By Joseph Erunke
ACADEMIC Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has cried over non payment of salaries to members by the government, advising lecturers to immediately seek alternative means of survival.
This was as it vowed to press home its demands until government bows, asking students and parents not to expect any possible resumption of universities soon.
The Abuja zone of the union at a press conference held Tuesday morning at the University of Abuja campus, accused the government of not showing commitment in resolving the issues that necessitated the ongoing industrial action.
The union’s Abuja zonal coordinator, Prof. Theophilus Lagi, who read the text of the press conference, insisted that members were “relentlessly determined to continue with the ongoing strike until our demands are met.”
“Today, we wish to let Nigerians especially our students and parents know that there is no hope in sight to ending or suspending the ASUU strike that has lingerd for several months as Government is yet to show serious commitment towards addressing our core demands.
“Our members have been advised to seek other legitimate means of survival as the Government has not released salaries withheld since February, 2020,” the text read.
The union particularly accused the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige of showing what it called “disdain for Nigerian academics.
” One needs not be a psychologist to understand the behaviour and recent utterances of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige. The Minister has clearly shown his disdain for Nigerian academics and has failed to play the role of an unbiased umpire in moderating the imbroglio.
“He has now become the spokespreson to the accountant general of the federation and the ministry of finance, instead of finding solution for lecturers to get back to work,he is turning the wheel of progress backwards by setting ASUU on a collision course with other presure groups in the university. Clearly Dr Ngige is on a war part with ASUU,” it said.
The text read further:”As men of letters, we would have elected to ignore Senator Chris Ngige’s deliberate misinformation and deceit. So, this response is more to straighten the record than it is to massage the minister’s ego. In one of his comedies of error, Ngige told the nation that the striking lecturers had been paid salaries up to date when he knew university lecturers were being owed salaries for between Nine to Six months for no just cause. In another fit of treachery, the Minister during a recent Budget defense at the National Assembly, while upholding the existence of University Autonomy Law, attempted in vain to redefine its provisions.
“Dr Ngige is, by now, a figuration well known for poignant penchant for speaking from both sides of his mouth. This is demonstrated by his irregular postures in the ongoing negotiation between the federal government and our union which, to say the least, betray his insincerity and irresponsibility as an appointee of the federal government.
“In the past few weeks, for instance, Ngige has said one thing when he met with the union and a different thing on the same subject in interviews with the media. This double character of a Minister and a purported negotiator in the face-off should be a source of worry to not only the body of Nigerian students but also parents who patronize public universities as the minister’s untoward attitude is undermining the reopening of these schools.
“In furtherance of his intimidation of the lecturers and misinformation of the public, Ngige argued that autonomy could not hold in the prevailing circumstance. On this, we would like to educate the honorable Minister that public universities in Nigeria are creatures of law as each university is established by an Act enacted by the National Assembly.
“These enabling laws specify the powers, functions and responsibilities of the various constituent bodies and functionaries of the universities. There are several of these Acts, namely The University (Miscellaneous Provision) Act No. 11, 1993, and 1996.
“There is also the famous University (Miscellaneous Provision) Amendment Act 2003, otherwise called The University Autonomy Act No. 1, 2007. A section in the 2003, Act clearly proclaims the autonomy or independence of the universities thus:“S. 2AA.
“The powers of the council shall be exercised, as in the Law and Statutes of each University and to this extent establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the Laws and Statutes of the University shall not apply to the Universities”. An “S.2AAA. The Governing Council of a University shall be free in the discharge of its functions and exercise of its responsibilities for the good management, growth and development of the University.”
Another bizarre turn of event is unfolding at the Enugu state University of Science and Technology, ESUT, where a letter written by the Ag. Registrar, Bar. T. M. Ikepenwa on the 12th November, 2020, to the office the I/C 103 Battallion of the Nigerian Army invited the Military to assist in the organisation and smooth conduct of the 2019/2020 First Semester Examinations.
“Such involvment of the Military crack team in a normal university function is primitive and the height of insult and lack of regard for the academia in Nigeria. The Union wishes to call on the authorities at ESUT to refrain from the ugly trend because we do not want a repeat of 1976, in Nigerian universities.
“In conclusion, we want to assure you that our members are relentlessly determined to continue with the ongoing strike until our demands are met.”
Recall that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Abuja zone comprising the Federal University of Technology Minna, Nasarawa State University, keffi, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Federal University of Lafia and the University of Abuja, addressed a press conference on 2nd November, 2020, where it expressed dissatisfaction with the FG’s handling of the negotiation to resolve the face-off occasioned by the government’s failure to implement the MoA of 2019, and the renegotiation of the 2009, agreement.
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