The Methodist Church of Nigeria, parents, students and other stakeholders called for urgent steps to rescue public universities in the country from immediate collapse, as members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, rolled over their warning strike by another 12 weeks.
The stakeholders, who reacted to ASUU’s action, opined that public universities in the country were now on death bed.
They include the Methodist Church of Nigeria, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, and the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN.
This is even as students of various tertiary institutions in Edo State blocked the entrance to Benin airport and the ever-busy Airport Road over the prolonged strike by the union.
Reacting, the Council of Methodist Bishops of Nigeria called on all Nigerians to rise and resist attempt by politicians to turn students in higher institutions to thugs through incessant strike by the ASUU.
Speaking at the end of 39th Council of Methodist Bishops in Lagos, Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Uche, said while Nigerian politicians send their children abroad to study, the common man’s children were left to suffer in the country.
“They send their children to foreign universities where they pay huge amount of money and their children are not disturbed. It is the children of common people that are suffering and we are not happy about it as a church” he said.
He also said the rate politicians paid N100 million and N40 million for nomination form showed that the incessant strike in the country was an attempt to turn common man’s children to thugs.
The cleric said: “It’s becoming more paradoxical and deeply disturbing that while public universities are shut down, politicians jostling for the presidential ticket of their political parties are busy acquiring nomination forms, some valued at N100 million and N40 million without recourse to the critical issue on ground.
“The Council of Bishops believes this action is a slap on the face of Nigerians, especially parents whose children are forced to sit at home helplessly and haplessly and it does not only show a high level of irresponsibility but lack of empathy, care and concern.
“Payment of such huge amount of money is absolute nonsense when majority of Nigerians are suffering. While they are also collecting several allowance packages, they are impoverishing the children of poor people so that they can use them as thugs during election. That is very bad.”
Also reacting, the National President of NANS, Sunday Asefon, said the student body would come out with a comprehensive response to the development.
He said: “However, what is happening is very unfortunate and a great disservice to Nigerian students. How long will it take the government and the unions to find a way out of this problem? Already, we have some demands tabled before the government regarding the meed to quickly resolve the issue.
“Nigerian students are feeling frustrated and our universities are badly affected and even the certificates being issued are no longer commanding respect. We should not kill these institutions.”
Similarly, National President of NAPTAN, Haruna Danjuma, said university education had suffered a great setback with prolonged industrial actions.
He said: “This year alone, the students have been at home for three months now and that could be longer with the new development. Our universities are on death bed. They are dying. We should not watch and let them die.
‘’While we plead with the unions to show understanding and make some concessions, the government should be serious about the matter.
“The government has time and money to do other things but does not seem to have the time and money to attend to issues relating to education.”
ASUU had in a statement by National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, earlier yesterday, said after a review of the situation, it decided to roll over the strike by another 12 weeks.
“NEC noted with serious disappointment that the three-man committee set up by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on February 1, 2022 to resolve the lingering issues between ASUU and FGN has not called a single meeting to date.
“NEC was equally disappointed that ASUU’s only meeting with the Professor Nimi Briggs-led Renegotiation Committee did not reflect the expected level of understanding, preparation and clarity that undergird collective bargaining going by the committee’s confession of “going about consulting stakeholders,” Unless urgent steps are taken to redirect the committee on concluding a draft agreement that has been pending since May 2021, its activities may end up as another wild goose chase.
“NEC condemned Federal Government’s cavalier attitude towards the strike action in the last twelve weeks. Government’s resort to the use of starvation as a weapon for breaking the collective resolve of ASUU members and undermine our patriotic struggle to reposition public universities in Nigeria is ill-advised and may prove counterproductive.
“NEC was shocked that public universities have remained closed for about three months while members of the political class were busy purchasing expression of interest and nomination forms worth several millions of naira in preparations for 2023 elections.
Meanwhile, students of various tertiary institutions in Edo State, yesterday, blocked the entrance to Benin airport and the ever busy Airport road over the prolonged strike by ASUU.
The incident created gridlock along the busy road and extended into adjoining roads in GRA area of Benin City.
The students, drawn from University of Benin, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Auchi Polytechnic and Edo State Polytechnic, Usen, also moved to the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Edo State council, to register their grievances, as the Students Union Government’s, SUG, president of UNIBEN, Foster Amadin, appealed to the media to reach out to those connected with the protracted ASUU strike, so that the students could go back to their various classrooms to learn.
He said: “We are lending our voice and appealing to whosoever is concerned, we have also come here as students that know the importance of the media to express our displeasure over the lingering ASUU strike.”
ASUP threatens nationwide strike
Also yesterday, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, spoke of plans to embark on nationwide strike from May, 11, following the non-implementation of the Memorandum of Action it reached with the Federal Government in May 2021.
The Zonal Coordinator of Zone D, which comprises South-South and South-East, Mr Precious Nwakodo, who disclosed this at a briefing in Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, yesterday, said part of the reason for the strike was the non-release of the N15 billion Revitalization Fund approved over a year for the sector to address infrastructural deficit as contained in the 2014 Needs Assessment Report.
“Following the discouraging response of the government to the one month notice of ultimatum, which ended five days ago, the NEC of the union will be meeting in two days time in Abuja to review the situation and take a decision on the planned strike,” Nwakodo said.
He said the federal and state governments had failed to commence payment of 10 months arrears of the new minimum wage after three years of signing the bill into law, adding that many states of the federation were yet to implement the new minimum wage in the various institutions.
Nwakodo also decried the manner the management of the Polytechnics and Ministries of Education had continued to take actions that were clearly in contrast with the provisions of the law and called on federal and state governments to respond to the yearnings of the academic staff to avoid strike in the interest of the students and parents.
Earlier, the Chairman of ASUP, Auchi Polytechnic chapter, Mr Lawani Jimoh, assured that the chapter would comply with the strike.
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