ASUU Strike: One week after, govt yet to invite lecturers for negotiations – President

Adedigba Azeezat – premium times
Azeezat – premium times

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said
the federal government is yet to begin any dialogue with
the union over the ongoing strike.
The national president of the union, Biodun Ogunyemi,
said this in a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Sunday
evening.
The union embarked on strike one week ago over the poor
funding of Nigerian universities and an alleged plan by the
federal government to increase student’s fees and
introduce an education bank. The union also accuses the
federal government of not implementing a 2017
agreement.
Mr Ogunyemi on Sunday said the union has placed
a memorandum before the government on how
universities can be funded, but nothing has been done on
it.
“For the minister, we have memorandum placed before
them, but nobody is talking about the items there except
to say that they cannot meet the union’s demand
because of the oil prices.
“We have submitted the report of a joint committee to
the minister; on how to generate funds to address the
outstanding balance of N1.3 trillion. It is like the minister is
not addressing issues raised and the recommendation in
the report,” Mr Ogunyemi said.
The union leader said ASUU has not seen any invitation
from government to discuss the strike.
“They know how to reach us. That’s not how we’ve been
communicating,” Mr Ogunyemi said of an appeal by the
education minister last week that the strike be suspended
to allow for negotiations.
“The chairman of the negotiating committee came
yesterday, Wale Babalakin, begging ASUU to come back to
negotiating table. He has not addressed the issue we
raised and he has been dancing around the issues.
“There are two issues that we’ve raised. But by his own
attitude and actions, it was obvious to that he didn’t want
that. That was why we said we have seen enough.
“Our members remain resolute and report we are
getting from branches indicate that our members are
determined. Government cannot continue to handle
education with levity which is the focus for the
development of any country. We cannot continue to
pretend that we have education when our universities are
in terrible condition,” he said.
Mr Ogunyemi said the strike has so far been successful
across campuses but for few vice chancellors.
“We have report of one or two crisis where the vice
chancellors are trying to give us problems. Like Adekunle
Ajasin University, the VC threatened to sack our members
and we tried to tell him to go ask from history,” he said.
Efforts to get the education and labour ministries to speak
on why no negotiation has started since the strike begun
were unsuccessful.
The spokesperson of the education ministry, Willie Bassey,
said he has been out of Abuja and could not comment on
the matter. Also, the spokesperson of the labour ministry,
Samuel Olowookere, did not respond to phone calls and
text messages put across to him.
However, earlier last week, the education minister, Adamu
Adamu, urged the union to exercise restraint in its
demands.
The minister said the demands of the union dated back to
2009 during the administration of late President Umaru
Yar’Adua, when Nigeria had not yet entered into a
recession.
Mr Adamu noted that the government would improve the
funding of education when oil price rises and the economy
improves.

Also on Saturday, Wale Babalakin, who is the chairman of
the Federal Government/Academic Staff Union of
Universities (ASUU) 2009 Agreement Renegotiation
Committee debunked allegations that his team suggested
a fee hike in universities. He however agreed that his team
disagrees with ASUU on how to fund public universities but
called for the suspension of the strike.
Civic Groups React
When contacted, the senior legal adviser of the Socio-
Economic Rights and Accountability Project
(SERAP), Bamisope Adeyanju, urged the authorities to
move swiftly to reach an agreement with ASUU to end
the ongoing strike by lecturers.
“Education is a fundamental human right enshrined in
numerous international human rights instruments,
including the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, and the African Charter on
Human and Peoples’ Rights, all of which Nigeria has ratified,”
Mr Adeyanju said.
According to him, these human rights instruments obligate
the Nigerian government to take measures to
progressively realise the right to quality education within
its maximum available resources.
He said the federal government’s failure to use its
maximum available resources to fund education is a
retrogressive measure, and therefore amounts to a
violation of Nigeria’s international human rights
obligations.
“The authorities must take concrete and meaningful
measures to eliminate all barriers to education, especially
corruption and mismanagement, improve conditions for
lecturers and teachers, and take steps to address
underlying social conditions that impede educational
access, particularly for children from socially and
economically vulnerable populations,” he said.
Similarly, the national coordinator of Education Rights
Campaign (ERC), Hassan Soweto, called for improved
funding of education.
“Since 2009, this thing has been on and it is a question of
funding of public universities. The Buhari Government
cannot say it is not aware of those issues.
“If four years after, government is still finding it impossible
to do the right thing so much that ASUU can go on long
strike, then the Buhari government is a government that
does not have interest in education of the people,” he said.

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