By Ikechukwu Odu
NSUKKA—-The chairman of the Academic Staff Union of the Universities, ASUU, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, Comrade Christian Opata, and his counterpart at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUT, Prof. Chinedu Aguba, have insisted that the Union is not cowed by the “no work, no pay” threat by the Federal Government.
The duo spoke after ASUU Congress at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, UNEC, on Wednesday, insisting that the industrial action embarked upon by the members of the Union since February 14, 2022, would continue indefinitely if the Federal Government refuses to attend to all the contentious issues which led to the strike action.
The ASUU chairpersons also said that the Federal Government lacks the legal right to recognize the Congress of University Academics, CONUA, which is wooing it to substitute ASUU, adding that the Union would equally wage legal war with the splinter group and the government should if it is recognised.
“Nigerians who have been listening to the media propaganda waged by the Federal Government maybe carried away by such propaganda. ASUU has tried all it can to resolve the issues leading to the ongoing strike action, but the Federal Government is also doing all it can to scuttle the efforts of the Union. Be that as it may, one thing that is pertinent is that truth cannot be hidden, if you bury it today, it will germinate tomorrow.
“Our bone of contention with the government of Nigeria is that a government signed an agreement with the Union as far back as 2009 and that agreement has been reneged on consistently and persistently by the same government. The government has been paying deaf ear each time the Union called for renegotiation of the agreement and it has also toyed with the reports of all the committees set up to find lasting solutions to recurrent ASUU strikes in Nigeria.
“Yet, we are talking of the education sector which drives the economy. The question is, how do we as a nation move forward? The principle of collective bargaining is no longer there, respect for negotiated agreement is equally no longer there.
“Some students may think that ASUU is no longer fighting for them but that is not true. The truth is that there is gross dilapidated and insufficient facilities across the federal universities. A classroom made for 50 students are being occupied by 300 of them now and hostels are equally insufficient. We see students standing up or hanging by the windows to take notes during lectures. What kind of education does Federal Government want those students to receive in today’s global competitive world?” Comrade Opata queried the Federal Government.
He expressed surprise that the federal government is foot-dragging in adopting UTAS which it asked members of his Union to develop, adding that UTAS which is a homegrown technology would sustain national development more than any foreign application.
Comrade Opata equally said that the Federal Government was preaching anarchy in Nigeria by saying that it would not pay ASUU members their outstanding six months salaries, adding that members of his Union would not attend to backlog of works accumulated during the strike action and many students may not graduate. “Federal Government said no work, no pay. ASUU can go back to classroom and refuse to attend to the backlog of works which accumulated during the strike. What it means is that many students will not graduate. Can government contain our students assuming ASUU refuse to graduate them? Is that not unleashing anarchy on the nation? We don’t want anarchy to join the security problems we are handling in Nigeria,” he said.
Similarly, Prof. Aguba of ESUT who represented the Zonal Coordinator of ASUU accused the Federal Government of being insensitive to the education sector. He insisted that ASUU would continue on the strike action until the government fulfill all the agreements it reached with the Union.
He said that ASUU would cling on legal fireworks to fight the Federal Government should it take the option of proscribing the Union. ” We are equally tired of living under slave wages,” he also said.
By Ikechukwu Odu