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ASUU strike: Varsities groan as FG keeps mum



ASUU strike: Varsities groan as FG keeps mum

As the indefinite nationwide strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) entered its second week, students and parents, who are already counting their losses, have accused the federal Government of keeping quiet unjustly over the action

Union: Babalakin treating us like junior lawyers in his chamber


NANS’ ultimatum to FG expires today


More than one week, when the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called out its members to resume its suspended industrial action, stakeholders in the nation’s university system and particularly students, parents, university management and shop owners on campuses have continued to count their losses.

From the University of Benin (UNIBEN), where many graduating students had been stopped from defending their thesis, to the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Oyo State, to the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, and the already troubled University of Maiduguri, Borno State, it have been stories of dashed hope, dejectedness and disappointment.

This is as the Federal Government has refused to make a statement on the lingering crisis, foreclosing any early end to the strike, and leaving students and parents to wonder how the government is playing with the future of the nation.

The unwarranted silence by the Federal Government has forced the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to declare a seven-day ultimatum for the government to either accede to the request of the striking lecturers, or face mass action.

The protest, the union noted, will ground activities around the country and embarrass the government.

But the Federal Government committee saddled with the responsibility of renegotiating the 2009 agreement with ASUU has said it was not surprised by the union’s action, saying the signs of the strike had been there long ago.

A member of the Dr. Wale Babalakin-led renegotiation committee and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Olufemi Bamiro, said the committee was committed to addressing all the challenges impeding the smooth running of the country’s universities, insisting that the union’s action would not be a distraction.

ASUU had on Sunday, November 3, called out its members in government-owned universities across the federation to embark on an indefinite job boycott over what it described as the Federal Government’s failure to faithfully implement many items on the 2017 Memorandum of Action (MoA) with particular reference to the release of N20 billion revitalisation fund as a sign of commitment to implement the Needs Assessment Report.

Other reasons advanced by the union include the government’s failure to, among others; release N1.8 trillion for revitalization of universities; release of the report of the forensic audit, payment of outstanding amount and mainstreaming of Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) into the 2018 budget; payment of arrears of shortfall in salaries; provision of the forum by the Federal Government for ASUU leaders to engage governors on funding and proliferation of state universities; underfunding of university education and undue interference in the affairs of state universities, and payment of Earned Academic Allowance to ASUU loyal members in the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Kwara State.

Addressing newsmen in Akure, Ondo State capital, the President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the union had at different media presentations given insights into what he described as the “fixated and negative attitudes” of the leader of the Federal Government team, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN) and the call for his disengagement as leader of the government team.

He said: “The renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, which commenced in March 2017, five years behind schedule has broken down, all thanks to the deliberate tactics adopted by the chairperson of the committee, Dr. Wale Babalakin to jettison the principle of collective bargaining and the gains of the previous agreements and MoU. The union in response and on 30th July 2018 wrote a five-page letter to the Minister of Education. No concrete action had been taken by the Minister, unsurprisingly, because at a point the Minister admitted that his own position on the issues was the same with that of Babalakin.

“The union afterwards embarked on a series of press conferences in September 2018 to draw the attention of the government to its failure to honour agreements it freely and willingly entered into with ASUU. Our efforts at public appeal was to prevail on government to show good faith and restart renegotiation by replacing Babalakin to avoid any untoward industrial disharmony that may truncate academic activities on our universities.

“Our union has run out of patience with governments’ unpreparedness to address old and new challenges facing the Nigerian university system. There can be no justification for government’s failure to address the outstanding components of the 2017 Memoranda of Action and concluding the renegotiation, given what we see as reckless spending by our leaders on Primary elections and bailout to banks. It is evident that govern  ment is highly deceptive and not interested in funding public universities. ASUU and Nigerians were betrayed over the 2009 agreement, the 2012 MoU, 2013 MoU, 2017 MoA and continue to erect barricades in concluding the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement.”

Ogunyemi said Babalakin was the last straw that broke the camel’s back, saying the industrialist was fond of treating the union members with disdain and disrespect as if they were young lawyers in his law chambers.

“He is fixated about issues and treat us like junior lawyers in his chambers. That is simply unacceptable,” the President said.

But speaking in defence of the committee, Prof. Bamiro said the union already had a premeditated mindset against its committee’s leadership, querying why other unions apart from ASUU are not complaining about the conduct of the committee’s leadership.

Bamiro said; “It must be noted that our committee is not meeting with ASUU alone. We are also meeting with the leadership of other three staff unions in universities, which are the SSANU, NASU and NAAT under their Joint Action Committee (JAC). The relevant question would be why are these other unions not complaining?

“Our negotiation with the other unions, are ongoing smoothly and very soon, the report will be presented to the government for review and implementation. So, I wouldn’t want to believe there is not more to it than meets

Meanwhile, the seven-day ultimatum declared by NANS will today expire, and according to the National President of the union, Danielson Akpan, Nigeria will be shaken to its foundation when the body makes real its threat.

In an interview with New Telegraph, Akpan explained that education remains the only major investment the government could make in the growing population of Nigerian young men and women, and that any attempt to deny them that will be fought to a standstill.

He recalled last Thursday how he met with the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, and that their discussions centred on how to reposition the country’s university system to compete favourably with their global counterparts.
In a similar development, the leadership of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS), Comrade Lukman Salahudeen, has also berated the Federal Government for frustrating efforts of ASUU to reposition the university system.

A statement issued by NANS and signed by its , Press Secretary, Olawale Seriki, noted the students are in full support of ASUU’s decision to embark on strike to press home the demands, saying except there is adequate funding of education at all levels, students and their parents are beginning to bear the brunt.

The statement reads in part: “The obvious poor funding has greatly resulted to all universities pushing to increase payable fees in the recent time. We have witnessed the University of Ilorin’s 120 per cent increase and LAUTECH’s 160 per cent while many others institutions including polytechnics are also warming up.

“Nigerian students in our universities today are faced with threat of becoming dropouts as school fees have continued to rise arbitrarily, while our parents are owed several months of salary. Accommodation is another great challenge that we face. We must let the government know that in fighting insurgency and other crimes, investment in education is key. Our next line of action in pursuance of speedy resolution of this ongoing ASUU and COEASU strike will be made known after our congress on November 17 at Kwara State College of Health Technology in Offa.”

Meanwhile, efforts to get the reaction of the Federal Government to the ongoing strike was unsuccessful as the Director of Press and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Willy Bassey refused to pick his calls for more than five days now, and neither did he reply text message sent to his phone.

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