The union of Nigerian lecturers has accused the Nigerian government of blackmail and forcing lecturers back to class for fear of a second wave of the #EndSARS protests.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on an 8-month industrial action after embarking on an indefinite strike in March.
ASUU says the strike may last for years if the federal government refuses to holistically honour its agreement with the union.
ASUU is accusing government of failing to keep to a 2009 agreement, the Memorandum of Understanding in 2013 and the Memorandum of Actions signed in 2017 and 2019.
The union noted that unlike in the past, it has resolved to remain on strike until the Nigerian government reaches concrete terms with respect to implementing the agreements.
The union had brought forward five contentious issues in the 2019 MoA which are; revitalization fund for universities, outstanding earned academic allowances, renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, proliferation of universities, particularly by state governments, and establishment of visitation panels to universities.
Speaking at a Press Conference at the ASUU Secretariat within the Obafemi Awolowo University Campus on Friday, the Coordinator ASUU, Akure Zone, Professor Olu Olufayo said the federal government’s narrative that the union was on strike because of its rejection of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) is an attempt to blackmail it.
The union has also asked the federal government to declare emergency in the education sector, shut public universities for a period within which the government would fix universities across the country to ensure proper and effective training, research and community development.
“It is unfortunate that the government in the country does not care the quality of education available for the children of ordinary Nigerians since their children school abroad, hence, their refusal to honour the various agreements reached with ASUU for almost eleven years,” Prof. Olufayo noted.
He added that “we have also resolved to remain on strike for as long as possible to ensure that the FG commit to the agreement and take concrete steps towards ensuring quality public university education in the country.
“We have told the FG to declare a state of emergency in the education sector, shut the schools for two or even five years within which it can fix the problem in the sector and ensure quality education in the country.
“It is surprising that it took the Federal Government the EndSARS protest to call the union back to the negotiation table despite the long period of break imposed by the pandemic. Government believes if the youths were in the classroom, the protest could have been curtailed or minimised.
“As you are all aware, our Union declared a total, comprehensive and indefinite strike action in March this year. The action was declared to get the Federal Government to fulfil its obligations by implementing the agreement it reached with the Union in 2009, the memorandum of Understanding in 2013, the memorandum of Action in 2017 and the memorandum of Action in 2019. it is quite unfortunate that despite the diversity and luxuriant academia we are blessed with in the country, the government seems interested in education.
“We have consistently drawn the attention of the government and the general public to the rot in the public University system and our spirited efforts at alleviating such to re-position the educational sector in the country for national development. Our efforts have been constantly frustrated by the federal government and thus putting our students at the receiving end.”
Professor Olufayo also stated that “government since March 2020 has not made any meaningful effort to fulfilling the agreement. Rather than do the needful, government introduced an element of distraction – IPPIS, and a wicked move to starve our members to death by withholding their salaries, since the lockdown hitherto.
“The narrative has been mischievously rearranged to confuse the public that ASUU is on strike because of IPPIS alone.
“On government’s request, we have developed a suitable alternative – University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS). This has been demonstrated to government, applauded and currently undergoing integrity test prior to adoption for use in the university system.
“Our few meetings with the federal government of late sadly have not produced solution(s) to these issues as government is bent on dishonouring the agreement.
“It is on this note that we call on the general public not to be swayed with the IPPIS propaganda, but to cry out to the government to save the future our children who are not ordinary Nigerians as recently defined by a state governor in the southwest.”
Meanwhile, the federal government had on Friday in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, organized a town hall meeting to examine the strike by ASUU.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, represented the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari and noted that Nigeria was just “recovering from the ugly effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the #EndSARS protests in many parts of the country.”
He stated that moves were ongoing to end the strike action, adding that the ministers involved and the ASUU leadership were still working towards resolving the matter amicably.
By Abel Ejikeme