Wednesday’s court judgement compelling striking lecturers to return to the classrooms is a declaration of war by the Federal Government against the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Chairmain of the Ebonyi State University Chapter of the union, Comrade Ikechuku Igwenyi, has said.
He added that with the adoption of “no work, no pay” policy, the Federal Government has deployed forced labour, hunger and starvation as weapons in response to the striking lecturers.
Igwenyi said it was obvious that FG lackef understanding of the nature of the contract between the lecturers and their employers.
Recall that the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) presided over by Justice Polycarp Hamman granted an interlocutory injunction against the continuation of the strike pending the determination of the substantive suit filed by the Federal Government.
Reacting to the judgement in Abakaliki on Thursday, Igwenyi told The Punch, “When a matter leaves the round and peaceful negotiation table to the Court, it becomes difficult to predict the possible end of the imbroglio. It has therefore become obvious that the Federal Government of Nigeria has clearly declared war against academic staff in Nigerian Federal Universities using the weapons of forced labour, hunger and starvation through non-payment of outstanding 7 months’ salaries.
“The “No work, No pay” policy of Federal Government implies government illiteracy on University Administration or FGN does not take into cognizance, the peculiar nature of the contract between University lecturers and their employers. It is therefore embarrassing that rather than confront the main issues with the urgency they demand, the Federal Government has been introducing obnoxious diversionary and distractive policies to divert the focus of ASUU from objective positions of the union to frivolities.
“The introduction of IPPIS and imposing the fraudulent payment platform on universities workers without integrity testing by NITDA and the current no work, no pay policy are clear indications of unwillingness to implement the agreements FGN willingly signed in 1981, 1992, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2009 and the several Memoranda of Understanding of 2013 and 2017 with the Memoranda of Action of 2019 and 2020. There were also two concluded reports that were submitted by Federal Government’s inaugurated Renegotiation Committee led by Prof. Muzali Jubril in 2021 and Emeritus Prof. Nimi Dimkpa Briggs without any consideration.
“It is therefore not surprising that while the Government-inaugurated committee had submitted their report to their principal and waiting for the outcome and approval of a job well done, the Federal Minister of Education came up with a “take it or leave it” salary award that is not in tandem with collective bargaining principles, which also negates the FGN/ASUU Agreement of 1981. Recall that the same government had set up a 14-man committee to review the Prof Nimi Briggs Committee report and while the committee is still at work, the Federal Minister of Labour and Productivity took the matter to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, because he informed that it was not the Federal Government that took ASUU to Court.”
Igwenyi said that while the court has ordered ASUU to call off the ongoing strike and return to the classroom with empty stomachs and unpaid bills pending the determination of the suit filed against the union by the Federal Government, “it has become difficult to hold government responsible and true to their word because NASU and SSANU were promised to be paid their salary when they resume work and it has been over a month without any light of hope or fidelity. Going to Court has implications in further delaying the negotiation process and will definitely postpone the day of joy for Nigerian university workers, students and parents.
“It is on this note that members are encouraged to be strong and courageous because this is a legacy struggle. Our Comrade President has urged members of the academic union to remain resolute and strong because a people united cannot be defeated. As we have received the judgement, members are therefore enjoined to remain firm with our faith unshakable and have a profound trust in the never-failing principles of the union and the destiny of our children, institution and country rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.
“National Industrial Court judgement is not a cul-de-sac or end of the road. There are other levels of appeal and stay of execution orders. It is imperative now to ask Federal Government of Nigeria whose interest they are working hard to protect because the genuine Nigeria students they claim they are fighting for have been protesting and recently called the National Industrial Court judgement ‘a black market judgement’.
“Members are hereby admonished not to lose faith because the Almighty God is on His Throne and it is not over until it is over.
“Our team of lawyers will advise properly on the next level but in the meantime, members are encouraged to be steadfast for the struggle is closer to the end than from the beginning.”