FG begs parents, students over ASUU strike

By The Rainbow

The Federal Government wants the understanding of parents and students of the nation's universities over what it described as the unfortunate consequences of the closure of universities.

It promised to  hard to end the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, which is the reason the long closure.

Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, while speaking with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday,  said the government had resolved to end the crisis because of the damages perennial strikes had inflicted on the nation's education sector.

According to him,  the perennial disruption of academic calendar as a result of strikes has become a source of worry to the government.

Maku, however, is confident  that the negotiation being currently spearheaded by the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, and the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqqayat Rufa'i, would soon produce the desired result.

He said, 'The Federal Government has been far more worried than you think concerning the strike in tertiary institutions, because of the disruption of the school calendar. So, the government is concerned and very worried, and since the outset of the strike, the government has been negotiating with ASUU through the Ministry of Labour and Productivity and the Ministry of Education.

'So, we are appealing to our people, particularly parents and children of this nation to bear with us; to show more understanding and we pray that this type of strike will not recur, because the public school system suffers a lot of damage with the perennial strikes.'

But  ASUU as if in reply to Maku's plea to parents and students said on Wednesday in Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, that the Federal Government  was financially buoyant to fund the implementation of the 2009 agreement with the union.

In ASUU's reckoning,  Nigeria has been selling crude at about 150 per cent of budget price and has since January this year collected about N500bn in excess of projected revenue from tax alone.

ASUU Co-ordinator in the South West, Dr. Adesola Nasir, stated this during a news conference in Ago-Iwoye on the five-week old strike by university lecturers.

Nasir, who is also the Chairman of Olabisi Onabanjo University branch of ASUU, stressed that the Federal Government had the financial means to honour the agreement.

He described the lingering crisis in the Nigerian university system as a reflection of the insensitivity of the Federal Government to the plight of Nigerians.

The union therefore said it was embarrassing to discover that the government had denied the existence of any agreement with the university lecturers.

It further stated that it was unfortunate that the progress made so far in resolving the lingering crisis over the non-implementation of the 2009 agreement, failed to match the required urgency required to arrest the decline in the country's citadel of learning.

He said, 'Our union had thought the government would save itself the embarrassment of being exposed as most insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.

'At  the first meeting called by government representatives to address the aforementioned issue, our representatives got the shocker of all time when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation expressed the denial of the existence of the Memorandum of Understanding on the annual release of N400bn for three years as intervention fund for public universities in the country.'

From the Ibadan Zone of ASUU, five universities on Wednesday insisted that the ongoing strike by the union would not be called off unless the Federal Government met their demands.

The universities are University of Ibadan; University of Lagos; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye;  Lagos State University and Tai Solarin University of Education.

The union, at a press briefing in LASU on Wednesday, also faulted universities that conducted Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, despite the ongoing strike.

Some of the universities that have written their Post-UTME are Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; University of Ilorin, University of Lagos, Lagos State University and University of Nigeria, Nsuka, among others.

Zonal Coordinator, Ibadan Zone of ASUU, Dr. Adesola Nasir, explained that the union embarked on the strike to protest against the decline in the universities in terms of teaching, research, facilities, including students' accommodation.