FG backtracks on sack threat

By The Rainbow

The Federal Government on Tuesday moved to douse tension generated by the recent ultimatum given to members of ASUU by the Federal Government that they should resume work or be fired.

The government through the  Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, said that it had withdrawn the ultimatum given to striking lecturers.

Okupe who spoke at a press conference in his office in Abuja, on Tuesday, cited  appeals from well-meaning Nigerians and substantial compliance by the lecturers nationwide.

He said since there was already about 70 per cent compliance to the order, the issue of ultimatum was no longer an issue for discussion.

He emphasised that all the Federal Government was interested in was how to peacefully resolve the six-month-old crisis in the interest of all.

He said, 'Right now, the issue of ultimatum is not a matter for discussion anymore. I told you, there has been substantial compliance nationwide. If I say you must return to work on the 9th and 70 per cent of the people that I am talking to have returned to work, that is substantial compliance.

'What becomes of the remaining 30 per cent who did not return to work? These are issues that we don't want to stop the wheel of progress in sorting out this resolution. We are not interested in witch-hunting, we are more interested in compliance and in the resolution of the crisis.'

He said that government had been forced to issue the ultimatum, which it was very serious about, because it had explored all avenues to no avail.

The presidential aide said, 'This government is not grandstanding and need not flex…the media has presented it as if the Federal Government and ASUU are in a face-off. That is not entirely very true. There is no face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU.

'ASUU may be grandstanding, but the Federal Government is more interested in the resolution than in any form of confrontation with any union whatsoever.

'Our interest is to ensure good governance, orderliness and peaceful coexistence nationwide and, among all sectors of the economy, education is not left behind.

'Many senior Nigerians, institutions and organisations, highly placed Nigerians, including labour unions and royal fathers have intervened and have pleaded with the government to soft pedal on the issue of the ultimatum.

'Secondly, as of yesterday (Monday) evening, the reports that are available to government confirmed that there is more than substantial compliance by many lecturers in many departments in many universities and this has encouraged government also to mellow down,' he said.

'In the Faculty of Law of the University of Lagos, for instance, out of 100 lecturers, 70 signed up; in Arts and Science, 60 plus per cent or so signed and this happens virtually in all the universities in the country, OAU, Ibadan, all over. So, this was the trend, this was what happened all over the nation yesterday (Monday),' he said.

Okukpe produced the confirmation letter from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), confirming the lodgement of N200 billion in an account entitled the 'Revitalisation of Universities Infrastructure' at the apex bank.

The letter, with reference number GVD/DGO/GEN/MP/05/151, was addressed to the Auditor-General of the Federation and specifically for the attention of one J. O.Otunla and was entitled: 'Confirmation of the execution of your mandate for the credit of Account No…Revitalisation of Universities Infrastructure Account.'

Signed by Mr Tunde Lemo, Deputy Governor (Operations), the letter stated that 'I write to confirm the execution of the following mandates by the CBN for funding of the above mentioned account as follows: Mandate FD/LP2013/40/1/30/DF -N129,300,000,000; Mandate FD/F124/Vol XII/120/DF N20,700,000,000 and Mandate FD/LP2013/40/1/DF - N50,000,000,000.

'I wish to further confirm that the available balance in the aforementioned account is N200, 000,000,000. Please, accept the assurances of my best regards.'

Okupe recalled that the leadership of ASUU had claimed that there was no evidence of lodgement of the said money to warrant the calling off of the strike, noting that now that the evidence had been provided, ASUU had no further legitimate reason to continue with the strike.

'The ASUU president did mention, I think on Thursday, that if there is proof of payment, they will call off the strike immediately. I hereby show the proof of payment to all Nigerians, not only to ASUU, so as to let the people know that when we say that this administration has no credibility issue, we mean it,' he added.

He enjoined well-meaning Nigerians to appeal to ASUU to cancel or stop the strike promptly, adding that there was no further legitimacy behind the strike anymore.