Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a former president of Nigeria, has described how his administration quickly put an end to a four-month-old strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
He made this statement Wednesday in Abuja during the Kukah Center-organized 70th birthday celebration of Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese.
Jonathan, who characterized governance as a very difficult job, claimed that it was only through his intervention and persistence that the professors who were on strike agreed to return to the classroom.
He claimed that when numerous committees established to settle the conflict failed, he had to take matters into his own hands and labor all night to put an end to the conflict.
“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 related news, Senator Douye Diri, the governor of Bayelsa State, has encouraged lecturers at the public Niger Delta University (NDU) to call off their seven-month solidarity strike with the national organization of ASUU.
According to Diri, the university lecturers’ sympathy strike was no longer warranted because they had been getting their pay on a monthly basis without reporting to work.
The instructors should repay the state government’s kindness by going back to the classroom in the best interests of the students, he said, despite the fact that the institution’s governing board had set a meeting with the union.
In a statement released yesterday, his chief press secretary, Daniel Alabrah, cited the governor as having made this statement on Tuesday night at a dinner in Yenagoa honoring the champion Bayelsa United Football Club.
He said that all disagreements between the state government and the institution’s ASUU had been resolved.
Diri observed that while academics at state-owned colleges no longer had problems with the state government, they occasionally did so at federal higher institutions.
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.”
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), in the meantime, has urged the federal government to deal with the university teachers over their announcement of an indefinite strike by using its ability to “hire and fire” any employee.
The private universities, where many of them supposedly currently work and have their wards, were accused of being promoted by the ASUU in an unfavorable manner.
After six months of warning industrial action, ASUU decided to initiate an indefinite strike. According to NANS, this was not only “unpatriotic and useless,” but also “wicked and definitely meant to collapse the public universities and promote private ones.”
This was said in a statement by Sunday Asefon, the president of NANS, in response to ASUU’s announcement of an indefinite strike.
According to Asefon, making such a choice was simple for ASUU because many of their officials don’t have children attending public institutions and because many of their academics work for numerous private universities around the nation.
He bemoaned the supposed destructive attitude of ASUU members toward the expansion of public colleges and accused them of acting carelessly in disregard of the impending collapse of the system.
“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.
However, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) has stated that the claimed move to outlaw ASUU by the federal government was not only unlawful but also disingenuous given that talks to terminate the ongoing strike are still taking place.
Idris Afees Olayinka, the national publicity secretary for CDHR Nigeria, issued a statement that was signed and made available to THISDAY in which he criticized the proposed action as being unreasonable, poorly planned, and unworkable and warned that, by taking a cue from precedents, it might further deteriorate the situation and deepen the crisis.
The statement argued that by rejecting the proposals of the Professor Nimi Brigg’s Committee, which was formed to rework the 2009 agreement, the federal government had violated the norms of collective bargaining, which ASUU had accused it of doing.
“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.