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ASUU praises members in Abuja for keeping strike on for 20 days despite Monday’s assault on officials

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As lecture rooms continue to remain substantially empty and students roam and socialise within the vicinity of the University of Abuja, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU) in the school is praising its members for sustaining its three weeks old strike.

Recall that Everyday.ng reported exclusively on the violence that was meted on an ASUU official, which the Chairman, Dr. Sylvanus Ugoh, declined to comment on, but a leaked memo from him to members has surfaced.

In the memo, he wrote: “Fellow Comrades, I sincerely salute your courage and resoluteness to execute the ongoing strike by the Union. We are on the path of truth and justice. “A people united can not be defeated” I want to sincere salute all our Senate members who saw reason and commitment to stand with the Union in solidarity by not attending the Senate meeting yesterday (Monday), because the strike is comprehensive, total and indefinite.

“The Union is also aware that some of our members have been removed abruptly from their offices of responsibilities either because they refused to support illegalities or that they are standing firm in the Union principles.

“For such Comrades, ” we hail you”. The history of Uniabuja will smile and say well of you when the chips are down one day.
Comrades, yesterday (Monday) during the peaceful strike monitoring by the Excos of our Union, the Exco members were harassed, intimidated, assaulted, brutalised and were beaten to pulp especially the Welfare Officer of the Branch by the University Safety Officers that were employed to protect our lives and property. They came against the defenseless Excos with clubs, sticks, swords and assorted assault riffles. The Excos completely refrained from any form of violence because it is our University.

“To still demonstrate the love we have for the University and to maintain a good public image of the University of Abuja, the Union has refused to make any statement to the Press on the incident despite all the media pressures. The Welfare Officer is stable and undergoing treatment with his Doctor.

“By the grace of God, we know that our University will return to its glory soonest.
I urge all our members to remain calm and go about their legitimate duties without fear. God is the one protecting us.
Aluta continua! Victoria ascerta! Solidarity forever!

Everyday.ng reported on Tuesday that the national body of ASUU dampened hopes of retracing its steps from going on strike after it rejected the reconstitution of governing councils of federally-owned varsities, but an incident in the troubled University of Abuja almost lighted the tinder box before its time.

A lecturer and official of ASUU was roundly beaten and his phone damaged when the school’s security men descended on him for allegedly filming, as they prevented ASUU officials from monitoring members’ compliance with the strike they called three weeks ago.

On the national scene, ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, was quoted in the media as saying the Federal Government was expected to reinstate the “illegally” dissolved governing councils and not to constitute new ones to stop ASUU from going on strike nationwide.

According to him, the demand from the union was not only about the dissolved governing councils of tertiary institutions, but other issues.

His words, “It is not just about the governing council alone, it is just one of them. Secondly, we said they should reinstate the illegally dissolved governing council. We didn’t say they should constitute a new one. As far as we are concerned, they have not met any.”

In Abuja, a source told Everyday.ng on Monday that ASUU officials had visited the Senate building as part of monitoring activities, but were sent away by a combined team of policemen and the school’s security officials.

“They moved across the street to watch the goings-on. Some of the overzealous local security men followed them on sighting one of officials fiddling with his phone. He was attacked, beaten thoroughly, and the phone hit on the ground.

“The school’s CSO was swiftly called in and when the phone was put together, it was discovered nothing was filmed. The CSO apologised profusely for the actions of his men and tempers cooled,” the source added.

Curiously, when Everyday.ng reached the local ASUU Chairman, Dr. Ugoh, he declined comments on the incident he was said to have personally witnessed. Another official told this newspaper, “it is being handled internally”.

But another lecturer, who opted for anonymity for now, accused the ASUU officials of inexperience.

His words, “You are fighting a war with somebody and he unleashes his dogs on you, and you say, ‘no, ASUU does not work like that’. Where does ASUU not work like that? I am sorry they are not pro-active at all, they are not radical…this leadership is not experienced.”

The fuming continued all through Monday as others were calling for strong action against the brutalisation of their member, insisting it should be escalated to ASUU’s higher authority.

The school’s spokesman, Dr. Habib Yakub, said he was not aware of any incident involving ASUU on the campus.

Recall that late last week, the Federal Government reconstituted the governing councils of 111 federal tertiary institutions in the country.

The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Didi Esther Walson-Jack, released a statement containing the list, adding that inauguration and retreat of the councils would hold on May 30 and 31, 2024.

She said, “The inauguration and retreat for the Governing Councils will take place on Thursday, May 30 and Friday, May 31, 2024, at the National Universities Commission, 26 Aguiyi Ironsi Street, Maitama, Abuja. Both events will commence at 9:00am daily.”

A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yusuf Alli; former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Peter Okebukola, and labour activist, Issa Aremu, are among the individuals appointed to lead the councils of various academic institutions.

In the University of Abuja, the ball game is somewhat different. It would be recalled that following a response from the management of the University of Abuja to its call for a strike three weeks ago, ASUU explained why it took the action, alleging that the school head has unclean hands.

Recall that Professor Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah vowed two weeks ago that the management will never allow the university to be crippled again.

The school has been plagued over the years, since its inception, by a litany of strikes following disagreements between management and students, and ASUU and management.  In the last nine years, the school has been quiet under Prof. Michael Adikwu, and relatively so under Na’Allah, except in his last few months, because of an alleged plot by him to foist a successor on the university community.

“That is the basis for the strike, its counter by another group, and all of the tension in the system,” an insider said told Everyday.ng.

However, in a meeting with Provost, deans, directors, and heads of academic departments, Na’Allah described ASUU’s latest strike as divisive and unnecessary.

He said, “As far as the management of the University is concerned, this institution is not on strike. Some people said they had declared a strike, but all of us, with the management, have decided that our normal activities in the University must go on. Our exam is going on, senate meeting will continue, everything we do as a university will continue, our calendar will not be disrupted by the grace of God, any longer.

“It is wrong to cripple the University over issues that are merely sentimental, and some of which we have dialogued over  and resolved.  We are prepared not to allow this disruption again,” a statement by the university spokesman, Dr. Habib Yakoob said.

Na’Allah debunked all the reported allegations of the Union, which it claimed informed its declaration of indefinite strike. “Take for instance, the advert for the position of the vice-chancellor, we are not the only University that has advertised,” he said. “We had the support and approval of the government. The advert was done by the Minister of Education, all I did as vice-chancellor was to request, to ask for what is next and they decided this is what we must do. And if you look at the advertisement from the beginning, this fact is very clear.  It is only that they had to send it to us for execution, that’s all.”

But the local ASUU chairman, Dr. Sylvanus Ugoh, spoke differently. He told Everyday.ng in an interview: “I don’t think I will take something as lawful by the number of people that are doing it and I know Nigeria has not gotten to that point when we determine what is good or bad is by the number of persons that are doing it. Five or four universities did the same advert and I can tell you there are some universities that are doing it and about two or three other universities that did not do. A university like the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, their own was due and they didn’t advertise. Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, their own was due and they did not advertise. Why didn’t the Minister of Education compel them to advertise?

“It is because he (Na’Allah) has the propensity of not giving regards to law and I am so sure the Minister of Education did not on any day call him and say, “Abdulrasheed, come and advertise”. He must have been the one that had gone to ask for the permission. But be that as it may, let me tell you, the University of Abuja Act is clear and what we are talking about here is a matter of law and you see, the Honorable Minister of Education, I know he’s a lawyer so he has regard for these things and I know he will never go contrary to the law. So when people are quoting him, I’m so sure he understands these things. So the Act, in fact, even the University Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1993 with the several amendments, did not in any way, mandate any person to advertise for the post of the Vice-Chancellor.

“Only the governing council of the university can do that. He will say that his tenure is going to be due but when his tenure is due, there’s a provision for acting Vice-Chancellor. It is a known thing in the university. There is never a vacuum in the university system. If his tenure expires by July 1, and there is no substantive Vice-Chancellor, the Senate of the university will elect an acting Vice-Chancellor. So the issue of “my tenure is running out, I need to do advert”, does not arise and moreover, the University Act, the Miscellaneous Provisions Act is clear on the matter. So anybody doing any other thing is outrightly going against the law. And that is an act of illegality and no nation can progress in illegality.

“Now the Usman Danfodio University mentioned, we know that is also boiling. None of those branches are taking it for granted because they can’t allow it, and ASUU is one. So illegality is illegality. It’s not legal no matter how many persons that are involved in it.

“The second point we talked of is recruitment or employment without due process, you can come and verify that. The Act of the university is clear, it is the governing council that hires or fires and that position have never been shifted to any other body, person or persons, including the Minister of Education. It is not the responsiblility of the Minister of Education to recruit academic staff or other staff for University of Abuja or any other federal university. It is a clear thing so we drew the attention of the university in several resolutions of congress and we told them that “look this is the way it’s supposed to be and cannot be otherwise”, so what we are talking about is a matter of law it borders on law. Recruitment can only be with a governing council and now that the governing council is not in place, we put every recruitment on hold until the governing council comes, you know that the governing council gives the check and balance of the system so when the governing council is not there power is bound to be abused.”

But Na’Allah described the Union’s allegations of illegal recruitment, promotion, delay in the election of deanship, and microfinance bank establishment as unfounded, saying that the University had followed due process in all of these matters, and ensured that relevant institutions concerned with oversights were contacted.

While speaking specifically about the election of deans and establishment of microfinance bank, he noted that the elections time table had long been publicised, and four elections of deans had been conducted so far, while the University management had  invested over N200 million in the  proposed microfinance bank over the ASUU’s  N4 million, before the union wrote directly to the Central  Bank of Nigeria (CBN)  to stop granting the license for our operation, instead of interacting with the board of the bank about whatever their requests were.

Nallah said, “The bank is purely a business outfit and a service to our local and indigenous community, including market men and women, farmers, small and middle scale business people.”

Ugoh disagrees with Na’Allah on the issue of deanship elections and what appears to be an alleged malfeasance on the matter of the microfinance bank.

His words: “Now look at on the issue of conducting deanship election. Deanship position by University of Abuja Act is by election and when the tenure of a substansive dean expires, there is a provision for appointing an acting dean, but provided it will not exceed one month and then election will be conducted. But these ones, I’m telling you, have been in acting position for more than two years despite the information given by the union at the branch level and now because they have been there for two years, different faculties deanship positions have expired making it look as if all of them expired on the same day, no. What we’ve been doing before now is that as soon as any faculty deanship position expires, election will be conducted immediately but now in all the faculties, the deans’ tenures have expired. So when it comes to the issue of deanship election, it is clear. It’s only somebody who doesn’t want to say the truth who begins to

question the work ASUU is doing. ASUU is only fighting the illegality in the system.

“Now let me talk about the microfinance he talked about. You see, the process of the microfinance bank started in 2016. By 2017, the union had paid four million. Four million of 2017 that had been in the bank up till today so the bank said, “now that the establishments of this microfinance have lingered, do we return your money and we pay you with interest or do you wait?” ASUU said, “we will wait”. 2017 passed, 2018, 2019 2020 till today and month or so ago, somebody brought a paper for us to sign a shareholders agreement for ASUU to be a shareholder, we said “which agreement are you bringing for us to sign, to be a witness to an agreement we would have been part of the agreement, we would have been part of the writeup, we are not part of the write-up, we are not part of the meetings, so how can we be a witness to a write-up we are not privy to?”

“Congress made observations and said some clauses in the write-up need to be changed and the 80th council of the University of Abuja wrote ASUU UniAbuja a letter, these documents are available, giving us a position as the director of the board of the bank.

“Now, this present administration did not put ASUU, let me tell you what will shock you, out of the seven members of the board, Professor Abdulrasheed Na’allah and his younger brother are two out of the seven. A microfinance that belongs to UniAbuja, which is a federal university that has 36 States in its catchment, he and his younger brother are two out of the seven members of the board, excluding the critical stakeholder like ASUU and we refused but we knew he went ahead so we had to write to Central Bank. We didn’t write to central bank to deny us license because it is our project. We said that Central Bank must ensure that proper things are done because even that approval in principle was given because ASUU is involved. You know what is happening to many microfinance banks in recent times, many of them their licenses have been revoked. But they said for UniAbuja, because ASUU is involved, we are going to give them. Now that ASUU is involved, we saw that they are not doing things properly and we said to central bank, “check that these things are done properly”. You know what we got after that? We were written that we have forfeited our four million shares. We are no longer part of it. We can no longer

be included. Tell me, if it is you, won’t you shout out? So what has been done in accordance to the law?”

ASUU’s outcry on his positions notwithstanding, the vice-chancellor said his administration had been working hard to develop the University and would not fold its arms and allow a group of people to destabilise its calendar. “For over four years, our goal has been to lift this University much higher than it was, and this we have succeeded in doing by taking our academic and infrastructural developments to a world-class level, developing an integrated portal that ensured transparency and ease of accessing results, branding of the University, introduction of foreign languages, introduction of new faculties and several departments, among numerous achievements.”

On a general note, the ASUU chairman told Everyday.ng: “…for the avoidance

of doubts let me make it clear, the strikes don’t cripple universities, what cripples universities is mismanagement and any time strike comes up, there has been continuous disregard for law and mismanagement in the university. The issue of University of Abuja has been on for a long time, you are in the press you know that we’re in the news, you see what people are saying on some of those things. I wish you are in my office, I will show you a document from ASUU. So we are well organized people, we are law abiding citizens and for each of these issues, there’s not one that doesn’t have at least two resolutions by Congress sent to the administration but to surprise you that’s not what you’re saying, what you’re saying is that your correspondences received no response from the Vice-Chancellor and that shows you the level of disregard for peace and working harmoniously.

“You know that before ASUU goes on strike whether the national level or at the branch level, in fact it is tougher at the branch level because before you go on strike, you would have repeatedly had resolutions, you would have gone to (ASUU) NEC to present it, NEC would have sent it to the zone, the zone would have reported back to NEC and NEC would have sent its own representative that will report back to it before the trustees will give permission and all these processes will have to be followed and you know it doesn’t last for one month or two months or even three months and at each point we are communicating the Vice-Chancellor. We have had not less than three contact meetings with him on these issues but in his usual way of communication, he tried to maneuver and have his way and he will not get these things done.

“Now, let me talk about promotion. All these border on law. Promotion is by the council. Let me explain to you, promotion starts at the department.

“From the departmental level in the University of Abuja, to the faculty level, to the central A and PC, that is, Appointment and Promotions Committee. For UniAbuja A and PC is a committee of council, now, when council is not in place, you cannot have a committee of council.

“We were saying, “hold on with the promotion”. It is our members that are involved and our members understood, we know that when the governing council is reconstituted, our members’ promotion will be effected and will be backdated to the appropriate date. Well, because he has his motive of promoting only those that sing his praises, he was bent on doing it. Promotion in the university is a serious business so when you cannot have the real persons and organs to put in place the checks and balances, you can be sure that the promotion cannot be proper. Once it’s not the constituted A and PC, it’s illegal. And you can be sure some people can be denied and some other persons that may not be qualified will be promoted. We said let’s be orderly, let’s wait, when council comes back, these things will be put in place.”

On Senate meetings, Ugoh said 180 of them, excluding emergency ones, should have been held in the nearly five years of Na’Allah as vice chancellor.

“But you know what? You can count senate times with your fingers. Regular senate hearings in UniAbuja in the last five years.”

He adds rather ominously  “There are so many issues we are not raising. We are not raising these issues because they seem to be covering the whole thing. You know, if somebody is talking about a stable academic calendar. Are you not aware of the ridicule they are making with the University of Abuja that we run two sessions in one year? Are you not aware? Is it not ridiculous?

“He is planning to do the sixth admission in five years. I am aware he is going to do another admission and it will be the sixth one in five years.”

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