Striking university lecturers have called the bluff of the federal government which yesterday gave them a seven-day ultimatum.
The supervising minister of education, Nyesom Wike, ordered the striking lecturers under the umbrella of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to resume work on or before December 4, 2013, or face the prospect of being sacked.
Wike, who spoke to journalists in Abuja, said government had reviewed the entire situation and come to the conclusion that the continuation of the strike is an attempt by ASUU to sabotage all efforts to address the issues.
He said: “It is amazing, however, that three weeks after the meeting with Mr President, ASUU responded by giving new conditions for suspending the five-month-old strike.
“As a responsible government, we cannot allow the continuous closure of our public universities for this length of time, as this poses danger to the education system.”
He said that, 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 their pro-chancellors.
“Any academic staff who fails to resume on or before 4th December, 2013, automatically ceases to be a staff of the institution.
“Vice chancellors should ensure that staff who resume for work are provided with enabling environment for academic and allied activities.”
In a swift reaction to the ultimatum and threat of sack, however, ASUU dared the federal government to carry out its plan to sack university teachers, saying that it will fail.
The union said, with the plan, it has been vindicated that the federal government was not committed to implementing any resolutions it reached with the union.
While reacting to the threat by the government, ASUU national treasurer Dr Ademola Aremu said in Ibadan that the threat did not hold water as it had confirmed the fears that government cannot be trusted.
He said strike is a legal action and that the threat will fail, adding that Nigerian public universities needed 60,000 lecturers owing to failure of government to employ.
ASUU said government was wasting the time of Nigerians and youths in the country by failing to perfect the resolutions and get the strike suspended.
The academic union said it had reasons to be wary following the failure of government to honour its promises to ASUP, resident doctors, and health workers who have suspended their strikes.
ASUU further said the threat was an insult to the sense and sensibilities of Nigerians who were waiting on the federal government for a positive reaction.
Aremu: “With the latest action, the federal government has shown that they are not committed to all they have been saying. We are saying that since we agreed at the meeting that the sum of N200billion is for 2012 and 2013 revitalisation, the federal government should deposit same in the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“We are already in November and December is around the corner. If they don’t do that now, when do they want to do it?. We are saying the non-victimisation clause should be included as agreed while the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement should be included as agreed with
“It is a pity if the federal government is not willing to perfect the resolutions reached with the union. This is why we find it difficult to trust our leaders by their words.
“How can someone be threatening to sack lecturers when universities are already short-staffed by almost 60,000. We are not in a military era. The military tried it and failed. This one will fail again. They can re-open the school. EASUU did not shut down the universities.
“It was the school management that ordered the students to go back home.”
Some university lecturers who reacted to the federal government’s directive said it was a joke.
Dr Oghenekaro Ogbinaka, chairman, University of Lagos branch of ASUU, told NAN that the development was strange and laughable.
He said that this was so, considering the fact that the union was yet to get back to the government, after their deliberations with President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Our reaction is simple. Let us just wait for the seven days to come around. What government has just done shows that they were not committed to the offer they made with the union that had the Trade Union Congress president and the minister of labour in attendance.
“We are not going to fall to that blackmail. Now, which one is better: government acceding to our demands or issuing out threats?
“Honestly, this whole thing ought to have been easily resolved, given the approach taken by President Jonathan, but it is like we want to be taken for granted after all and it is unfair,” he said.
Prof. Oyelowo Oyewo, immediate past dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, simply described the development as “a glorified joke and laughable’’.
Oyewo noted that it was funny that one of the parties which had before now been holding dialogue would try to intimidate the other.