The Academic Staff Union of Universities has expressed reservations over the re-opening of public Universities, just as the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), on the same Tuesday sent a warning signal for a total shutdown of the schools on account of the Federal Government’s gentlemanly conduct in not to an agreement reached with them.
They have embarked on a three-day nationwide warning protest because of government’s alleged failure to address issues contained in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by both parties in recent years.
ASUU on it’s part suggests it would be suicidal to fling open the gates of school when a second wave of Coronavirus is ravaging the land.
But observers wonder why the varsities after years of existence, and many with computer studies departments, cannot have robust online platforms for students to interface with their lecturers.
Even as the Minister for Education, Adamu Adamu, hinted that the January 18, 2021 re-opening date for schools appeared shaky, the National Universities Commission (NUC) had earlier directed universities to resume academic activities on January 18.
In a television interactive, ASUU national president, Biodun Ogunyemi, said, “Our concern is rooted in the safety of our members. What happens to congested hostels, crowded classrooms? What flexible arrangements are in place? It is a situation of emergency. I’m not sure the Universities can cope.
On online learning platforms, which many later day private universities used to complete curricula for their students, the ASUU President said “We are aware that some universities are putting measures in place, with alternative learning models,” he said. “Some are even trying blended classes, virtual and physical.
“But these efforts are limited. They get to a point they can’t go further.
“ASUU has been talking about revitalisation since 2012. These are some of the areas where the assistance would have helped. Universities need huge funds to do this.
“People are saying start virtual classes, but more than 60 percent of our students will run into trouble – they can’t afford data or smartphones.”
At the University of Ibadan (UI), the JAC of SSANU and NASU converged on the main gate of the institution, marching through the Administrative Block, which houses office of the vice chancellor.
The protest was led by the SSANU’s National Vice-President, Western Zone, Mr. Alfred Jimoh and NASU Secretary, UI, Mr. Sunday Akinpelu. The protesters carried placards with inscriptions that captured demands of the two unions.
Some of them read: “JAC-SSANU/NASU says no to non-constitution of visitation panels for universities”; JAC-SSANU/NASU says no to inconsistencies in the IPPIS payment, nonpayment of Earned Allowance (EA), non-payment of arrears of minimum wage”; “We reject teaching staff usurping of non-teaching headships of non-teaching units in clear violation of conditions of service and establishment procedures”; “JAC-SSANU/NASU says no to non-payment of retirement benefits of our outgone members of staff, neglect and poor funding of state universities” and “JAC-SSANU/NASU says no to renegotiating of FG/NASU and SSANU 2009 agreements.”
Speaking on the occasion, Jimoh stated: “We want to place it on record that the Federal Government has been behaving as if ASUU, with due respect to them, is the only one that needed to be attended to in the Nigerian university system, and that as long as they satisfy their demands, then others can go and jump into the lagoon.
“The signal we are sending to the Federal Government through this protest is that they can go ahead and do what they want to do with ASUU. If you like, you can take the whole of the N40 billion and give it to ASUU, and say the rest of us should go and jump into the lake. If you do that and you have any peace in the university system, it will be a peace of the graveyard.
“We will see how anybody will run the university system without attending to us. It is better you give us our N40 billion and give ASUU their own for peace to return to the university system.”
On his part, Akinpelu stated: “We have been pushed to the wall and we are ready to face anybody. We are ready to face the Federal Government. Enough is enough. How can you say you cherish one child more than the other children?”
The strike was also observed by the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi chapters. The JAC chairman, Comrade Sulieman Jatau, told reporters that the action was to press home their eight demands. He regretted that nothing had been to the pact struck with government on October 20,2020.
In Federal University Lokoja (FUL), Kogi State, the chapter SSANU marched as early as 8:00a.m. to agitate for actualisation of their demands.
In a statement Tuesday, the chairman, SSANU/JAC, Uche Onyedi, threatened complete shutdown of the institution in the event of failure by government to implement the agreement.
At the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo State, Chairman of SSANU/ JAC, Comrade Osewa Bedrocks, said: “The protest is to sensitise the public and let government know that we can not be taken for a ride.
“You (government) cannot sign and will not obey agreements. Besides, the government has also failed to reconstitute panel for renegotiation of pending agreements.”
Also speaking, NASU chairman, Comrade Andy Igbinosa, stated that the protest would last between 8:00a.m. and 4:00p.m. daily.
▪︎ Additional reports by The Guardian