On Tuesday 17 November, the Academic Workers Union of Universities (ASUU) told students and their parents not to expect their ongoing strike to be suspended soon.
During a press conference in Abuja, the union’s Abuja Zonal Coordinator, Prof. Theophilus Lagi, made the announcement and also told lecturers to explore alternate means of survival.
Lagi, who accused the federal government of not showing commitment to addressing the problems required by the ongoing industrial action, further stated that they would continue the strike until the government bows to the demands of the union.
They also accused Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Jobs, of turning the wheel of change sideways by putting ASUU on a collision course with other university pressure groups.
Today, we want to let Nigerians know especially our students and parents, that there is no hope in sight of ending or suspending the ASUU strike that has been going on for several months as the government is not yet seriously committed to meeting our core demands.
Our members were advised to pursue other legal means of survival as wages withheld since February 2020 have not been issued by the government.
To understand the behaviour and recent comments of the Minister of Labour and Jobs, Dr. Chris Ngige, we need not be a psychologist. The Minister has clearly shown his disrespect for Nigerian scholars and has refused to play the role of an impartial umpire in mitigating the imbroglio.
Instead of seeking a way for lecturers to get back to work, he is turning the wheel of change backwards by putting ASUU on a collision course with other pressure groups at the university. He has now become the spokesperson for the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance. Clearly, Dr Ngige is part of the war with ASUU.
As men of letters, we would have preferred to overlook the intentional lies and deceit of Senator Chris Ngige. So this response is more about straightening the record than it is about massaging the ego of the minister.
Ngige told the nation in one of his comedies of mistake that the protesting lecturers had been paying salaries up to date when he knew that university lecturers were not only due wages for between nine and six months.
” In another fit of treachery, the Minister attempted in vain to redefine its provisions during recent budget protection at the National Assembly, thus maintaining the existence of University Autonomy Law.
For example, in the past few weeks, Ngige said one thing in interviews with the media when he met with the union and another thing on the same topic. Not only the body of Nigerian students, but also parents who patronize public universities as the untoward conduct of the minister undermines the reopening of these schools should be worried about this double character of a minister and a supposed negotiator in the face-off.
In order to promote his intimidation of the lecturers and the public’s misinformation, Ngige argued that in the prevailing circumstances, autonomy could not hold. In this regard, we would like to inform the Minister that Nigeria’s public universities are creatures of law as each university is established by a National Assembly Act.’