The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said that the threat to sack striking university lecturers issued by the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, is a proof that the minister is ignorant of labour laws.

ASUU President, Dr. Nasir Fagge, said at a press conference in Abuja that a serious government should be ashamed of the rot in the universities which the union had been struggling to tackle.

His statement was titled, ‘Misrepresentations and intimidation: How not to manage the crisis in the university system’.

He said, “It is unfortunate that close to 20 years of national life have not taught politicians and their government the simple lesson that the job of lecturers is bound by the university statutes, which stipulate conditions for employment, promotions and dismissal of lecturers at all levels.

“That a minister of education would pronounce a threat of mass sacking of academic staff is a tragedy of huge proportion for Nigeria and Africa.

“While ASUU has been struggling for conditions in which Nigerian students would benefit from a very much enhanced academic environment in teaching and research facilities, the Minister of Education is thinking of a thoughtless mass sack as a solution to the problems arising from government’s non-implementation of an agreement reached with ASUU as if Nigerian rulers have made no intellectual progress since (late Gen. Sani) Abacha.”

Wike, had at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday warned that any lecturer that failed to resume on or before Wednesday would be sacked.
He had also told the vice-chancellors to open attendance registers for lecturers to indicate their resumption date.

He directed the vice-chancellors to advertise vacancies (internal and external) in their institutions if the lecturers failed to resume as directed.

But ASUU described the Federal Government’s threat to sack lecturers as “a tragedy of huge proportion for Nigeria and Africa” and that it would only compound the crisis.

“The salvos that have been coming out, allegedly from the Minister of Education make one to wonder whether the person that is charged with the responsibility of superintending over the Nigeria’s education system has the wherewithal to handle such a vital national assignment,” he said.

The union also accused the government of embarking on a deliberate ploy to weaken the public universities in favour of private universities.

It said it would return to the negotiation table if government showed commitment to solve the problems in the sector.

ASUU said government through the Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission had been feeding the public with “rumours, lies and mischiefs” to mislead the Nigerian public.

ASUU maintained that it did not make new demands as claimed by the Federal Government, but only demanded for proper documentation to guard against implementation failure.

This, ASUU said, was why it insisted that the MoU be signed by a representative of government, preferably the Attorney General of the Federation, the lecturers representative with the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress as a witness.

“From all evidence”, Isa said, “it is clear that ASUU has not made any new demands. First, asking the government to implement its agreement to provide N200bn in 2013 in two weeks is not a new demand.”

Pointing out that the President and ASUU agreed that the 2009 Agreement would be renegotiated in 2014, and re-asserting it because the letter from the Ministry of Education omitted it, “is not a new demand.

“The inclusion of the non-victimisation clause is a universal practice. And ASUU’s insistence that the resolutions accepted by both sides be signed by both sides is not a new demand but a requirement of all agreements”, he added.

ASUU feared that the Government’s approach to the education crises was a deliberate ploy to privatize education.

It accused the Federal Government of pursuing privatization policies in critical sectors of the economy contrary to the Nigerian Constitution which “states clearly that the commanding heights of Nigeria’s economy shall be publicly owned”.

The union singled out the late President Umaru Yar’Adua for praise for desisting from privatizing education.

Isa said, “We resisted Abacha’s dictatorship. We refused to succumb to Obasanjo/IMF attempts to weaken public in favour of private universities. We convinced Yar’Adua to keep faith with the interests of Nigeria’s youth and desist from privatizing education.

We remember Obasanjo’s position that the solution to ASUU’s resistance is to flood Nigeria with private universities.

“In spite of all these, stretching from ASUU’s principled resistance since the military, we have noticed with disgust how easy it is for ministers and governments to take refuge in political blackmail. We shall never succumb to this. Our country is our union’s constituency”, he added.

The union urged Nigerians to ask the minister why the government did not respond to its letter before going to the public to claim that ASUU was making new demands.
With 37,504 teaching staff in both Federal and State universities, the union disclosed that there was the need to recruit additional 23,000 lecturers.

It also recommended that government must establish a policy that would improve national teacher-student ratio to 1:20 within the next two years.

ASUU lamented that majority of the universities were grossly understaffed while staff distribution in qualification and rank indicated that Nigeria’s university system was in crisis of manpower.

According to the union, only 43 percent instead of 80 percent of the academics are Ph.D holders, while only 44 percent instead of 75 percent are between senior lecturers and professors.

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