The present strike may last up to 5years if FG remains adamant - ASUU

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Ilohzidane

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ASUU protests hit Ile-Ife, Calabar, Osogbo, Ibadan. From seminar halls and boardrooms
where talks seem to have collapsed,
university teachers have moved their
battle for better education to the
streets.
But, the police are stopping them from holding rallies and marches to
convince the public that their four-
month old action is right.
In Calabar, the police yesterday
stopped a planned protest by lecturers
of the University of Calabar (UNICAL) and the Cross River University.
But the lecturers addressed a rally on
the UNICAL campus.
University of Ibadan (UI) lecturers had
a town hall meeting to sensitise the
people to the strike. In Ile-Ife, Osun State, Obafemi
Awolowo University lecturers marched
on the streets, getting to the palace of
the Ooni of Ife. They urged him to
pravail on the government to
implement the 2009 agreement it signed with the Academic Staff Union
of Universities (ASUU), without which
the strike would continue.
President Goodluck Jonathan said
during last month’s Presidential Chat
that the government cannot fully implement the agreement, especially
the financial aspect, because doing so
would force a shutdown of other
departments.
The Nigeria Labour Congrees (NLC),
also yesterday, said although it would not call out workers on a solidarity
strike with the lecturers, it would hold
a meeting in Kaduna tomorrow to take
a stand on the way forward.
No fewer than 200 policemen, most of
them heavily armed, stopped ASUU members from carrying out an
enlightenment walk in Calabar.
The walk, which was organised by the
UNICAL and Cross River University of
Technology (CRUTECH) branches of
ASUU, was to take off from the UNICAL gate at 7am and go through some
streets of Calabar, but the policemen
ensured the teachers did not leave the
campus
The policemen said they were acting
on “orders from above”. ASUU Chairman Dr James Okpiliya said:
“Our union is law abiding. We wrote to
the police and other security agencies
on our intention of walking the streets
in pursuance of our cause to put the
records straight. “Many groups have been walking the
streets, giving people the wrong
impression about the situation. We just
want to put the records straight. The
police are telling us that they have
orders from above not to let us walk the streets of Calabar. It is a shame.
You can all see the hypocrisy of
government.
“They allowed youth and market
women but they would not let us
academics, peace loving people. We would remain resolute. No amount of
provocation would stop us.”
Okpiliya went on: “We are not on
strike because of our salaries. We are
fighting for our students and the
terrible conditions of our university. Most of our science students do not
know the difference between Bunsen
burner and a stove. They don’t even
know the chemicals.
“The Tertiary Education Trust Fund
(TETFUND) today has become a main funding source of our universities, but
this is not to be so. TETFUND is only an
intervention agency. Government has
bailed out banks and even Nollywood,
but not our universities.
“The strike would continue as long as the government remains adamant. The
President said after all, the strike in
Ghana lasted two years, so that means
this one can continue even up to five
years.
“It is a shame for the President to say the strike is political. The strike is not
political. We are fighting for the good
of our people. If there is anything
political about this it is by him
Jonathan. Let him implement the
agreement and if the strike continues then he can say it is political. Any
government that does not pay
attention to the education sector is a
dead government.”
The Chairman of ASUU, CRUTECH
branch, Dr Nsing Ogar, said the Federal Government must honour the
agreement.
A former president of ASUU and
renowned author, Prof Festus Iyayi,
said a government that does not
respect agreements is calling for anarchy.
He said: “This is the final struggle. Even
if it takes 10 years, the students
should know we are struggling on
their behalf. A day would come when
the police would join us. A day would come when we would not care
whether the police would stop or not.
The state has failed.”
Another lecturer from UNICAL said: “If
the strike is called off today,
everybody will be worse off for it. People are not looking at the issues;
they are just saying open the school,
let the children graduate. Let them go
to school. They are not bothered
about the quality of education they are
getting. In the future, whatever we say the government will never take us
seriously.”
OAU chapter Chairman Prof. Peter
Akinola, who led the protest, urged
the Federal Government to accede to
ASUU’s demands to enable the union suspend the industrial action.
Addressing residents at the palace of
the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade,
Akinola said the education sector
deserved a better deal.
A member of the union, Prof. Gbolahan Babalola, said protest was to
show the concern of ASUU for
undergraduates who had stayed at
home for months.
He urged traditional rulers and other
stakeholders to resolve the impasse. The Sarun Oodua, Chief Adekola
Adeyeye, who represented the Ooni,
praised ASUU for the peaceful conduct
and show of concern for students.
Adeyeye said that the Ooni
understood that education was the best legacy that any parent or
government could bequeath to any
child.
He promised that the union’s message
would be relayed to the traditional
ruler. The OAU lecturers moved round major
streets of Ile-Ife. Osun State University
teachers staged their rally at the newly
built Freedom Square near Old Garage
in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
The Ile-Ife rally, which kicked off from the Oduduwa Hall of the OAU caused a
traffic gridlock for many hours in the
ancient town.
Osun State University branch Chairman
Dr. Joseph Abiona was worried over
the misinformation being dished out to Nigerians by the Federal
Government as reason for the strike.
The NLC said it was in the process of
mediating between the Federal
Government and ASUU.
Oyo State NLC Chairman Comrade Bashiru Olarewaju spoke at a town
hall meeting organised by ASUU to
review the strike. The meeting was
held at the Trenchard Hall of the
University of Ibadan (UI).
At the Town Hall meeting were hundreds of people, including civil
society groups’ members, politicians,
the clergy, traders who were
presented with slide of the NEEDS
ASSESSMENT REPORT of 2009 .
The NLC, according to Olarewaju , will meet tomorrow in Kaduna to take a
decisive action on the ASUU strike.
He said: “The government and some
other people have been trying to
undermine the power, the influence
and the ability of each group that can salvage this nation from collapse . And
let me say this, that NLC has not been
quiet. No, many people will want the
NLC to go on strike. No; we will not go
on strike on ASUU for now. But,
anything can happen after Wednesday. This is because we have
more than 40 affiliates. If an affiliate of
NLC is in crisis and we now bring the
entire workforce to join the strike, the
train of the nation will not move
forward. What we do in most cases is to mediate. ASUU is an affiliate of the
NLC. ASUU is our partner. We will work
together ,” the NLC chair said.
Prof. Remi Raji, Dean, Faculty of Arts,
UI, said: “The way forward is for the
government to look at the NEEDS ASSESSMENT report, which was
presented to the government in
November, 2012.
“In the next few days, it will be one
year and nothing has been done of
the 189 recommendations and we are saying that it is very crucial for
government to deal with it squarely
for the future of our children and our
nation because a country that does
not develop its own capacity within, to
develop its own education standard to world class quality, cannot claim to be
a giant of Africa, cannot claim to have
a clean bill of economic health . This is
the issue.”
UI chapter Chairman Dr. Olusegun
Ajiboye said the appeal by President Jonathan to be patriotic is not needed
but action and implementation of the
agreement reached with the union.
He said it was sad that a President who
claimed that corruption is not Nigeria’s
problem can watch a Minister buy bullet proof vehicles for N255million,
yet claiming there is no money to fund
education.
He berated the President for speaking
out publicly on the ongoing strike
close to four months after it began, maintaining that he has not been
patriotic and sensitive enough to the
needs of the majority of Nigerians.
He said: “Will it have been possible for
Mr. President to be quiet if his children
are in one of our public institutions and be at home for four months?
“How many years of appeal will make
Mr. President implement a four year
old agreement? The truth is we are
tired of appeal. We need action. “
The Chairman of ASUU, Niger Delta University (NDU), Wilberforce Island,
Bayelsa State, Dr. Beke Sese, said the
strike is to save the universities from
collapse.
He maintained that the strike had no
political undertone and not targeted at Jonathan or his administration.
Sese told reporters in Port Harcourt,
the Rivers State capital, that the
industrial action was to protest the
deplorable condition of public
universities. “Imputing political motive to the strike
is a calculated attempt by some
persons to deploy propaganda
gimmicks to the cause of the university
teachers, in order to divert attention
from the real issues that informed the strike,” Sese said, adding:
“When the current Chairman of the
Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega,
was ASUU president, the members did
not compromise, when there was similar strike, during the regime of the
late Gen. Sani Abacha.
“This is the first time that ASUU
members have embarked on a
protracted strike, which centres on
funding of the universities and improvement of the infrastructure. The
funds so far released by the Federal
Government are grossly inadequate.
The 2009 agreement must be fully
implemented.”


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