The crisis between the Federal Government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) got worse on Thursday, as the Federal Government ordered an immediate re-opening of all universities nationwide due to the five months old strike by members of the union.
The Federal Government also directed all the Vice Chancellors to ensure that enabling environment is provided for all staff that resume for work even as the government warned that any academic staff that failed to resume on or before December 4 automatically ceases to be a staff of the institution.
Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, handed down the decision of government at a press briefing in his office in Abuja, where he equally said the government has reviewed the entire situation and come to the conclusion that the continuation of the strike was an attempt by ASUU to sabotage all efforts to address the issues.
Government’s directive followed fresh demands given by ASUU before it would call-off its five months old strike.
ASUU’s fresh demands, after it held its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting Friday last week, had given the Federal Government within two weeks to begin the implementation of the N200 billion government pledged to inject into the system and distribute it within the stipulated time frame.
ASUU equally said government should renegotiate the 2009 agreement by 2014 and the Attorney General of the Federation be made to be the signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Wike, who explained the rationale for the latest move, said government has met all its commitments and obligation with respect to the FG/ASUU 2009 agreement, saying: “it was becoming obvious that the union is taking the Presidency and Nigerians for a ride”.
Asked whether the directive to re-open the institutions would not be violating the right of the unionists to go on strike, Wike said: “We have met with ASUU and if you engage in dispute and then we engage with you on dialogue, government has fulfilled its own part and you should also comply and go back to resume your normal activities.
“You would notice that it is only in this country where Mr President will sit with you for over 13-hours and all issues have been resolved and you promised that within one week, you will get back to us only to see a letter now giving new conditions outside what we have discussed, so if anybody thinks that it is against the labour laws, well, they have a right to challenge government at the industrial court.
“Government will not fold its hand to continue to see the closure of universities, no responsible government will do that”
The Minister, who also directed the respective Vice-Chancellors to place advertisement for vacancies (internal and external) in their institutions for deviant lecturers who will not yield to the directive, noted that federal government cannot allow the continuous closure of its universities for the length of five months.
He added that such continuation poses danger to the education system, the future of Nigerian youths and national development just as he directed the National Universities Commission (NUC) to monitor the compliance of the directive by the various universities.
His words: “Government has reviewed the entire situation and come to the conclusion that the continuation of the strike action is an attempt by ASUU to sabotage all the efforts to address the issues.
“As a responsible government, we cannot allow the continuous closure of our public universities for this length of time (five months) as this poses danger to the education system, the future of our youths and national development.
“Consequently, the Federal Government has directed that all Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities that are currently on strike should immediately reopen for academic and allied activities as directed by the Pro-Chancellors.
“Vice-Chancellors should ensure that staff who resume for work are provided with the enabling environment for academic and allied activities, any academic staff who fails to resume on or before 4 of December, 2013 automatically ceases to be a staff of the institution.
“Vice-Chancellors are also directed to advertise vacancies (internal and external) in their institutions.”