By Victor Ahiuma-Young
RIGHTS activists, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), has condemned the decision of the Federal Government to call off negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), saying the Federal Government was never involved in negotiations, but fruitless merry-go-round since the start of the strike seven weeks ago without taking any visibly positive step to resolve the issue.
ERC argued that the Federal Government so-called withdrawal from negotiation was part of governmentâ€™s propaganda stunt to create the impression that it was taking positive steps aimed at speedy resolution of the current imbroglio but for ASUUâ€™s belligerence, adding that the so-called negotiation from which the Federal Government announced its withdrawal did not exist except in the imagination of government spokespersons.
A statement by Messrs. Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Chinedu Bosah, National Coordinator and National Secretary of ERC respectively, threw its weight behind the demands of the all the unions currently on strike.
The statement read in part: â€œ the Federal government has no power under the law or constitution to amend any part of the agreement or to refrain from signing same. The Governing Council of any institution does not power to meddle into such a process because the federal government has an overriding responsibility over education policy and standard in the country.â€
â€œThe steps taken by the Federal government to turn over an agreement duly negotiated over a two year period by a negotiation committee duly authorized under the relevant labour law is condemnable. Equally, the refusal of government to sign an agreement reached through a negotiation it freely entered into is an evidence of government insensitivity to the plight of students and staff in the education sector.
We also condemn the impression being created by government that it really wants to resolve the issue but that the refusal of ASUU to suspend its strike action is affecting the process of resolution.
This is a lie because there would have been no strike in the first place if the federal government had signed the agreement. For us in the ERC, all steps taken by government so far are negative measures aimed at dodging the real issue of signing a mutual agreement freely negotiated by a re-negotiation committee it set up out of its own volition.
The Federal government has been beating about the bush instead of treading the path of honour and responsibility.â€
â€œThe Federal government has been going on a fruitless merry-go-round since the strike started 7 weeks ago without taking any visibly positive step to resolve the issue. Now, it has come back to the same spot it started from. As far as we are concerned, the purported withdrawal of federal government from its illegal and unilateral negotiation is good riddance to bad rubbish.
ASUU has rejected this form of negotiation and what government must do now is to sign the agreement reached at the Gamaliel Onosode-led re-negotiation committee so that ASUU can call its members back from the strike action and for academic activities to resume. We Nigerian students will not accept a situation where the federal government continues to dilly-dally on this issue while we waste away at home.
We support the demands of the all the staff unions on strike including ASUU, SSANU and NASU and call on the Federal government to sign and implement agreement with all these unions so that we can resume.â€