By Oscarline nwumemenyi, Chris Ochayi
ABUJAâ€”STAFF Union of Universities including the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Non-Academic Staff Union, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, have accused the Federal Government of using divide-and-rule tactics to distract the unions in the fight for improved standards for the universities.
The unions said they have also rejected the unilateral awards of 40%, 20% and 20% to ASUU, NASU and SSANU respectively, adding that it was not a product of collective bargaining.
Speaking on behalf of the unions during a joint press briefing yesterday in Abuja , the ASUU President, Dr. Ukachukwu Awuzie, noted that officials of the Federal Government in their negotiation were trying to instigate the various unions against one another.
He said, â€œThe government has attempted to use divisive tactics by instigating parity war on our campuses. They have tried to create the impression that only ASUU is on strike, when it is clear that for almost two months, all the unions in nationâ€™s university system have gone on strike to protest the degeneration of quality and standards in the system.â€
Awuzie slammed the Minister of Labour, Princeâ€™s position that the unions should collect 40% award by government, stressing that the union was not begging for alms from the Federal Government.
He said, â€œWe are not beggars; in fact, it is an insult for the minister to say that we should collect what we are awarded for now. Even if we are awarded 2000%, we wonâ€™t accept since it is not a result of collective bargaining.â€
He blamed the government for insincerity and for stalling the negotiations, adding that the unions had not at any time backed out of any negotiations.
He said, â€œIt is ironical, but it is the Federal Government that is on strike on this matter, since they were the ones that pulled out of on-going negotiations. They just picked up one day and said they were backing out of the negotiations; they are on strike.â€
On the threat by students to disrupt the matches at the Under 17 World Cup to be hosted by Nigeria, the unionists insist that was the problem of the government to deal with.
According to Awuzie, â€œIt is clear we are the ones being threatened; the students are threatening the government that has failed them over and over. It is like a child who is crying to attract attention to his deprivation; they, too, want their lots to be bettered.â€
On her own part, however, the President of NASU, Mrs. Ladi Iliya, believed the students are being misled by government officials, even as she noted that the students were sensible enough and would not resort to violence to draw attention to their plight.
They, however, stressed that they had enjoyed the support and encouragement of the studentsâ€™ body who believed that the staff unions were fighting for the improvement of teaching and learning environment.
Awuzie said, â€œIn all the places we have been to talk about this matter, we keep getting responses from our students who urge us to keep fighting because they know we are fighting for their sakes.
â€œWe want to use this medium to solidarize and empathize with our students nationwide. They should understand that this struggle is to ensure that the university system in Nigeria is raised to the standard befitting of our dear country. As such, it is their struggle, too.â€
The staff unions also accused the government of peddling the misinformation on the constitutionality and non-constitutionality of the Federal government signing a collective bargaining agreement on behalf of the state governments that own universities.
â€œThe truth is that the agreement is directed towards addressing the issue of brain drain and the rot in the university system. It does not recommend benchmarks for each university to meet standards envisaged for the Nigerian university system,â€ Awuzie said.