By Dayo Adesulu, Elizabeth Uwandu & Kelechukwu Iruoma
THE National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has vowed to protest on August 21, should the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government fail to reach a compromise and call-off the ongoing strike. The association described the Federal Governments attitude toward the Education sector as sardonic and satanic.
Speaking with Vanguard yesterday, its Senate President, Comrade Taiwo Bamigbade, said that after due consultation with various Students’ Union Governments that constitute the Senate Arm of National Association of Nigerian Students, the Association has agreed to embark on a national protest.
He said, “When we commence the protest on Monday, we will not stop until ASUU and the Federal Government resolve the issue and call off the strike. We have agreed that all Students Union Governments in various institutions would join forces to begin the national protest if by Sunday, the Federal Government fails to reach a compromise with the leadership of ASUU.”
According to him, the Students Union Government President of each State would anchor the protest, adding: “We are resolute in our quest to secure and protect our future from being ruined. There is no going back in our struggle to emancipate Nigerian students from shackles of oppressions.”
Shackles of oppressions
However, Vanguard investigations revealed that students from the University of Lagos, UNILAG, and the Federal University of Technology, Akure, yesterday, had lectures which was against ASUU directives. In his reaction, the Chair, UNILAG-ASUU, Dr. Laja Odukoya said there was no teaching in UNILAG, adding that the two lecturers who tried to teach students were stopped and they complied. He, however, agreed that there were lectures on Tuesday, adding that UNILAG-ASUU officially joined the strike 12 noon Tuesday after their NEC meeting on campus.
Asked whether the two relevant ministers were involved before ASUU embarked on strike, Prof. Ogunyemi said “We wrote to all of them to inform them of the strike, we didn’t hear anything from them. Ministry of Education told us they were making efforts. You know it is when there is crisis that you notice Labour. They will be talking to the relevant MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies). It is when the discussion breaks down they will come to the forefront. We have not really had direct contact with Labour but we wrote them.”
ASUU defaulted —Ngige
However, the Minister of Labour and Employment, in a statement in Abuja, accused ASUU of going contrary to the laid down process as stipulated in the Trade Dispute Act on the declaration of strike, saying that there was supposed to be 15 days notice before declaring the action. Ngige, in the statement signed by the Deputy Director of Information in the ministry, Samuel Olowookere, urged ASUU to suspend the strike in the interest of the nation.
He said “It was on Monday, August 14, 2017 that the Office of the Minister received a letter dated August 13, 2017 from ASUU, that is, one full day after it commenced the strike.” The Minister noted that the letter was to inform the Federal Government that ASUU has started strike and not a declaration of intention to go on strike as contained in the Trade Dispute Act, 2004.
“The Federal Government, therefore, wishes to appeal to ASUU to consider students who are currently writing degree and promotion examinations, call off the strike and return to negotiation table. The Ministry of Labour and Emploment will ensure that a timeframe will be tied to negotiation this time around.” Ngige said “Babalakin Committee is ever ready to continue the negotiation, indeed, has all the necessary ingredients for fruitful social dialogue as well as adequate powers to negotiate and make recommendations to the Federal Government.”
Senate reacts: Meanwhile, the Senate has described as very sad and unfortunate, the indefinite nationwide strike declared by ASUU, promising that it would join hands with the Federal Government to resolve the problem. The Senate has, however, asked the Federal government to, through the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to as a matter of urgency, engage the leadership of ASUU as well as other stakeholders in the education sector that are involved in the imbroglio as a way of nipping the crisis in the bud in the interest of the Nigerian youths.
Speaking with Vanguard, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, noted that the Senate, as an institution, would intervene as soon as it resumes from its annual recess next month, September 19. Senator Abdullahi who described the development as unfortunate, said “the last time the Senate intervened, it brokered peace and stopped the strike. The Senate as an institution, as the representatives of the people of Nigeria will not be tired in intervening in such cases.”
Academic activities grounded in varsities
Feelers from Ambrose Alli University, Edo State, revealed that the ASUU chapter joined the strike on Wednesday. A student said as at Tuesday, the strike did not affect academic activities and the students were informed the institution would join the strike the next day. At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, there was compliance, according to Dr. John Ugwuanyi, a lecturer in Mass Communication.
He stated that some departments had complied while others were yet to. Ugwuanyi said “Those departments that are yet to comply are those whose students are still defending their final year projects or rounding off their examinations. Once the project defences are over, all activities will be grounded.”
In a statement communicated to students and made available to Vanguard by the Public Relations Officer of Federal University of Technology, Akure, Student’s Union, FUTASU, Ayomide Fowowe, he said: “The student’s union body, uses this medium to notify all students that ASUU has embarked on an indefinite strike, in which ASUU FUTA chapter has also joined. We are lagging behind and our examination is fast approaching. All we have to do is to make good use of this break and shouldn’t be carried away. There’s probability that the strike won’t last long and it is very possible we run the academic calendar as proposed earlier.”
Vivian Obaseki, a second year medical student of UNILAG said some group of lecturers stopped an event at the Multi Purpose Hall, saying they were agitating for their rights. “We were at the school for a seminar organized by Faculty of Science. But, the event was canceled as some lecturers came, chanting solidarity songs. One of them climbed the podium and told us all that the seminar will not hold, as they were fighting for their rights. Everybody left the hall with the assistance of security officers” said Obaseki.
Situation reports from Federal University of Technology Minna FUTMINNA show that it has joined the nationwide strike and also set up 14-man monitoring committee to monitor the compliance of its members. ASUU FUTMINNA chapter chairman, Dr. Attaihiru Ndanusa, confirmed that the branch had joined the strike and will stay off from classes until a counter directive from the national body.
Meanwhile, lecturers of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB University, Lapai, have been on strike along other lecturers in all tertiary institutions in the state for the past one month.