The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), South-South zone has threatened to block the Portharcourt International Airport, the Calabar Itu highway and shut down critical infrastructures in the zone if the strike action by the Association of Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) persists.
The South-South Coordinator, NANS ZONE B, Kings Tamarapreye disclosed this over the weekend during a press conference in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital.
Urging ASUU to heed to the court order and call off the 8-month- old strike, NANS urged the federal government to also accede to the demands of ASUU saying that students suffer the most.
Tamarapreye threatened that if NANS demands are not considered, their next action may be ‘worse than the EndSARS protest.
The statement read in parts, “As the leadership of NANS ZONE B, we wish to restate our total commitment towards the return of Nigerian students to the various campuses.
“We give a vote of confidence to comrade Usman Barambu-led administration for a job Weldon in bridging the gap between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
“We reaffirm our total stand by calling the body to honour the order of reopening the institutions as we equally call on the federal government to as a matter of urgency subscribe to the demands of ASUU.
“It is on record that in this particular Zone (NANS Zone B, South-South), we have led several forms of protest to see how we can return students to school because the main reason we were elected leaders is to prioritize the welfare of the students.
“It is a sad thing that for eight months now, Nigerian students are still at home. It is on record that we have blocked the roads of Akwa Ibom and the Cross River States in solidarity.
“There was a memo for the mobilization of the nation shut down and it is still on course. As we are appealing to ASUU to listen to the court order and return to school, if they fail, we will mobilize and shut down the whole country because the federal government has been so nonchalant to education in this country.
“We all know that education in this country is underfunded and we will not fold our arms, it is time we take our destinies into our hands. In this South-South region, we are going to block the Portharcourt International airport, block Calabar-Itu highway as well as other infrastructures.”
Buhari Will Intervene In Fresh ASUU, Federal Govt Face-off, Gbajabiamila Assures
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamiala said President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated interest to wade into the latest concerns raised by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over half payment of their salaries by the Federal Government.
He appealed to the members of the union to remain calm in view of this latest development.
In a statement he personally signed in Abuja on Monday, the Speaker said that efforts to find lasting solutions to the concerns frequently raised by ASUU were on.
He said: “When the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off their industrial action three weeks ago, it meant that academic activities could resume in our nation’s public universities, and students could return to their academic pursuits after the prolonged interruption. This decision was rightly heralded nationwide as the correct decision.
“Since then, the Executive and the House of Representatives have worked to address the issues that led to the strike. We are currently working on the 2023 Appropriations Bill, which includes N170 billion to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers. The Bill also includes additional N300 billion revitalisation funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities.
“Furthermore, the House of Representatives has convened the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other stakeholders to facilitate the adoption of elements of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). This effort is being supervised by the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education, Rep. Aminu Suleiman.”
Gbajabiamila noted that the position taken by the Executive that it was not obligated to pay salaries to lecturers for the time spent on strike is premised on the law and the government’s legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions.
“Nonetheless, interventions have been made to explore the possibility of partial payments to the lecturers. We look forward to a favourable consideration by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR who has manifested his desire to what is prudent and necessary to resolve all outstanding issues.
“Implementing meaningful change takes time, especially when appropriations and modifications to systems such as IPPIS are required. Therefore, I urge all parties to be patient and grant each other the presumption of goodwill to the extent necessary to achieve our shared objectives. This is not a time for political brinkmanship.
“There is no more pressing objective than to preclude the possibility of further disruptions to the academic calendar of the universities. We must prevent this possibility by all means, as these disruptions risk the promise and potential of our nation’s youth,” he said.
The Speaker also restated his commitment to provide sustainable reforms to the tertiary education system.
He noted that the challenges facing Nigerian tertiary education are multifaceted hence the need for all stakeholders to come together and proffer solutions.
To this end, the Speaker convened a national tertiary education summit during which stakeholders would come up with ways to make things better in the sector.
Just In: ASUU Begins NEC Meeting
The National Executive Council of the Academic Staff Union of Universities has commenced its meeting, The PUNCH reliably confirmed.
The meeting started around 12:40 pm on Monday afternoon.
A member of NEC made this known in an interview with our correspondent under anonymity. “The meeting just started”, the source said.
The PUNCH had earlier reported how ASUU summoned an emergency NEC meeting following the payment of “half salaries” to lecturers by the government.
The union had described the October 2022 salaries as “amputated and insensitive.”
Justifying the government’s decision, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, noted that the government paid the lecturers pro-rata.
But human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, who happens to be the lead counsel to ASUU, in a statement released on Sunday, explained why the no-work-no-pay policy could not be applicable to ASUU.
Falana said, “In justifying the payment of half salaries to members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities for the month of October 2022, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has invoked the “no-work-no- pay” clause in section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act (Cap T8), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. According to the Minister of Labour and Employment, the lecturers ‘were paid in pro rata to the number of days they worked in October, counting from the day that they suspended their industrial action. Pro-rata was done because you cannot pay them for work not done. Everybody’s hands are tied.
“The position of the Federal Government is factually faulty and legally misleading. Since the industrial action was called off, the public universities have adjusted their calendars to ensure that the 2021/2022 academic session is not cancelled.
“Consequently, students are currently taking lectures or writing examinations that were disrupted during the strike of the ASUU. Therefore, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the ASUU strike, the doctrine of “no work, no pay” is totally inapplicable as students who were not taught during the strike are currently attending lectures and writing examinations.
Anxiety As ASUU Decides On Shutting Down Universities
Less than one month after the Academic Staff Union of Staff Universities, ASUU, suspended its 8-month industrial action, the union and the Federal Government are back on a warpath.
Already, the National Executive Council of the ASUU is set to meet on Monday (tomorrow) to decide whether to embark on another strike or not, DAILY POST gathered.
The meeting, which is expected to be held at the University of Abuja campus, comes on the heels of the October salary cut received by members of the union, weeks after suspending the prolonged industrial action.
ASUU had on February 14, 2023, shut down both State and Federal government-owned universities over previous agreements yet to be implemented by the government.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, after what he described as “failed negotiations” dragged the striking lecturers before the National Industrial Court.
The court, on September 21, ordered ASUU to call off the strike and resume duty with immediate effect.
ASUU had swiftly appealed the judgement but the Appeal Court also handed down a similar order, asking the striking lecturers to resume academic activities as declared in the earlier judgement.
The strike was finally suspended on October 14, 2022.
During the strike, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government vowed to sustain its No work, No-pay policy in a bid to force the union back to class.
But following the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, it was reported that the FG had agreed to set the policy aside and pay the arrears.
But earlier in the week, lecturers were paid half salaries for October, a development that may lead to another industrial crisis between the FG and the union.
Recall that the University of Jos (UNIJOS) chapter of ASUU had on Friday commenced a fresh ‘strike’ to protest the half salaries paid to its members for the month of October.
A member of the NEC, who spoke to DAILY POST on the condition of anonymity, said nothing would stop the union from embarking on another strike, stressing that their earlier agreement had been breached.
He said, “We are meeting on Monday to decide on the Federal Government’s move. I don’t think there will be anything that can stop the union from going on fresh strike. Agreement is agreement”.
When contacted by DAILY POST, the ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke confirmed the NEC meeting but refused to reveal the date.
Asked if the union was planning to embark on another strike, Professor Osodeke simply said, “we have procedures, we will meet soon and whatever is the outcome, we will let you know”.
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