By Peter Okutu
Ebonyi State government Wednesday mandated authorities of the state university, EBSU, to drag the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to the National Industrial Court for rejecting the offer it made to pay CONUAS II to lecturers and staff of EBSU.
According to the government, the suit is intended to restrain ASUU from continuing the strike and compel it to resume work immediately.
Shedding more light on the decision of state government, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ebonyi State, Mr. Josy Eze, pointed out the decision was reached, following the recalcitrant and uncooperative attitude of ASUU since the strike began.
According to him, the offer rejected by ASUU, as recommended by the Agom Eze Committee set up by the state government, is intended to increase the monthly subvention of EBSU to N180 million, which entailed greater financial burden on the state government.
He regretted the negative impact of the strike on the institution, government and students, stressing that the state government was not privy to the agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government and so was not bound by the agreement.
His words: “While I do not wish to go into the details of the suit, I wish to inform you that the action is instituted against ASUU National with EBSU ASUU as co-defendants.
“Regrettably, in spite of the gesture of the government, borne out of its desire to enhance industrial harmony and to further its commitment to education, ASUU rejected the offer and insisted that Ebonyi State government must pay them CONUASS III which it agreed with the Federal Government last year.
“Since the industrial action began, Ebonyi State government, along with other South-East state governments, have made individual and collective efforts to resolve the problems but the leadership of ASUU has refused to co-operate with us to bring the strike to an end.”
Vanguard gathered that the amount ASUU EBSU is asking for to call off the strike is an estimated wage bill of N400 million monthly, but the government considers the demand impossible to meet, considering EBSU’s total staff strength of 2,665 and size of its monthly allocation from the federal government.
Reacting, Chairman of ASUU, Ebonyi State University, Dr. Emeka Nwankpu, pointed out that the state government was capable of paying the required remuneration demanded by lecturers, adding that their recent meeting with the University Council last Friday enabled them to re-emphasize that their position was for the state government to pay the amount stipulated in the 2009 agreement.
He said: “We are on strike because of government’s refusal to sign the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement and their reason is that they do not have money but we have also given them statistics of people who are implementing this agreement; people receiving less from federal allocation, compared to Ebonyi State, so they really have no reason for not implementing the agreement, whereas other states in the country are doing so comfortably.
“The University Council last Friday called a meeting of the joint union and they offered the 2008 version of the agreement and we told them well, that is not why we are striking. We are striking because of 2009 agreement.
“They offered us that of 2008 version but we rejected it. Anambra is almost at the apex, Imo State University is concluding their own agreement with their local ASUU and that means very soon, they may resume studies. The implication is that Ebonyi State University may continue striking.”