“We will not be intimidated!” -ASUU
The Federal Government has given the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) one week ultimatum to call off the ongoing strike or face expulsion.
The acting Minister of Education Nyesom Wike gave the directive on Thursday 28th November 2013 in Abuja, while speaking with media representatives.
The government, in what has been described as a ‘military statement’, on Thursday, directed all vice chancellors and academic staff of federal universities to “resume on or before December 4 or automatically cease to be staff of the universities”.
Mr Robert Clarke said that the statement showed that both parties did not reach a conclusive agreement in the last meeting between the union and the President, Goodluck Jonathan.
“They gave the impression to the whole world that they have reached an agreement. There is something wrong with the agreement. They are not ordinary workers and for them to make a somersault something must be wrong somewhere,” he said on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, on Friday.
After the meeting with the president, there were indications that the union may call off the strike, but the union, some days back, wrote to the Federal Government, demanding that the payment of the arrears of four months must be guaranteed before they resume.
Mr Clarke blamed both the government and the striking union for not reaching a conclusive agreement in the meeting, describing the continuing strike as a disgrace.
“For the union members to have agreed to resume without taking up such a vital issue as arrears of salaries tells much about their leadership
“We are in a democracy and the right to go on strike is guaranteed by the constitution. And it does not state that if a worker goes on strike, he forfeits the salaries for the period he is on strike,” he explained.
The lawyer stressed that the students were the ones suffering and emphasised the need for both parties to stop what he described as a ‘hide-and-seek’ game and come out plain with what their problems were.
“Four months in the life of a student is almost like a session,” Mr. Clarke said.
The striking union, insisting that the strike would continue, said that the government’s threat to sack the lecturers if they refuse to resume on December 4 would not frighten them.
A former leader of the Trade Union, Peter Esele, said that the sack threat was unrealistic and would cause brain drain if implemented.
“If you sack all the lecturers, where will you get the ones that will fill the positions? This will further bridge the divide between the government and ASUU,” he stressed.
The union embarked on a nationwide strike on July 1, demanding improved funding of the institutions to meet international standard.
One of the Nigerian government’s transformation agenda is the commitment to improving the standard of education but critics have said that the development in the education sector showed no sign of commitment from the government.