Moved by the biting effect of ongoing industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senate Chief Whip, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has offered some assistance to some union members.
The university teachers drawn from the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, had visited Kalu’s Igbere residence to seek his intervention to end the crisis.
Apart from seeking an end to the crisis, the group, led by Okoro Christopher Kalu, senior lecturer, also sought his assistance to cushion the effect of the economic hardship on their members as a result of ‘the no-work-no-pay’ imposed by the Federal Government against striking members of the union.
Since commencement of the strike in February, students have remained at home while ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, confirmed that none of its members has been paid since the union embarked on the industrial action six months ago.
However, speaking at Kalu’s residence, Christopher Kalu said the strike had brought untold hardship on them and their families and urged him to intervene.
Making reference to Abia State University (ABSU) when he was governor, Kalu told the gathering that the strike could have been avoided. He said the state university never went on strike throughout his eight year tenure. He alluded to the reason for the prompt payment of lecturers salaries, leave allowances, 13th month and other emoluments.
The Senate chief whip reiterated his earlier appeal to the Federal Government to resume payment of salary and said there was a need for the union and the Federal Government to reach a truce immediately for the benefit of students.
“We have been pushing for the strike to end. I also suggested that even if the strike continues, some salaries of the lecturers should be paid. When I was governor, Abia State University never went on strike for a single day for eight years. The only day they went on strike was when they engaged in a sympathy strike with the University of Ilorin and it was a warning strike.
“Then, I held a meeting with their leadership and I told them that I have given them everything they needed. I pay them 13th month salary, leave allowances, bonuses and you want to join a strike with a university that does not receive such?
“They apologised to me and went back to duty. That is the only attempt to strike in ABSU because I had an agreement with them. I told them there mustn’t be any strike and students must graduate immediately as at when due and we maintained that level.
“I sympathise with you all sincerely from my heart and because I am close to so many of you, we shall make sure before the end of this month, everyone gets back to school, we have spoken to the minister so that both parties can resolve this issue once and all.
“I think this issue should never have happened to our country. How I wish I was the minister, because I know and understand the meaning of Education. This was why when I was governor. I made sure education was free in this state and the teachers were promptly paid. So, none of the teachers engaged in side jobs or asked the students to buy unnecessary books. This made them concentrate on imparting knowledge into the students.
“As governor, Abia State University was one the best in the country. For six years running, the faculty of law from Abia State University produced the best law students in the Law School, Abuja. The same with our medical graduates.
“Today, the hospital I built in Aba, I’m not sure it is still existing. All the general hospitals I rebuilt from Isuikwuato, Isiala Ngwa to Ukwa, Abriba to Umunne Nnaeato have been abandoned.”
Responding, Christopher Kalu lauded the former governor concern for their plight and that of the students. He assured to convey Kalu’s message to their communities and prayed for God’s guidance and protection on the Senate chief whip.
He donated a bag of rice to each of the lecturers numbering over 90, a cattle and cash to the union.
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