From Fred Ezeh and Okwe Obi, Abuja
Fifty-two Northern groups under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), yesterday, have resolved to join the planned solidarity protest by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) over the lingering strike by the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU).
NLC’s National President, Ayuba Wabba, had, in a letter dated July 15, notified its chairpersons nationwide that the Congress would on July 27 and 27 protest to nudge government into meeting ASUU’s demands.
The academic union went on strike in February over government’s failure to honour an agreement it signed with government in 2009 on funding, salaries and allowances of lecturers.
National Coordinator of CNG’s Student Wing, Jamilu Charanchi, in a statement, accused government of paying lips service to the plight of lecturers.
He posited that the same politicians who benefitted from the magnanimity and foresight of past Nigerian leaders in the provision of quality now deprive others from enjoying quality education.
Charanchi noted that the protest would be the mother of all protests as they would close the railways, airways, railways, offices of political parties and state houses of assembly until their demands are met.
“As a last option and failure of these decent moves to yield positive results and ensure the reopening of universities, we hereby direct all our state chapters to mobilise students and parents to join the Nigerian Labour Congress for a massive protest that would entail the shutting down of activities in all states and national assemblies, all political party offices and all major highways, airways and railways.
“It is unfortunate that people in government today, whom are the major beneficiaries of the magnanimity and foresight of past Nigerian leaders in the provision of quality, accessible readily available and affordable education are today the same people working to deprive other generations of the same privileges. We are left with no option but to do anything humanly possible which will ensure the reopening of our classes.”
•Aviation union threatens to shut down airports
Similarly, the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) has threatened to shut airports in solidarity with ASUU.
In a statement by Abdulrasaq Saidu, general secretary, ANAP, yesterday, the association called on Buhari to end the strike without further delay.
ANAP said the protracted strike has added to social vices in the country as students now engage in unpalatable activities capable of destroying their future. It said the over five-month strike has ridiculed Nigeria’s educational system and made it a laughing stock.
“ASUU, NASU, SAUTHRIAI, NAAT had been on strike for more than four months due to the apparent failure of government to sign the re-negotiated 2009 Agreement with ASUU, failure to honour the terms reached at in May 2022 MoU signed with ASUU, and habitual failure of government to respect Collective Bargaining Agreements willingly signed with labour Unions.”
The association said education remained the bedrock of any country aspiring for greatness, noting that the ASUU strike would eventually lead to a regrettable situation in future if not well-handled.
“Our children are using eight years to read courses of four years with resources being wasted. We cannot continue this way,” the statement read.
The union said its members would align with NLC position in protesting against the unfortunate situation in the tertiary education sector. In a related development, the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) had pleged to join the NLC in its solidarity strike over the lingering ASUU strike.
•Collective effort required to change varsities’ fortunes –FG
However, the Federal Government has charged the Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities to support its efforts that are expected to herald significant changes in the fortunes of universities in Nigeria and make them centres of research and development as well globally recognised.
Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nanah Opiah, made the appeal in Abuja, during the opening session of a retreat organised by the National Universities Commission (NUC) for Vice Chancellors.
Adamu reiterated the key roles of Vice Chancellors of Universities and Directors of Inter-University Centres in the development of the Nigerian University System, and also ensuring that the mandates of their respective institutions are fulfilled.
“It’s crucial to build resilient and stable systems that functions at the optimal capacity, and as part of this all-important retreat, it’s imperative that we continually reshape our understanding of what is right or wrong in administration, as well as the consequences of falling short of expectations.”
He said insecurity and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic added a new dimension to the myriad of challenges faced by the ivory towers in recent times, stating that the challenges had traversed dwindling funding, inadequate and dilapidated infrastructure and facilities, and the pressures from the activities of university-based unions with its resultant effect on academic stability.
He, thus challenged the university managers to ensure transparency and accountability in the application of resources, creative mobilisation of alternative sources of funding, enhanced access to university education, and the production of graduates with relevant 21st century skills, expertise and competencies to meet the need of the contemporary world of work.
He added: “Administration is a distinct responsibility in every university, which is clearly defined by the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2003 in clear and unambiguous terms. It is the responsibility of VCs to manage the day-to-day administration of the university.
“Nevertheless, it is also practical and advisable to work with University Councils, where constituted, towards the actualization of given mandates, in the interest of the institutions. Given the high premium placed by the current administration on quality education, it is crucial that we all join hands with government in its continuous effort to change the fortunes of Nigerian universities and place them on equal footing with global standards.”
He commended the management of NUC for the various initiatives aimed at repositioning the university system for effective service delivery and global competitiveness. “Together we can make a huge difference in the collective effort to find organic and long-term solutions to the challenges facing our university system,” he assured.
•FG, ASUU meet
In continuation of discussions on way to end the lingering strike, representatives of Federal Government and ASUU have met in Abuja.
Executive Secretary, NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, confirmed the meeting yesterday.
He lamented the five months old strike and sympathised with the Vice-chancellors on the trauma the situation must have put them through.
He said the retreat was aimed at identifying lasting stability in tertiary institutions, effort of government to end the ongoing strike and how the universities spend their resources now that they are closed among others.
He urged vice chancellors to assist government to end periodic strike by ASUU, describing it as a major setback for university system. He said university education is fundamental to the success of any economy, and nations all over the world explore teaching, research and community service to the developing of technical resources for the development of aspirations and goals.
He, therefore, stressed the need to put in place measures, identify challenges and come up with solutions to reposition the university system, stressing that the retreat borders on area of threat and uncertainty in public universities due to the unfortunate ASUU strike that has crippled academic calendar for nearly six months.
“As VCs, we have deep understanding of the negative consequences of the prolonged closure of universities. We, equally, know what it means in terms of operation as an economy, and we also know what this strike means in terms of our institutions’ reputation.”