From Priscilla Ediare, Ado Ekiti
The Academic Staff Union of Universities Federal University Oye-Ekiti branch (ASUU FUOYE) has threatened to scuttle missed academic sessions occasioned by its eight-month-old strike if the federal government continues with its ‘no-work no-pay’ policy.
The lecturers made the declaration on Wednesday during a special congress and a one-day protest rally where they condemned in strong terms the federal government’s ‘no-work, no-pay’ policy and the ‘pro- rata’ payment to lecturers in Nigerian universities last October.
The lecturers who said they didn’t commit any offence to have gone on strike as it was one of the weapons to press home their demands, urged the federal government to address the demands presented to them by the union and end the various antics used against them to stop them from getting their entitlements.
The lecturers in their large numbers began the solidarity protest at 1:10 pm matching from the new Faculty of Science auditorium of the university’s premises to the school’s main gate chanting slogans and carrying placards with different inscriptions
Some of the placards read: “University staff say no to pro- rata salary”, “Ngige is an enemy of education in Nigeria”, “Buhari pay our salary, backlog, it is our right”, ” Ngige is a confused minister”, “On Nimi Brigg’s agreement we stand”, and so on.
Dr Fagbuagun Abayomi ASUU (FUOYE) Financial Secretary, who spoke for the branch Chairperson, Dr Gabriel Omonijo said, ” We are here today to ensure that our voices are heard by the whole world. To tell the whole world the kind of situation the federal government under the ministry of labour and employment and that of Minister of Education has subjected us to.
“We want to tell the whole world that the ‘ no- work, no- pay’ that the federal government has subjected us to is unknown to any law, it is unknown to international labour law and we want to tell the whole world that the criminalization of strike is unknown to any law, that strike is our right to press home our demands.
“We want the world to know that strike is not the only weapon that we can use. We have explored all avenues but the federal government of Nigeria remains adamant mainly because they are not interested in the educational development of the country.
“Government has not paid the desired attention to us mainly because their children are not in any of the federal universities in Nigeria, that is why they have developed a nonchalant attitude to education and the last strike we held we made known some vital points, vital demands to the ministry of labour and employment, especially the federal government and regarding these points federal government had set up various committees. They were the people that set up the committees but when the reports of the committees came out it was very shocking to the whole world especially we in ASUU that the same federal government that set up the committees will neglect the reports of that committee. The committees were set up in 2009, 2013, 2020, and the recent one 2022 which the federal government has neglected we know that the federal government is not interested in the educational development of Nigeria.
“We say no to all the antics and tactics being used by the government against us to stop us from getting our entitlements.”
On whether the national body has taken any step, Fagbuagun said: “Yes, our national body has taken some steps, but the problem is what has been the result. They are not getting any results from the system because the system is adamant about the demands of the union. We have engaged politicians, we have engaged the minister of labour, the minister of education, all have not produced any result because the federal government has decided to frustrate education in Nigeria and we say no the frustration of education in Nigeria.”
Speaking on their deliberations at the Congress, Fagbuagun said, “We deliberated on the ‘no-work, no- pay’ position of the government and we condemn it in absolute term and we thereby resolved that if the federal government fails to pay our outstanding salary of seven months, all the sessions that were involved in the strike, we have decided that all those works we will abandon them too.
“Since the federal government does not have interest in education, we are going to withdraw our services, for instance, we have been participating in elections to give credibility to elections because we are academic staff. We have been making a proposal to ASUU NEC to stop all this.
“In addition, our welfare is of paramount importance, we want our backlogs of arrears to be paid, we want revitalisation to be released and we want most especially the reports of the visitation panel to be released. It is very shocking that despite the investment the federal government is having in universities they are afraid of coming over to look at what they are doing with the money.
“ASUU made a demand that a visitation panel should be set up but unfortunately we had to push and push the federal government before they set it up and eventually when it was set up we attended, we made all our contributions and up till now we are still pressing the federal government to release the report of that visitation panel and this is the same federal government that will be accusing ASUU of embezzlement.
“I want to make it known that ASUU does not collect money for the running of the university from anybody so the federal government should accelerate the process of release of the visitation panel report.”
Speaking on the requests tendered by the members, Prof Olu-Olu Olufayo, the Zonal Coordinator, ASUU Akure, said” I agree with them totally. In actual fact, we were all in Abuja and some of the things they said were actually given to them as information from Abuja through me.”
Olufayo, who urged the members not to lose hope in the struggle, assured them, saying: “We are doing this because we know that as for ASUU we have never lost a battle and that is why we keep telling them to maintain law and order since we have agreed to go by the reports of our lawyers and the advice of our lawyers, we heeded the first advice and returned back to work. We find it difficult to return to the classrooms last two weeks and today we say we are embarking on another strike, more so that the case is still in court. We don’t want to be seen as somebody who is having the law in his hands and that is why we said while that is going on let there be peace but we can as well keep on putting it on the front burner that we have not been paid so that Nigerians after about two weeks will not say all is over. It is not yet over until it is over.”