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#Breaking: ASUU Declares War With FG, By Comprehensive, Indefinite Strike.

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has converted its ongoing six-month-old strike to an indefinite industrial action.

ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, who made the announcement in a press statement, released on Monday night, said the decision was to save public universities in the country from collapse.

He said the decision was taken by the ASUU National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, which ended earlier Monday morning.

The NEC meeting, which involved principal officers, zonal coordinators and branch chairmen of the Union, decided to declare a total, comprehensive and indefinite strike.

ASUU had initially on February 14, 2022 declared a four-week strike, the union later rolled over the strike on March 13 for eight weeks and subsequently extended it to three months on May 9.

The grouse of the Union include government’s failure to implement the Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed with the Union on December 23, 2020, and the non-signing of the 2009 renegotiated FGN/ASUU Agreement submitted nine months ago.

Other areas of contention are the forceful payment of ASUU members’ salaries and emoluments through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform, which it claimed the government has used to shortage its members and non-payment of arrears of minimum wage.

The NEC observed with regret that the Union had experienced a lot of deceit of the highest level in the last five and half years as the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) engaged ASUU in fruitless and unending negotiations without a display of utmost fidelity.

In 2017, the Federal Government constituted a committee to renegotiate the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement under the chairmanship of Dr. Wale Babalakin.

It noted that ASUU and other well-meaning Nigerians have expressed serious disappointment and consternation on the attitude of the Government conveyed by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who had deliberately misinformed the public and reduced the current struggle of ASUU to the payment of withheld salaries, claiming that all other contentious issues had been resolved.

ASUU President said, “For the avoidance of doubt, however, none of the issues that forced our Union to resume the suspended strike as listed in the December 2020 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) has been satisfactorily addressed by the Government to date. The draft renegotiated FGN-ASUU Agreement (second draft) remains unsigned; the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) has not been adopted and deployed to replace the discredited Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS); and the White Papers on Visitation Panels to Federal Universities, if ready as claimed by Government more than six months ago, are nowhere to be found.

“Similarly, Government has not delivered on the promised balance of one tranche of the Revitalization Fund more than one year after, the outstanding two tranches of the Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) have not been released; and nothing has since happened on the promised support for amendment to the Law of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to stem the tide of proliferation of universities especially by the State Governments.

“After three years of fruitless negotiation, Dr. Babalakin was replaced in December 2020 with Professor Emeritus Munzali Jibril. The Renegotiation Committee produced and submitted a draft agreement to the Federal Government in May, 2021. It is sad that, until 14th February, 2022 when the ongoing strike commenced, the Federal Government made no significant efforts to either sign the agreement or commence implementation.

“ASUU NEC noted with pains, its concerns for Nigerian students who are also our wards and foster children and condemned Government’s seeming indifference to their plights. The Union empathizes with the students, their parents, as well as other stakeholders (including our colleagues who are undertaking their higher degrees) in the universities. ASUU reaffirms its belief in the sanctity of a stable academic system.

“Were it within our control, our universities would never have been shut for one day! However, ASUU was forced into taking this painful decision to prevent members of the Nigerian Children from the ruling class and their foreign collaborators from further destroying whatever is left of our public universities. We are all victims. We need the understanding, solidarity and sacrifices of all to ensure that every qualified Nigerian youth who cannot afford the cost of private university education or foreign studies has unhindered access to quality university education.

“ASUU strikes are aimed at saving public education, and ensuring that Governments (Federal and State) use our common patrimony to support quality public university education. This is our collective obligation.

“NEC acknowledged with appreciation past and current efforts by eminent Nigerians and groups to mediate in the lingering crisis. Our Union remains open to reasonable engagements as we have always done. However, ASUU remains focused on the full implementation of the 23rd December, 2020 Memorandum of Action for quick restoration of industrial harmony in Nigeria’s public universities.

“In view of the foregoing, and following extensive deliberations on Government’s response to the resolution of 14th February, 2022 so far, NEC concluded that the demands of the Union had not been satisfactorily addressed. Consequently, NEC resolved to transmute the roll-over strike to a comprehensive, total and indefinite strike action beginning from 12.01a.m. on Monday, 29th August, 2022.”

The Union also expressed disappointment in agents of Government, especially the Minister of Education, accusing him of deliberate falsehood and misrepresentation of facts aimed at scoring cheap political gains.

“It is disheartening to imagine that a Minister whose responsibility it is to resolve the crisis can overnight turn round to lead in this ignoble enterprise of distorting facts and misleading Nigerians. The disdain with which the Minister of Education handled questions about the ongoing ASUU strike at his distasteful Press Conference on Thursday, 18th August, 2022 lends credence to the widespread suspicion that the current Government never believed in saving public universities from the misfortunes that have befallen Nigeria’s public primary and secondary schools,” Osodeke added.

NEC further observed with displeasure that some mischievous Vice-Chancellors and chairpersons of Governing Councils of State Universities have evolved disingenuous underhand tactics to undermine the current ASUU struggle in their various Universities.

“ASUU struggles are to save Nigerian public universities irrespective of ownership – Federal or State.

“The Union views with all seriousness the fact that the sanctimonious behaviour of these university administrators and managers does not stop them from accessing yearly grants of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) which ASUU struggles of the 1980s and 1990s brought to life. Neither did their holier-than-thou attitude keep these invidious individuals from jumping into the next flight to come for project defence each time ASUU struggles had translated into some handsome funds for the revitalization of their universities (hostels, laboratories, workshops, lecture theatres, etc.).

“ASUU shall use all legitimate means at its disposal to protect and defend the interests of our members in public universities who may be victimised on the account of the ongoing struggles,” the ASUU NEC stated.

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