The Academic Staff Union of Universities on Friday said the Federal Government was afraid youths might take to the streets in protest against the ongoing industrial action by its members, and thus, was employing blackmail to force lecturers back to class.
The ASUU, Akure Zone, however declared that no amount of blackmail would make it end the current industrial action, unless its members were paid their salaries, while urging Nigerians to intervene in the impasse in the interest of the students.
It also said the government was not interested in ending the strike and acceding to the demands of the striking lecturers.
On March 23, 2020, ASUU declared a “total and indefinite strike” over the failure of the Federal Government to keep to the 2019 Memorandum of Action and over the lingering crisis on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.
The union had brought forward five contentious issues in the 2019 MoA which are; revitalization fund for universities, outstanding earned academic allowances, renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, proliferation of universities, particularly by state governments and establishment of visitation panels to universities.
The IPPIS crisis had joined in around October 2019, after the union berated the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for threatening to withhold the salaries of its members.
ASUU had also insisted that it had an alternative model to IPPIS, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, which it urged the Federal Government to adopt for the universities.
Addressing newsmen at the campus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, the ASUU coordinator, Akure Zone, Prof Olu Olufayo, noted that the Federal Government had stopped negotiation with the lecturers until the recent eruption of violence during #EndSARS protests.
Also at the briefing were Dr Olayinka Awopetu, who is ASUU chairperson, Federal University of Technology, Akure; Dr. Adeola Egbedokun, ASUU Chairperson, OAU; and Dr. Kayode Arogundade, ASUU Chairperson, Ekiti State University.
Olufayo said, “Our students have stayed at home for too long; they have been at home for almost a year now. Don’t forget we didn’t send them home. We embarked on strike before the advent of coronavirus. Don’t forget #EndSARS protests. It was at that point that the government realized that students should not have been idle.
“So, that must have made the government to ask us to resume negotiation. All through the period coronavirus was strong, we were not called for negotiation. But now, government wants us to return to class and engage the students. If we return to class now, what are we going to do there? I can’t teach when I don’t have money to feed myself.
“Also, during #EndSARS protest, the youths also said they wanted to end bad governance. Students in universities in Kwara State have given the government two weeks ultimatum to resolve issues with ASUU and reopen schools, otherwise they would return to the streets. That must have scared government and they told us to return to the classroom. But how can we resume without being paid?”
So also, the ASUU, Nsukka Zone, said it was an aberration for the Federal Government to go to court at the time negotiation was ongoing to resolve issues raised.
The Zonal Coordinator, Dr Igbana Ajir, who stated this during the press conference held at the Hotel de Victoria, Makurdi, said that the court action would complicate issues.
Members of the union at the Port Harcourt Zone also vowed to sustain the eight-month-old strike, saying that no amount of blackmail by the Federal Government would make them return to the classroom.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Friday in Ilorin, Kwara State, organised a town hall meeting to examine the strike by ASUU.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, represented the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), noting that Nigeria was just “recovering from the ugly effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the #EndSARS protests in many parts of the country.”
He stated that moves were ongoing to end the strike action, adding that the ministers involved and the ASUU leadership were still working towards resolving the matter amicably.