Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who have been on strike for six months, defied the ultimatum given to them by the Federal Government to resume academic activities yesterday or be sacked.
They vowed to continue the strike until government meets their demands. President Goodluck Jonathan, on his part, appealed to them to call off the strike even as the Supervising Minister for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, yesterday, summoned all Vice Chancellors of federal and state universities to a crucial meeting in Abuja tomorrow.
President Jonathan, while flagging-off the 2013 All Nigeria Judges’ Conference, which commenced at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, in Abuja yesterday, begged ASUU to call-off its strike that has kept Nigerian students at home for the past five months.
President Jonathan, whose speech was read by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, said: “While views may differ on the utility of industrial action as a means of advancing the collective interest of workers in the polity, it is an unassailable fact that labour and industrial harmony is sine qua non to the socio-economic development of any nation, Nigeria inclusive.
“This administration recognises and respects the right of workers, including the right to embark on industrial action, to press home their demand and we have taken concrete steps to address the grievances of ASUU. I, therefore, use this occasion to call on ASUU to call off its strike. With this, Nigeria’s quest to become one of the world’s 20 largest economies by the year 2020 cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of industrial disharmony.”
Following the expiration of the ultimatum for university lecturers to resume yesterday, Wike directed all Vice Chancellors of federal and state universities to converge in Abuja for a crucial meeting tomorrow.
Also invited to the meeting were members of the Implementation Monitoring Committee, IMC, in which ASUU has a representative. The Zonal Chairman of University of Abuja, UniAbuja, ASUU, Mr. Clement Chup, confirmed to Vanguard on phone that the Minister invited them to a meeting.
Meanwhile, over 250 lecturers of University of Abuja resumed yesterday in compliance with the Federal Government’s directive.
Although full academic work was yet to begin at the university, most of the lecturers were seen in their offices.
Few students of distance learning programmes were also seen at the lecture theatre waiting to take examinations, which were disrupted following the strike.
One of the lecturers, Yau Damagun, said: “250 lecturers have already signed the register which is a fair number, although some lecturers that are fanatic with unionism are still sitting on the fence.
“Those lecturers who are still adamant about resuming are benefitting from the strike. ”
At the University of Ibadan, lecturers refused to sign or open any register as directed by the Federal Government.
Though some of them were in their offices doing research works, they insisted they would never be intimidated by the empty threats from the government.
Academic activities still remained paralysed in all faculties in the institution yesterday.
Speaking on the strike, National Treasurer of ASUU, Dr. Ademola Aremu, said the Federal Government should document its claim that it had deposited N200 billion with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He said: “How can you call off the strike when there is nothing to show for it? The Federal Government is not qualified to call off the strike.
“Our union is waiting for the government to state all it has done in black and white so that we can be guarded by it and Nigerians can see that we have not gone on strike in vain. However, it is a serious insult on us for the government to be threatening us with signing a register or get sacked. We are not casual workers or labourers.”
At Modibbo Adama University of Technology, MAUTECH, Yola, the university’s ASUU Chairman, Mr. Augustine Ndaghu, said majority of the more than 300 members of the union in the university who attended the latest meeting voted overwhelmingly for continuation of the strike.
The Protocol and Information Officer of MAUTECH, Malam Mustafa Migawa, said forms had been sent to the various departments of the school to be filled by lecturers who wish to resume work.
He said: “I can’t say how many lecturers have filled the forms signifying their interest to resume work. We shall wait and see if the response of the lecturers is positive or not.’’
The ASUU Chairman of Adamawa State University, ADSU, Mubi, Mr. Molem Ishaku, on his part said lecturers in the institution had also agreed to continue the strike.
He said: “In the first place, it was not the government that told us to go on strike and therefore it should not insist that we must go back to work.’’
The story is the same at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, as the lecturers also resolved to continue with the six-month-old strike.
The ASUU Chairman in the institution, Dr. Faruk Tambuwal, said: “Our position on the strike remains the same and the strike continues.”
In Kano, lecturers at Bayero University, Kano, BUK, defied Federal Government’s directive to return to work.
None of the lecturers resumed work at the old and new site of the university and most offices remained locked.
A security guard at the Faculty of Arts and Islamic Studies, who spoke on condition of anonymity at the new site said none of the lecturers reported to work as at 11 a.m.
When contacted on phone, the ASUU Chairman, Dr. Mahmoud Lawal, said the lecturers would not return to work until their demands were met.
He added that “government did not order the closure of the universities, so how can it order it to reopen?
At Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the story was the same.
All the lecture halls and offices remained closed and no lecturer was seen at the Samaru and Kongo campuses.
When contacted, Dr. Mohammed Kabir-Aliyu, the Chairman of ASUU, ABU chapter, said the union did not call off the ongoing strike.
He said: “The Federal Government cannot give us directive to go back. We will not resume work until the national body directs us to do so.’’
At the University of Maiduguri, UNIMAID, lecturers stayed away from school and lecture theatres remained closed.
Dr. Musa Abdullahi, the university’s ASUU Chairman, said in a statement in Maiduguri that the strike would continue until the demands of the union were met.
Malam Ahmed Mohammed, the institution’s Chief Informa-tion Officer, said the authorities were waiting to hear from ASUU before taking a decision.
Lecturers at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi, ATBU, also refused to resume to work yesterday.
Alhaji Zailani Bappa, the Principal Public Relations Officer of the university, said the lecturers were expected to resume tomorrow and not yesterday.
He said the decision to ask the lecturers to resume on Wednesday came up after the Senate held a meeting on December 5.
Lecturers at the University of Jos, UNIJOS, also refused to resume work yesterday as directed by the Federal Government.
Although the institution’s management had directed deans of faculties and heads of departments to open registers which lecturers who agree to resume work must sign, most lecturers were not around.
The three universities in Ondo State, yesterday, resumed normal academic activities in compliance with the Federal Government’s directives.
Mr. Adebanjo Adegbenro, Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, said it complied with government’s directive to university lecturers.
He said the institution had resumed since last week and everything had been put in place to ensure that normal academic activities resume this week.
At Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, the PRO, Mr. Victor Akinpelumi, said both students and lecturers resumed at the school two weeks ago.
The Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa, did not join the strike.
The institution’s PRO, Mr. Yinka Adekalu, said the school did not have any union in place “and since our lecturers are not members of any union, we have no problems.”
Dr.Adesola Nasir, who is the South-West coordinator of the Union that comprises University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Lagos State University, University of Agriculture Abeokuta and Tai Solarin University of Education said that they would continue their strike as long as the government refuses to honour the agreements already reached with the union.
At the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, MOUA Abia State, the strike was still on.
ASUU-MOUA had a congress yesterday to reaffirm that the strike was still on.