country by failing to perfect the resolutions so that classes could resume in the schools.
Making reference to the failure of the government to honour the agreements it entered with resident doctors and health workers after they suspended their strikes, the union said it had reasons to be wary of the government, adding that the threat was an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians who were waiting for the government for a positive reaction.
“With the latest action, the government has shown that it is not committed to all it has been saying. We are saying that since we agreed at the meeting that the sum of N200bn is for 2012 and 2013 revitalisation, the government should deposit same in the Central Bank of Nigerian. We are already in November and December is around the corner.
“If they don’t do that now, when do they want to do it?” Aremu said.Clement Chup, the Chairman of ASUU, the University of Abuja chapter, told newsmen that there was nothing like re-opening the universities or calling off the strike.
Some parents and students, who spoke with our correspondents expressed mixed feelings over the implications of the Federal Government’s directive.
A respondent, a parent, who preferred anonymity said that it was improper for the Federal Government to order ASUU to call off its strike in such an abrupt manner, without reaching an agreement with the union.
“This is a civilised country and I think people have been trying to sympathise with the government over ASUU strike. But with such pronouncement, I do not think that it is the right way that the Federal Government should handle this matter,’’ he added.
Another parent, Joy Amadi, said that it was a shame that the state of affairs of the country’s tertiary education sector was being handled in such a manner.
“We are not in the military era; this is democracy and any agreement entered into by the Federal Government, be it with anybody or association, must be kept.
“Issuing threat is not the option but with mutual understanding of both parties and patience, there will be peace and harmony in the sector,’’ she said.
Dele Oluwadayo, also a parent, said that the strike had dragged on for too long, adding that parents and students were fed up with the industrial action.
“I think that the Federal Government and the Pro-Chancellors are doing the right thing by calling for the re-opening of the universities. But I want to say that the Federal government should not be hard on the lecturers.
“I think ASUU is fighting for a good cause but they should also be considerate,’’ he said.
However, a student, Mohammed Aliyu, urged ASUU to abide by the Federal Government’s directive, stressing that is better for ASUU to work with the Federal Government’s terms and reference as students are tired of the strike.
Another student, Priscilla Ekoma, however said that the Federal Government’s directive was not in order.
“Although it is not that I am happy that we are on strike, but it is very, very wrong for the Federal Government to order ASUU to resume work just like that.
“ASUU is making a case for all the universities in the country and an agreement should be reached, the crisis cannot be resolved via intimidation or threat,’’ Ekoma said.