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ASUU: NLC Says FG Toying With Social Chaos

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) says the federal government is toying with more industrial actions from other sectors of the country as well as social chaos, following its inactivity concerning the strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of

 Universities (ASUU).
  NLC said it has watched with concern the on-going discussions between the ASUU and the federal government over honouring an agreement on the funding of universities and revitalising other infrastructural deficits in the educational system.

It however came to the conclusion that, given the recent impasse in the talks between both parties, "it is apparent that the federal government is not serious in granting a listening ear to the cry of Nigerians being championed by ASUU, to commence tackling decisively the deteriorating standard of education in the country.

"Some of the contending issues, in the recent strike action of ASUU, are the sustained massive funding of education, including allocation of a minimum of 26% of the annual budget of government to education, condition of service, university autonomy and academic freedom.

"We recall that since 2001, there had been an agreement between ASUU and the Federal government on these issues, with review expected every three years. Rather than keep to this appointed date in 2004, government had foot-dragged, and only acceded in 2007 to commence re-negotiations after several strikes by the union.

"Even then, it was not until 2009 that the Federal government found it expedient to conclude negotiations and sign an agreement. The implementation of this agreement after two years is now the bone of contention!"

The umbrella body said it is sad that a government, which should be the custodian of the rule of law and trust, could breach a collective agreement it freely entered into with the union.

"This bare-faced dishonesty and derision for education displayed by an administration that ostensibly espouses transformation is not only treacherous, but scandalous. Nigerians are aware of the abysmal fall in the standard of education in the country and the implications for the national economy in a highly competitive and knowledge-driven world.

"While in the last decade federal budgetary allocation to education was an average of 8% that of some countries in Africa, which are less endowed, was about 30% consistently in the last few decades. The result of this neglect in funding education is that the best university in the country is not among the first 6000 in the world.

"In the school certificate exams in recent years, the country had recorded less than 20% passes, with some universities unable to award degrees to students due to mass failures. Given these glaring facts, it is sad for the federal government to be so prodded into appreciating this dismal situation through strikes.

NLC said more disturbing, is that the federal government's perceived indifference to positive action tells volume about people who secured the votes of the people to make their lives better.

The body described politicians and political office holders as a collection of self-seeking and greedy ruling class that is insensitive to improving standards and the plight of the people.

"We note, with trepidation, that violation of collective agreements mutually entered into between employers of labour and unions, with government leading the culprits, is becoming a vogue in our industrial relation system. The agreement on the minimum wage, and its non-implementation by some state governments, and even the Federal government, is a case in point.

"Any employer or government that so violates Collective Agreements with impunity, is only inviting baskets of strikes and social chaos, and if that be the wish of the ruling class, the labour movement is ready for it. The rot and decay in our institutions of learning demands a declaration of a state of emergency in the educational sector.

"Thus, we support the perseverance, consistency and patriotism displayed by ASUU, and call on students, workers and all Nigerians who mean well for this nation to stand by the union in this defining moment of the struggle for improved standard of   education and sustainable human capital   in our country.

"We urge the Federal government to respect the agreement it mutually entered into with ASUU, and desist from plunging the country into a crisis in the educational system with reverberating industrial dislocation in other sectors," a statement released by Chris Uyot, NLC's Head, Information and Public Relations, said.