By Dayo Johnson
Akure – THE National Executive Council (NEC) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities , ASUU today declared a total and indefinite strike seven months after the Federal Government failed and refused to sign the agreement reached between it and the Deacon Gamaliel Onosode led Government negotiation teams.
Describing the turn of eventÂ asÂ painful, the Union after a two-day meeting at the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA said however that â€œthe strike can be as short as possible if government respects and signs the agreement reachedÂ with the body.
Addressing a Press conference after the meeting, the Union’s President Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie declared that â€œthe otherwise avoidable strike action is to compel government to take the path of honour for once and sign the agreement with the Union reached after more than two years of painstaking and scientific negotiation.
Awuzie pointed out that â€œSince December 2008, when the negotiation between FGN-ASUU Negotiating teams was completed, ASUU, despite having persuaded its members to exercise patience for over two years once again resolved to do its best to avoid a crisis.
â€œBut government did not treat ASUU patience and restraints with sincerity.We have embarked on this strike because the situation because the situation had remained unchanged since the end of the two week warning strike on May 31 2009.
â€œWe keep hearing actions that are entirely foreign to the collective bargaining process: Government setting up a technical committee on an agreement without reference to the negotiating team, a ministerial committee set up with terms of reference that would entirely nullify the essence of the negotiated agreement.
â€œThere were even attempts to unilaterally change the agreement on the condition of service. There was the false propaganda in the Newspapers declaring N78 b as the requirement of ASUU agreement.”
â€œOur members have come to the conclusion that over two and a half years of patience is enough. They feel betrayed, duped and do not want to suffer ant more psychologically or moral trauma.”
â€œNEC considered carefully the views of the branches and resolved that ASUUs major concern in engaging in such a long, painstaking negotiation â€“ the revitalization of the University system, will not be compromised.”
â€œIn view of government government failure to sign te agreement reached by the negotiating teams, NEC after a thorough review of the total situation resolved that all ASUU branches shall embarked upon a total and indefinite strike until government signs the agreement with ASUU.”
â€œFor the avoidance of doubt, it is the government that has forced us to embark upon this strike. We have done all our best to avoid it. It can be as short as possible if government respects and signs the agreement reached with ASUU by governments own negotiating team.”
â€œWe appeal to the public, parents, our students, patriotic groups and individuals to appeal to government to sign and implement the agreement reached by the negotiating teams. The ultimate consequences of not doing so should be blamed on government and not ASUU.”
â€œIndeed this action was clearly avoidable. Government need not also prolong it in the interest of students, their parents and our country. Should government prolong it government should also bear the responsibility.”
Also, the President stated that the nation needs over 20,000 lecturers in the 93 Universities nationwide compared to the existing 13,000.
Awuzie denied that N78bn was required for the negotiation just as he queried the N40bn recently approved for the construction of silos across the country.
He chided the government for â€œgetting its priorities wrong hence the decay in our educational system adding that â€œwhat do we need the new silos for what has happened to the existing ones.”
â€œASUU is not asking for N78bn it is all propaganda all we are saying is that there is need to reposition the University system to compete with International standard, check brain drain, halt infrastructural decay and fund research works.
The President kicked against the payment of fees in public Universities saying that thatÂ greater majority of the less privileged would be denied education.