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Don’t Back Down On Your Strike Action, Rights Lawyer Tells ASUU

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Don’t Back Down On Your Strike Action, Rights Lawyer Tells ASUU

A human rights lawyer and public affairs analyst in Akwa Ibom State, Sammy Etuk, says the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) should press on with its strike action till the Buhari administration does the needful.

He was speaking with Naija News in Uyo, the state capital on Monday, as ASUU rolled over its ongoing strike for another 12 weeks.

Etuk said the quality of education has fallen so badly in Nigeria, pointing out that in the early 1990s when he was an undergraduate student of the University of Uyo, ‘’universities were far better than what they are today.’’

According to him, ‘’the Buhari administration does not have the will to tackle the issues ASUU is raising because the children of the administration functionaries are schooling abroad.

‘’Though I am seriously affected by the strike, I still believe that ASUU should not surrender so easily. Let them continue with the action, I don’t think ASUU should back down from its ongoing strike action.

’The only way to get the striking university teachers back to the lecture halls is for the Buhari administration to reach an agreement with them, and start implementing whatsoever agreement reached transparently.

’Anything short of that, ASUU should go on with the strike action. It is sad that we don’t have a vibrant National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) again. By now, NANS would have sacked the National Assembly, and lock down Abuja because of the insensitivity of the authorities to their plight.’’

However, some of ASUU’s demands include the release of revitalisation funds for universities, renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, release of earned allowances for university lecturers, and deployment of the UTAS payment platform for the payment of salaries and allowances of university lecturers.

ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, in a statement said the union has given the Federal Government enough time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues, pointing out that the roll-over strike was effective from 12.01 am, May 9, 2021.

He said the union took this decision after its National Executive Council meeting which started on Sunday night at the Comrade Festus Iyayi National Secretariat, University of Abuja.

“After extensive deliberations, noting Government’s failure to live up to its responsibilities and speedily address all the issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) within the additional eight-week roll–over strike period declared on March 14, 2022, NEC resolved that the strike be rolled over for twelve weeks to give Government more time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues.

“The roll-over strike action is with effect from 12.01 a.m. on Monday, 9th May 2022.”

The rest of the statement reads: “The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) held an emergency meeting on Sunday, 8th May 2022 at the Comrade Festus Iyayi National Secretariat, University of Abuja, Abuja.

“The meeting was called to review developments since the Union declared an eight-week total and comprehensive roll-over strike action at the end of its emergency NEC meeting at the Comrade Festus Iyayi National Secretariat, University of Abuja, Abuja on 14th March, 2022.

The strike action came on the heels of the government’s failure to satisfactorily implement the Memorandum of Action (MoA) it signed with the Union in December 2020 on renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), funding for revitalization of public universities (both Federal and States), proliferation and governance issues in State Universities, promotion arrears, withheld salaries (owed for over 20 months in some cases), and Non-emittance of third-party deductions.”

Adding, he said NEC noted with serious disappointment that the three-man Committee set up by the President Muhammadu Buhari on last February 1 to resolve the lingering issues between ASUU and FGN had not called a single meeting to date.

“NEC was equally disappointed that ASUU’s only meeting with the Professor Nimi Briggs-led Renegotiation Committee did not reflect the expected level of understanding, preparation and clarity that undergird collective bargaining going by the Committee’s confession of “going about consulting stakeholders”. Unless urgent steps are taken to redirect the Committee on concluding a draft Agreement that has been pending since May 2021, its activities may end up as another wild goose chase’’, the statement says.

ASUU NEC also condemned Abuja’s cavalier attitude towards the strike action in the last twelve weeks, saying the government’s resort to the use of starvation as a weapon for breaking the collective resolve of ASUU members and undermine our patriotic struggle to reposition public universities in Nigeria was ill-advised and may prove counterproductive.

“NEC was shocked that public universities have remained closed for about three months while members of the political class were busy purchasing expression of interest and nomination forms worth several millions of Naira in preparations for 2023 elections! Those in power turned their back on our degraded universities as they shuttle between Europe and America to celebrate the graduation of their children and wards from world class universities. This speaks volumes on the level of depravity, insensitivity, and irresponsibility of Nigeria’s opportunistic and parasitic political class.

“The result of the criminal neglect of education and gross mismanagement of the nation’s patrimony is evident in the collapse of the security architecture of our nation. Insecurity is getting worse by the day and spreading like the harmattan inferno in hitherto peaceful and secured parts of Nigeria, including university campuses. ASUU warns, once more, that unless something drastic is done to reverse these ugly trends, the country may be headed for a state of anarchy.

“NEC condemned the provocative statements of some government functionaries and salutes the Nigerian Labour Congress, patriotic students’ groups and civil society organisations who have taken steps towards resolving the current labour dispute with the Nigeria government.

“NEC found the planned overseas trip organised by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities’ Spouses (CVCNUS) despicable and condemnable. The advertised five-day conference in Istanbul is a waste of scarce resources of our universities; it is insensitive and provocative, particularly at a time like this when lecturers are denied their salaries for daring to struggle to improve the lot of our public universities”, says the statement.

During a meeting with the striking National Association of Academic Technologists last Friday, Labour and Employment Minister, Dr Chris Ngige, promised to meet with ASUU this week. But, Osodeke is saying that the union is yet to receive any notice of meeting from any government official.

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