Former Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has revealed how his administration resolved a four-month old industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in one night.
He stated this yesterday in Abuja, at the 70th birthday celebration of Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, organised by Kukah Centre.
Jonathan who described governance as a very complex job, said it took his intervention and determination to get the striking lecturers to agree to go back to the classroom.
He said after efforts of several committees set up to resolve the dispute failed, he had to take it upon himself to end the face-off working through the night.
“Now we are talking about ASUU strike, during my time too, ASUU had four months of strike, different committees were meeting and meeting and nothing was working. I said how can our children stay out of school for four months. So I had to call a meeting of all the leadership of ASUU.
“I presided over the meeting with my vice president, the Attorney General was there, I said that that night we must solve the problem. The Attorney General was there, Secretary to the Government of the Federation was there, the Ministers of Education were there, the Labour and Finance Ministers, everybody that has to do with it were there.
“And I thought that my being there would help us to do things quickly. But we spent the whole night. It was 5:30 am before we concluded and the strike was called off, ” Jonathan said.
In a related development, Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has urged lecturers at the state-owned Niger Delta University (NDU) to end their seven-month-long sympathy strike with the national body of ASUU.
Diri insisted that the sympathy industrial action by lecturers of the university was no longer justifiable as they have been receiving their salaries monthly without going to work.
He said although the institution’s governing council had scheduled a meeting with the union, the lecturers ought to reciprocate the goodwill of the state government by returning to the classroom in the interest of the students.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, yesterday, quoted the governor to have said this on Tuesday night, at a dinner in honour of the victorious Bayelsa United Football Club in Yenagoa.
He said the state government had sorted out all the issues between it and the institution’s ASUU.
Diri noted that lecturers in federal tertiary institutions might have issues with the federal government, but that was no longer the case with the state-owned institution’s lecturers.
He said: “Let me use this opportunity to call on lecturers at the Niger Delta University to call off their strike. I have already given directives to the governing council, which represents the government in the management of that university.
“For about seven months they have been on strike. They call it a sympathy strike because the very local issues that they raised with our government have already been sorted out. So they have no problem with the state government.
“About two or three months ago, I met with the leadership at a meeting not to continue the sympathy strike. Yes, they are all unionists. However, in Nigeria, there are two layers of government that are totally different.
“The issues are with the federal universities and not the state institutions. State-owned institutions in our sister states like Rivers and Delta did not join the strike or have called off theirs. I would like the Niger Delta University to follow suit by calling off the strike.
“You all know that you cannot be receiving salaries and you do not go to work for seven months. Like I said, I have set up the machinery and I am very sure that reasoning will prevail. NDU will resume in the shortest possible time for our children to go back to school.”
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students(NANS), has urged the federal government to apply its power to “hire and fire” any employee in dealing with the university lecturers over their declaration of an indefinite strike.
It accused the ASUU of advertently promoting the private universities, where many of them allegedly work currently and have their wards.
NANS said it considered the decision by ASUU to declare indefinite strike after six months of warning industrial action, as not only, “unpatriotic and unnecessary,” but “wicked and definitely meant to collapse the public universities and promote private ones”.
NANS’ President, Sunday Asefon, said this in a statement while reacting to ASUU’s declaration of indefinite strike.
Asefon stated that such a decision was easy for ASUU to take because many of their leaders don’t have their wards in public universities and that many lecturers are employees of various private universities around the country.
He lamented the alleged destructive disposition of ASUU members to the growth of public universities, accusing them of not wary of the imminent collapse of the system by their conduct.
“Some of them are not on any way affected by their attempt to collapse the sector for their selfish and inconsiderate gains. ASUU had succeeded initially to masquerade their strike action as being in the interest of Nigeria and in the interest of the teeming Nigerian students.
“Events of recent weeks have therefore made it abundantly clear that ASUU has an ulterior motive, which is to collapse university education system in Nigeria and systematically promote private Universities where many of them have their children,” the statement added.
“We call on State Government to forthwith liaise with Vice-Chancellors of state institutions to announce the resumption of academic activities and grant the Vice-Chancellors authority to enforce the resumption as state universities should never have joined the strike in the first place,” it stated.
On the other hand, as reactions continue to trail the federal government’s alleged move to proscribe ASUU, the Committee for the Defence of Human Right (CDHR) has said the move was not only unconstitutional but also hypocritical as negotiation is ongoing towards ending the lingering strike.
In a statement signed and made available to THISDAY, the National Publicity Secretary, CDHR Nigeria, Idris Afees Olayinka, described the proposed action as unreasonable, ill-thought out and impracticable, adding that it could further worsen the situation and deepen the crisis taking a cue from antecedents.
The statement maintained that ASUU had accused the federal government of violating the principles of collective bargaining by rejecting the recommendations of the Professor Nimi Brigg’s Committee which was set up to renegotiate the 2009 agreement.
“The same government had equally abandoned the recommendations of its preceding Committee on the renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement. Till date, the federal government has been unable to respond to these serious allegations which signpost FG’s dogma and despotism in this matter being current dominant features and characterisation of this government both in governance and industrial relations.
“The right ASUU has to exist as a union is guaranteed under Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and would require fundamental constitutional amendments to contemplate the ill-fated idea of proscription,” it added.