LAGOS—As the indefinite strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, enters its second day, activities on campuses have been paralysed as students vacate hostels. Helpless students were seen, yesterday, in many campuses carrying their bags and baggage moving to motor parks to their various states of residence. Many of the students, who spoke with our correspondents, decried the strike, adding that they were preparing for examinations when it came.
The students’ lamentation came as the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, and his counterpart in Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, were yesterday, locked in a crucial meeting in Abuja over the ongoing strike. This is even as the Senate and House of Representatives said the strike would be resolved as soon as possible, so that students could return to school. However, many students who would have stayed behind on campus to study for the examination were compelled to go home due to the indefinite strike. During visits to some campuses, revealed that not only did the industrial action affect undergraduates, it also affected people doing businesses on campuses.
Labour, Education ministers meet
According to sources, the meeting between the ministers is to review the strike, with a view to coming out with a common position on how it could handled. The meeting, which was earlier slated for 1noon at the Minister of Labour’s office,was later shifted at the instance of Adamu to a secret location at press time. After the meeting, Mallam Adamu Adamu refused to grant press interview, stating that he was not authorised to speak with the press on the matter.
We’re negotiating, ASUU didn’t follow due process —FG
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 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 had 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 the negotiation table. “The Ministry of Labour and Employment will ensure that a time frame will be tied to negotiation this time around.”
We followed due process— ASUU
But ASUU dismissed Ngige’s claim, saying both ministers were appropriately notified of the strike before it was declared on Monday. National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the two ministries were formally informed, stressing that while the Minister of Labour and Employment did not do anything about it, the Minister of Education replied the union that he was making efforts towards resolving the contentious issues. Asked whether the two relevant ministers were involved before ASUU embarked on strike, Ogunyemi said: “We wrote to inform all of 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 that they will come to the forefront. We have not really had direct contact with labour but we wrote them.”
Senate, Reps react
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, described as sad and unfortunate the indefinite nationwide strike declared by ASUU, promising that it would join hands with the Federal Government to resolve the problem. It asked the Federal Government to, through the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, urgently engage the leadership of ASUU as well as other stakeholders in the education sector involved in the imbroglio as a way of nipping the crisis in the bud in the interest of Nigerian youths. In an interview, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said the Senate would intervene as soon as it resumed from its annual recess on September 19. On its part, the House of Representatives expressed concern over the strike, saying it was an ill wind that would blow no one no good, either on the side of government or ASUU. Spokesman of the House, Abdulrazak Namdas, said the lawmakers felt concerned and appealed to ASUU and the government to explore the option of dialogue to resolve the issue in the interest of the nation.
ERC backs ASUU, urges govt to honour agreement
Reacting to the ongoing strike, advocacy group, Education Rights Campaign, ERC, has thrown its weight behind it and called on the Federal Government to immediately meet the lecturers’ demands. ERC said it was unacceptable that a government that buys exotic cars for lawmakers, finances the outrageously-expensive treatment of President Muhammadu Buhari in London and guarantees insanely luxurious lifestyle for political office holders, is unable to fund public education and meet the needs of academic staff. Its National Coordinator, Mr. Hassan Soweto, called on parents and students to rally round ASUU to make government fulfil its responsibility towards public education. Soweto said: “The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has once again embarked on a total and indefinite nationwide strike. We, Education Rights Campaign, fully back this indefinite strike action and calls on government to immediately meet the demands to avoid a situation where students waste away at home for months.”
FG confirms negotiation with lecturers
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday, confirmed that it was having talks with the ASUU. While speaking to newsmen in Abuja,Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs. Chinenye Ihuoma, said negotiations were ongoing between the Federal Government and the union on the issues arising from the 2009 agreement and the MoU of 2013. She said: “If it is on ASUU, just know that the FG/ASUU renegotiation 2009 is ongoing with the government team under the leadership of Dr. B. O Babalakin (SAN).’’
Academic activities grounded in varsities
Feelers from Ambrose Alli University, Edo State revealed that the ASUU chapter will join the strike today. A student said as at yesterday, the strike has not affected academic activities but said students were informed the institution would join the strike today. In University of Nigeria, Nsukka, there is compliance, according to Dr. John Ugwuanyi, a lecturer in Mass Communication. He stated that some departments have complied while some are yet to. He said departments yet to comply were those students were still defending their final year projects, having rounded off examinations. A statement communicated to students and made available 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 Futarians that ASUU has embarked on an indefinite strike, in which ASUU FUTA chapter has also joined.” Oyewunmi Tobiloba, a Masters student in University of Lagos, Akoka said the strike had affected him deeply as all academic activities had been suspended. He said: “I am supposed to end my programme by September but until undergraduates finish their exams, I can’t do mine. National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, will have to reschedule its activities also to accommodate students who the strike will affect. All that has been planned has now been altered.”
Lecturers disrupts seminar in UNILAG
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. She said: “This morning (yesterday) I was at the school for a seminar organised by Faculty of Science. But, the event was cancelled as some lecturers came, chanting solidarity songs. “One of them climbed the podium and told us that the seminar will not hold, as they were fighting for their rights. Everybody left the hall with the assistant of security officers.”
Situational reports at Federal University of Technology Minna FUTMINNA shows that it has joined the strike and also set up 14-man monitoring committee. The local branch Monday set up a 14-man committee to monitor the compliance of its members to the national strike declared on Monday. ASUU FUT chapter chairman Dr Attaihiru Ndanusa confirmed that the branch had joined the strike saying and we will stay off from classes until a counter directive from our national body. The development has led to the suspension of all semester examinations scheduled to take off yesterday. Meanwhile, lecturers of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB University, Lapai had been on strike along other lecturers in all Tertiary Institutions in the state in the past one month.