Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said it would not yield to the decision by the Nigerian government to “starve” its members over the ongoing prolonged strike.
It described the decision as ill-advised, and said rather than forcing its members to back down, it would complicate matters.
ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, reiterated this on Monday in a statement issued to announce the extension of the three-month-old strike by additional three months.
He decried the failure of the government to accede to its request, and accused the elected and appointed government officials of showing no concern because their children and wards allegedly school abroad.
The statement reads in part: “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 is ill-advised and may prove counterproductive”
The labour and employment minister, Chris Ngige, has never hesitated to state the government’s capacity to invoke Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act, which he noted empowers an employer to refuse to pay a worker who may embark on strike, “especially those on essential services.”
The government has since March stopped the payment of salaries for the striking ASUU members.
Rush for Presidential forms
The union also condemned the rush for the purchase of the ruling All Progress Congress (APC) N100 million presidential nomination forms by politicians. It accused the labour and employment minister, Nigige, and the minister of state for education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba of insensitivity.
ASUU said they have turned a blind eye to the closure of the universities and focused on the next election.
ASUU said: “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.”
ASUU also linked the security situation in the country to the “criminal neglect of education and gross mismanagement of the nation’s collective resources.”
“This 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.”
ASUU condemned what it described as “provocative statements of some government functionaries” and commended the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), and those it called patriotic students’ groups and civil society organisations, “who have taken steps towards resolving the current labour dispute with the Nigeria government.”
Why strike extension?
ASUU listed parts of the reasons for the extension of the strike to include the failure of the three-man committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve the crisis.
Buhari had in February mandated the trio of his chief of staff, Ibrahim Gambari, a professor, and ministers of education, and labour and employment, Chris Ngige and Adamu Adamu, respectively, to jointly address the disagreement between ASUU and the government.
But ASUU said the committee has not held a single meeting since February 1 when it was constituted.
ASUU also emphasised its preference for the adoption of the May 2021 drafted agreement on the ASUU-Federal government renegotiation of the 2009 agreement which was drafted by the defunct Munzali Jibril-led renegotiation committee.