Thursday, 10 October 2013

ASUU denies hijack of strike by govt opponents

THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday said it was wrong for the Federal Government to claim that opponents of the government have hijacked its industrial action.

Meanwhile, there are signals that whenever the ASUU strike comes to an end, a fresh crisis may erupt at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) as the Joint Action Committee on Trade Unions of the university yesterday threatened to shut down the institution as soon as academic activities resume.

ASUU has dashed all hope for a quick resumption of academic activities in public universities, as it vowed not to succumb to attempt by the Federal Government to blackmail it to calling off the over three months industrial action.

The union’s chairman in the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Antonia Okerengwo, told journalists yesterday in Port Harcourt that the Federal Government has been economical with the details of the reasons Nigerian public university teachers have been on strike in the last three months and that it is wrong to use ASUU to fight a political war.

Okerengwo said it was rather wrong for President Goodluck Jonathan to claim that those with political vendetta against the government have hijacked ASUU’s struggle, adding that it was sad that the government has allegedly decided to reduce the struggle to politicking.

“When I listened to the president saying that, I sent a message to somebody and said it is the government that is being political, we know our politicians, once something is not going their way, they explain it to mean their enemies are using it for political reasons, is this the first time ASUU is going on strike? We have been on strike for the same issues all along. Did we also play politics during Babangida’s time, during the military era in 1992 when we went on strike? Did we also play politics when Abacha was head of state and we went on strike, was it also political?” she stated.

She spoke as the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) gave the Federal Government one week to settle its differences with ASUU or face the mother of all strikes that may cripple the country if nothing is done.

Also, ASUU has warned the authorities of the University of Ilorin not to share the N986.7 million earned allowance disbursed to it by the Federal Government until the ongoing strike is over.

Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Dr. Ayan Adeleke, told reporters in Ibadan that the union chairman in UNILORIN, Dr. Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju had already conveyed the position of the university teachers to the institution’s management, warning that universities should not betray the struggle by disbursing the earned allowances until the struggle is over.

It was gathered that workers in the University of Ilorin early yesterday engaged themselves and the university management over modalities for sharing of the institution’s share of the N30 billion disbursed to the universities by the Federal Government.

Dr. Adeleke, who faulted the Professor Wahab Egbewole faction of the union in UNILORIN, reminded that the National Industrial Court had declared the group illegal.

University of Ibadan ASUU Chairman, Dr. Segun Ajiboye, said, “it is the height of immorality for these fellows in Ilorin to be squabbling over the proceeds of a struggle that they did not participate in”, adding that the union is committed to full revitalization of the public university system and not the peanut of earned allowances.

Speaking during a training workshop organized for labour leaders of the union in Enugu, General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Joe Ajaero said the union would align with others across the country to embark on a solidarity strike with ASUU if the impasse persists.

In University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the ASUU and NASU at a press conference said the plan to shut down the institution has become necessary following alleged ongoing corruption, looting and flagrant abuse of office by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barth Okolo.

The two unions alleged that Okolo had run the institution since he assumed office without a budget.    They called on the Federal Government to constitute a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate the activities of the vice chancellor and the immediate past council of the school with a view to sanitizing the system.

When contacted, Okolo said the issues raised by the unions were “instigated” and calculated at tarnishing his achievements in office, adding that they had no relationship with the goings on in the school.

Okolo, who would not want to respond pointedly to the issues raised by the unions added: “The type of growth that has happened in the UNN presently has never happened anywhere since the inception of the institution. It is being testified everywhere and I am yet to believe that it is all the members of the unions that addressed the press conference.”

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