Reactions have continued to trail the recent media reports that the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has said it will not suspend its ongoing strike until the salaries owed its members are paid and government shows reasonable level of commitment, starting with the release of N100bn this year.
While some parents and students who are in support the fresh demands opine that such is necessary, considering government’s past irresponsibility towards keeping to its end of agreements, those who oppose say ASUU should sacrifice its unpaid arrears as part of its struggles.
According to the demands, the ASUU NEC members unanimously agreed that before the strike can be called off, government should pay the four-month salary arrears being owed varsity lecturers while there should be immediate implementation of the N1.2tn offer by the Federal Government to public varsities, starting with the release of N100bn this year.
Though some exco members of ASUU who spoke to Vanguard Learning denied making such fresh demands, the federal government, through the Supervising Minister for Education, Chief. Nyesom Wike, has described the demand as outrageous, saying the new demands would need further discussions.
Wike said: “I will have to see Mr. President to see how government can go about this development, which is not favourable. It is outrageous. ASUU is now making fresh demands and this will definitely need further discussion.”
Whoever is saying the truth between ASUU and Federal Government, the reports of the fresh demands have triggered some reactions as parents, students and even university lecturers are divided in their stand.
Commending the efforts of ASUU in improving the standard and quality of education, a student of University of Calabar, who simply gave his name as Bright, said “we know our government is not responsible, therefore, it would be disastrous for ASUU to call off the strike without worthy results. They should ensure that the Federal Government shows enough commitment by immediately releasing part of the agreed funds.” In agreement is Williams Rita Titilola, a student of the Lagos State University, who urged ASUU to get government to fulfill at least 80 per cent of the agreement before agreeing to call off the strike, else, those agreements will end up being on the paper it was signed upon.
“Government can’t say there isn’t enough money to revamp universities because there was enough for them to gallivant round UK all in the name of birthday party”, Titilola said.
Urging students not to be carried away by government’s propaganda against ASUU, a parent and a varsity lecturer who declined to have her name in print, said “government is only displaying how irresponsible she is, and this is why they plead with us whenever we meet so that we don’t expose their inadequacies.
For Samuel Bright, what ASUU is requesting is the best bet considering past engagement with government.
“Since government has only been offering lip services, ASUU, by this request, is only trying to avoid future strikes. So let them settle this once and for all since we have already spent a long period at home. It will be useless not to have something concrete after over five months we have spent at home.”
Not everyone shares this sentiment. While some ASUU members under the aegis of a pressure group, Concerned Academics, gave the National Executive Council of ASUU a one week ultimatum to call of the strike, the ASUU Ibadan zone chapter held a meeting to uphold the decision of the ASUU-NEC to iron out some ‘grey areas’ before suspending the strike.
Addressing a press conference on behalf of the Concerned Academics on Monday, Dr. Adeyemi Daramola and Dr. Michael Ogbeide, both lecturers of the Faculty Arts, University of Lagos, said that they represent a majority of lecturers who want the strike called off immediately, and had called a meeting of ASUU members, but had to postpone it because of the UNILAG-ASUU leadership.
The statement read: “We shall call a new meeting if ASUU-NEC fails to suspend the strike before the end of this week. If necessary, we shall take all legitimate steps to ensure that normalcy is restored to all Nigerian Universities as soon as possible.”
The group accused ASUU NEC of derailing from the struggle.” Daramola and Ogbeide said that the President should be commended for sitting down with the union to discuss the issue and that the union need not waste more time in putting an end to the strike.
Arguing that the national body had kept its members in the dark for too long, the group worried that ASUU could not guarantee that the President would sit with it’s NEC again, and that other officers in the government may not be able to iron out ASUU’s grey areas.
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