Two civil societies, the Nigerian Project Initiative (NPI) and the Initiative to Save Democracy (ISD) have threatened to mobilise other civil society groups for a showdown against the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over its decision to shut lecture halls until its demand for payment of six months salaries while its members were on strike is accepted by the Federal Government.
In a joint statement, they expressed outrage on insistence of the lecturers to keep the students at home over their demand for money that they did not work for.
“ASUU has lost it this time and we dare say that if by this week that ASUU sticks on to its selfish demands, we will be compelled to lay siege to ASUU offices across the country, given that all men of good conscience are against ASUU,” Mohammed Umar Salihu, chairman of NPI and Akinloye James, ISD chairman said in a statement.
The statement read in part: “The demand by ASUU to be paid for the months its members were on strike is hollow, self-centred and vexatious. It is particularly provoking that other unions in the academic community pursuing almost the same goals have decided to go back to work but ASUU members rather than follow suit are demanding payment for work that they did not do.
“Which employer does that? If for example the government were to heed them, would that not be a recipe for disaster as NASU and SSANU which have agreed to go back to work would now resort to strike to demand the same salaries that they forfeited during the strike?”
“It is a rule in industrial relations that unions keep a strike fund and ASUU through its president has admitted that they have been paying their union members. So, it is thus apparent that ASUU by its demand is now seeking double pay for its members for work not done.”
“For the sake of our students who have missed out on account of the strike, we expect ASUU to rush back to work at this time and look forward towards repairing the damage that has been done through the strike instead of this resort to financial blackmail,” the two groups said.
However, chairman of the University of Lagos branch of ASUU, Dr.Dele Ashiru, has said the union would not succumb to blackmail over the Federal Government’s threat of no-work-no-pay.
Ashiru let this out during a live interview monitored on Arise TV programme yesterday, with a plea that Nigerians should beg the Federal Government to do the needful. He said the last salary increase for lecturers was in 2009, stressing that if after 14 years such workers were now asking for a pay rise, the demand shouldn’t pose a challenge to the government.
‘‘What a responsible government should do after 14 years of bringing to the table a proposal for a pay rise was to come to the roundtable and discuss with ASUU instead of organising press conferences to discredit Union, throw banters and ride rough shots with the best brains in the country. Certainly a lot needs to be desired from this Government.’’
He said no amount should be too much for a serious country to invest in its education because such country stands to benefit a lot from the investment. He said it is worrisome that the quality of education in the country has fallen below standard to the point that Nigerians were sending their children to universities in Ghana and lately to Ukraine.
The don lamented that the amount of forex exchange used by Nigerians to fund foreign education was taking a toll on the economy. On the decision of NASU and SSANU to return to work, Ashiru said ASSU didn’t call the strike because it wants to feel good in the eyes of NASU, SSANU or NANS, saying the union is sensitive to the plight of the students but the strike action was to save the university system from imminent collapse.
He disclosed that students are unwilling to become university teachers. “If the older lecturers quit the stage today, who are the ones to take over from them? As scholars we are futuristic and don’t think about the immediate. The government allowed this strike to drag for six months. “Who is going to punish Adamu Adamu for keeping quiet for six months? Also, who is going to punish the so called Commander in Chief who gave three executive orders to end this strike and non was implemented by those he appointed.
“And then they are coming up with the excuse that other unions have accepted and suspended their strike. Well other unions can accept if they are satisfied with promissory notes. Our union is 10 times beaten and now we are wiser for it. Whatever it is that the government wants to do, it should come to the negotiating table in line with international labour convention and the principles of collective bargaining and discuss with our union.’’
He maintained that the union has ideas which it has already shared with the government on how to improve the country’s university system. He stressed that whether there is the political will to implement it or not, or not, it is left to the President and his ministers.
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