By our reporters
ABUJA — As the deadline given by Federal Government to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to call off the six month-old strike or be sacked expires tomorrow, several universities have opened registers to be signed by the lecturers even as the leadership of ASUU insisted that the strike will continue.
Lectures resume at AAUA
At Ondo state-owned AdekunleAjasinUniversity, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) lectures resumed, yesterday, but few lecturers and students were seen in the lecture theaters. Lectures were held in the Department of History and the Faculty of Education as time table for the session has been released by the university authority. The university, in a reminder, by the Registrar, Mr. Bamidele Olotu confirmed the resumption of lectures. Olotu said in a statement that: “In line with an earlier circular to all students on resumption for the second semester 2012/2013 academic session, all students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko in particular, their parents and the public in general are hereby informed that commencement of lectures on Monday, December 2, 2013, remains sacrosanct as announced. It added that “registration had indeed commenced in accordance with the university approved academic calendar.”
Some of the academic staff who spoke with the Information Unit of the university but would not want their names in print confirmed that they had resumed for work and that they attended the faculty board meetings held on Monday and Tuesday last week. Some of the students who also spoke said they were happy about the development. They urged ASUU to cooperate with the Management and expressed optimism that lectures would begin in full swing as announced.
ESUT lecturers, students back to school
Students and lecturers of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) have also returned to school following a directive by the school authorities. The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, correspondent who monitored the situation at the Enugu and Agbani campuses of the university reports that the students were in their various departments exchanging pleasantries and checking the notice boards.
At the faculties of engineering and management sciences in the Enugu campus, students in their numbers were copying the second semester examination timetables pasted on the notice boards.
The lecturers, on the other hand, held a meeting with the governing council of the university at the Agbani campus on the resumption of work.
Addressing the lecturers, chairman of the council, Chief Chilo Offiah, appealed to them to sheathe their swords and return to classes in the interest of the students. Offiah thanked the lecturers for attending the meeting and assured them that the council would do all it could to ensure the improvement of their welfare.
The executive members of the ESUT branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which called the strike, did not attend the meeting.
It was however a different story at the Enugu campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka as only a few students and lecturers were on campus. NAN reports that the few lecturers were in their various offices discussing or reading while the non-academic staff members were busy working. Some of the lecturers who spoke on conditions of anonymity said they were waiting for directives from both the school authorities and the ASUU branch.
“We heard on the radio that we should resume classes but we have not received any circular to that effect,” some of them said. Only the medical students who did not join the strike were fully on campus.
Lecturers shun registers at UI
At the University of Ibadan, ASUU members resolved not to sign any register as directed by the government. The lecturers took the decision during a congress held in the institution yesterday.
This came as all lecture rooms in various faculties were under lock and key. The campus was a ghost of itself as few people were seen moving around. Apart from the fact that students feel the government’s order would not help the face-off, the advice given by the academic union to parents that they should not expose their wards to danger may have been adhered to by most parents.
Speaking with newsmen, the chairman, UI chapter of ASUU, Dr Olusegun Ajiboye said the union remained on course at ensuring that government funds public universities.
Though, he stated that the union respects the office of Mr President, he alleged that Dr. Doyin Okupe and others in his government were trying to ridicule the office of the President through their unguarded utterances against the union.
Uniben students stay away to honour Iyayi
At the University of Benin, in spite of announcement by the university authorities that academic activities would resume today, there were no signs of resumption in the university yesterday, as both the Ekenwa and Ugbowo campuses were empty.
Students of the university said they would not resume until the remains of ProfessorFestus Iyayi who they held in high esteem is buried. Vanguard also learnt that ASUU members in both UNIBEN and the state owned AmbroseAlliUniversity, Ekpoma were not ready to resume duties today.
ASUU chairman, UNIBEN chapter, Dr. Tony Monye when contacted said they were busy preparing for the burial of Professor Festus Iyayi even as he added that ASUU members would not resume duties.
No lecturers at Ambrose Ali University
Meanwhile, at the AmbroseAlliUniversity, Ekpoma, there were no signs that the university would soon re-open as no student was at the two campuses of the university at Emuado and the main campus. A lecturer who spoke with Vanguard on condition of anonymity said there has been no directive from the state government for the re-opening of the institution. He said the lecturers would continue to stay at home until ASUU leaders give the directive to go back to work.
Lecturers shun directives at Unijos, Abu, FUT Minna, and others
At the University of Jos, the governing council directed heads of departments to open attendance registers for academic staff. Registrar of the university, Danjuma Jilly-Dandam in a statement yesterday, also requested departments to publish lecture time tables by today (Tuesday) to signal the resumption of academic activities and keep daily compliance registers for academic staff that report for work.
However, despite the directive, lecturers were not visible at both the Bauchi Road and Naraguta campuses of the institution as only the non-academic staff members were seen in their offices.
Students are also yet to return to school as hostels remained largely desolate when Vanguard visited, yesterday.
The situation was the same at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, AbiaState, the two campuses of the Bayero University Kano, Federal University of Agriculture, FUT, Minna, AhmaduBelloUniversity, Zaria, and GombeStateUniversity as the lecturers and students have shunned the directive to resume
ASUU vows to continue strike
Meanwhile, the National President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Fagge who briefed journalists in Abuja on the position of the union following the ultimatum, said the Federal Government was free to open all the federal universities in the country but all the members of ASUU would not go back to work unless government met all their demands.
According to Fagge, “we shall bow only to what we as academics are convinced will serve the interest of Nigeria and its people, no matter their ethnic, religious or class origins. This is where we stand. We shall never be cowed. Since the issuance of the union’s response to the said letter, the salvos that have been coming out, allegedly from the Minister of Education makes one to wonder whether the person that is charged with the responsibility of superintending over Nigeria’s education system has the wherewithal to handle such a vital national assignment.
“It is my intention therefore, to clear the air on the rumours, lies and mischief that are milling out of government circles (especially from Ministry of Education and National Universities Commission) all with the intent of misleading the Nigerian public.
“I will establish, to all discerning minds that ASUU did not bring any ‘new conditions’ as claimed by the Minister of Education Nyesom Wike and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Mr. Doyin Okupe. Rather, it is the government that is trying to avoid taking responsibility.”
Fagge stated that ASUU had no role in closing and opening of universities in Nigeria, rather it could withdraw its services which he said was the right of every worker.
He said: “The fact is very clear that our members are not going back to work and it is part of the sacrifice we are making that our universities meet up with other universities in the world.”
Our agreement with FG — ASUU
Dr. Fagge said in the agreement, the Federal Government promised to provide N1.1 trillion in the next six years starting from 2013 with N200 billion, 2014, N220billion, 2015 N220billion, 2016 N220 billion, 2017 N220billin and 2018 N220 billion, for the revitalization of the University system. It was further agreed that a dedicated revitalisation account should be opened at Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, by the Federal Government and fund would be paid into the account on quarterly basis from which the universities will draw.
The ASUU President said after the November 4, 2013 meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan and after the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Kano, the union communicated to the Federal Government on the agreement. He said ASUU also asked the Federal Government to include non-victimization clause and that a new Memorandum of Understanding should be signed by a representative of government, preferably the Attorney General of the Federation and a representative of ASUU, with President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC as witness.
He denied speculation that 60 per cent of ASUU branches voted for the unconditional suspension of strike and 40 per cent voted against it.
Fagge said instead, out of the 52 branches of ASUU, 48 branches which was roughly 92 per cent supported suspending the strike only if certain conditions were met while four branches advised the suspension of the strike before pursuing the implementation of certain conditions.
Sack threat, a tragedy
He continued: “For a Minister of Education to issue threat of sack of academic staff is a tragedy of huge proportion for Nigeria and Africa. While ASUU has been struggling for conditions in which Nigerian students would benefit from, the Minister of Education is thinking of a thoughtless mass sack as a solution to the problems arising from Government’s non-implementation of an Agreement reached with ASUU as if Nigerian rulers have made no intellectual progress since Abacha.
“To be clear; Nigerian lecturers — from graduate assistants to professors, are not begging anybody for jobs. It is now well known that since 2003, successive governments have told Nigerian people, repeatedly, that the solution to Nigeria’s social and economic crisis is to kill public economic and educational institutions and institute the reign of private control of the economy and education, whereas the constitution of Nigeria states clearly that the commanding heights of Nigeria’s economy shall be publicly owned.
“From all indications, the Minister of Education, on behalf of the present Government, is set to carry out in the sphere of education what one of its predecessors did with universities, Transcorp and the Nigeria Airways.
“The way is being paved for privatization of education. Academic staff have a duty to defend the right of Nigerians to sound public education. To succumb to the present threat by Minister of Education on behalf of Government is to give-up on Nigeria. We in the academic profession have no such intention.
ASUU and Nigeria’s past leaders
“We resisted Abacha’s dictatorship. We refused to succumb to Obasanjo/IMF attempt to weaken public in favour of private universities. We convinced Yar’adua to keep faith with interests of Nigeria’s youth and desist from privatising education. We remember Obasanjo’s position that the solution to ASUU resistance is to flood Nigeria with private universities.
“In spite of all these, stretching from ASUU’s principled resistance since the military, we have noticed with disgust how easy it is for ministers and government to take refuge in political blackmail. We shall never succumb to this. Our country is our union’s constituency”.
The ASUU president said instead of the Minister to respond to their letter which expressed understanding of their resolution on the November 4, 2013, meeting with President Jonathan, he chose to go public accusing ASUU of making new demands.
On the allegation that ASUU was sponsored by the opposition political parties against the Federal Government, he said, “lot of people have asked me this question, am I a politician? ASUU is non partisan, non religious, non ethnic and tribal organisation, we are interested in addressing the problems of this country.
“Politicians are the people that are compounding the problems of this country so how can we be influenced by any political party? ASUU is a trade union of high intellectual people, so no political party can influence or sponsor us.”