How to end ASUU strike – Femi Falana



Lagos lawyer Mr Femi Falana (SAN) yesterday urged the Federal Government
and leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to work
out a new agreement to end the six-month strike of the union.

In a statement yesterday in Lagos, the frontline lawyer said the
government’s ultimatum would not work, as it did not under military
dictatorship.

He said the way forward was in an amicable resolution between both parties, instead of the government’s arm-twisting.

The statement reads: “At a meeting of the Bayelsa State caucus of the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which held in Yenagoa (the state
capital) last Friday, President Goodluck Jonathan accused the Academic
Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of subversion. As far as the
President is concerned, the ongoing industrial action has nothing to do
with trade dispute. During his last media chat, the President accused
the ASUU of playing politics with the strike. No doubt, the Federal
Government is utterly embarrassed that the strike lasted about six
months. But instead of accusing ASUU of subversion, the Federal
Government has itself to blame for its inexplicable refusal to honour
the 2009 Federal Government/ASUU Agreement.


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“It is on record that officials of the Ministries of Education and
Finance deliberately frustrated the resolution of the strike. It was on
account of such frustration that led the President to take over the
negotiations. At the end of the marathon meeting between the President
and the ASUU leaders a fortnight ago, substantial progress was made
towards the resolution of the crisis.

“On its part, the ASUU accepted the offer by the President with some
minor adjustments. Regrettably, the President was informed that ASUU had
rejected his offer. In view of such misinformation, the Supervising
Minister of Education, Mr Nyeson Wike, issued a seven-day ultimatum to
sack striking university teachers with effect from December 4, 2013.

“He also directed the vice chancellors of all public universities to

declare vacant the posts of striking academics in order to replace them!

“If Mr. Wike had familiarised himself with the Federal Government/ASUU
face-off in the past two decades, even under the defunct military junta,
he would have discovered that ASUU members have never been cowed to
submission.

“In 1992, the Ibrahim Babangida junta fired all lecturers and threatened
to eject them from their official quarters. When the lecturers defied
the junta, a decree was promulgated, which made strike by teachers a
treasonable felony. ASUU also ignored the obnoxious decree and called
the bluff of the military dictators.

“The Secretary for Education under the Interim National Government
(ING), Prof Ben Nwabueze (SAN), described the 1992 Federal
Government/ASUU as “a contract of imperfect obligations”. But at the end
of the day, it became clear to the regime that universities could not
be run like military barracks. Hence, the junta swallowed its pride,
withdrew its empty threats and decided to honour the agreement, which it
had rejected.

“As no university in Nigeria has the required number of professors,
Readers and Senior Lecturers, the threat of a mass sack of academics is a
huge joke. However, as the President’s former boss, Chief Diepreye
Alamieseigha rightly observed, the ultimatum, which has been planned to
coincide with the burial of Prof Festus Iyayi, will portray the Federal
Government as insensitive.

“The observation cannot be faulted since Prof Iyayi was killed by a
convoy of (Kogi State) Governor Idris Wada on the Abuja-Lokoja road last
month while he was travelling to Kano to attend a meeting of ASUU
leaders scheduled to review the strike. It is commendable that the
President promised to review the provocative ultimatum.

“Since the ASUU has accepted the new offer of the Federal Government,
the President should personally conclude the negotiations with ASUU
leaders without further delay. Instead of allowing Mr Wike to expose the
Federal Government to further ridicule, a new agreement should be
properly drawn up and signed by the ASUU and top officials of the
Federal Agreement. With the commitment of President Jonathan, the
six-month-old industrial action of the ASUU can be called off within the
next 48 hours.”

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