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Posts tagged ‘Academic Staff Union of Universities’

Duplicitous Atiku Commends Jonathan On 2nd Niger Bridge, knowing full well that it is a scam.


Former Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, said, Monday, that the flag off of the construction of the second Niger Bridge by President Goodluck Jonathan was belated, “as the project ought to have been completed before now.”

Atiku stated this while delivering a keynote address at the 16th annual conference of African Council for Communication Education.

The conference was entitled “Communication, Children and the Youth in the 21stcentury,” and was hosted by the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

At the time Atiku was speaking at Nsukka, President Jonathan was in Onitsha, Anambra State, flagging off the construction of the second Niger Bridge.

The former vice president, however, commended the President for eventually flagging off the construction of the second Niger Bridge after long years of wait.

He said that when completed, “the bridge would boost economic activities and transportation in the South-East zone and environs.”

In his address, Atiku urged participants at the ACCE conference to find solutions on how best to ensure that 10 million out-of-school children returned to school.

“The participants should also seek solution to the high rate of unemployment facing youths in the country,” he said.

He tasked the media on content that would promote the Nigerian economy, which, he said, has diverse sources of revenue and employment generation. “We don’t have to depend just on oil, but on agriculture, solid minerals, manufacturing and services”.

He said, “The media as an agenda setter should promote ideas for building the 21stcentury robust economy. You also have the responsibility to promote an education system mix of academic and vocational training, so as to cater for diverse needs of the youth and the emerging economy.”

Atiku, a presidential hopeful in the All Progressives Congress, advocated that federal schools be handed over to states in which they were located, saying, “It would help in administration and management of the schools.”

He added, “The Federal Government should also focus on setting regulatory standards and insist on implementing these standards.

“It will save cost as well as make it easier in management if federal schools were handed over to the states.”

The Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Prof. Bartho Okolo, expressed appreciation to the former vice president for honoring the invitation.

Earlier, the Head, Department of Mass Communication in the institution, Dr. Ray Udeaja, explained that the aim of the conference was to continue to advance evolution of communication education in Africa as well as guarantee the dignity of young Africans in the coming days.

“We are aware of the faith our society reposes on those of us who are in the academics. This is why we organise such conferences as these to enable us contribute to sustainable development.

“This conference targets young Africans who are our successors on this planet,” he said.

Udeaja added that the ACCE 2013 annual conference held this year (2014) because of the protracted Academic Staff Union of Universities strike last year. [Vanguard]

(From Biafra Galaxy)

NLC berates FG over dependence on oil.


oil

Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Issa Aremu, has said it is saddening that 53 years after Nigeria’s independence, the country still relied on oil as the mainstay of its economy.
Aremu, who made the statement at a press conference yesterday, said it was high time the country diversified into sectors such as automobile, food and beverages, regretting that one of the problems with the nation was the reliance on crude oil as the major source of revenue.
“The point I want to raise is that 53 years after independence, it is sad that we still rely on crude oil. The fundamental of our budget still rely on one source of revenue which is oil. I think I want to say next year the Federal Government should redouble its effort to make sure we add value through manufacturing sector. The only way to do so is for us to do as much as possible, to revive the industries not just the textiles but the automobile, food and beverages.
“There is a report that came out last week in a business newspaper that close to 130 companies have closed down in Nigeria. So, while our government is talking of direct foreign investment coming to Nigeria, we should make the point that the domestic investment is actually dying and you cannot create jobs if there are no industries. In fact, for us to solve the problem of unemployment is for us to add value to our natural resources and raw materials and process them into manufactured products.
“This is where I think government has taken a bold decision on the new automotive policy which is to restrict the whole sale importation of imported second hand vehicles. We hope this will give an incentive for domestic assembly plants to return to business such as Peugeot, Volkswagen, ANAMCO in Anambra.”

Source: Radio Biafra.

The Bartho Tragedy And Okolo Plague: Letter To President Jonathan To Restore Dr. Emeka Enejere As UNN Council Chairman By Millicent Chikani.


Dear President Jonathan, I deem it urgently necessary to write you this letter because the University of Nigeria, which you hold in trust for present Nigerians and those coming after us, is endangered. For the records, the UNN was set up as a culmination of African (not just Nigerian) nationalistic struggles. It held out in robust scholarship until the 1990s. In the 2000s, its institutional quality had waned so much in favor of prebendary cronyism. But stakeholders never knew they were yet to see the worst until, unfortunately, “Professor” Bartholomew Ndubuisi Okolo emerged as its 12th Vice-Chancellor in June 2009. A person like “Prof.” Okolo could have arisen to the post of vice chancellor only in a society that does not respect merit. Since Okolo’s embarrassing emergence as VC of UNN, it has been misfortune not just for students and staff but for the university as an institution. I am sorry about the length of this letter. I did my best to keep it as short as you have it. For your easier reading, Mr. President, some of the issues are itemized hereunder, and I assure you that what you see here is a tip of the iceberg.

It is known to members of the UNN community that Prof. Okolo could not, on his own, work out the publications that made him the (pseudo)professor that he claims to be today. He rode roughshod on a younger, smarter colleague, using his superior position as a senior lecturer to usurp the younger man’s superior ideas and research results, arrogating authorship to himself and penning his name as lead author of most of the publications.

Before he elbowed his way to VCship of UNN, Bartho was already notorious for many reasons. Under him, the southeast subsidiary of the Nigerian breweries ran aground. The Enugu Sports Club also collapsed under his chairmanship.

•    Bartho coordinated the the NUGA games hosted by the UNN in 2009. Readers of this article who attended that event are witnesses to the fact that only one (the squash court), out of the dozens of sports facilities for which your and late Yar’Adua’s government provided funds, was completed. And those structures still remain uncompleted carcasses today after almost five years of Okolo’s VCship.

•    As people wondered what he would be doing with the unused billions, a member of the “Professor” S. O. Igwe-led University Council, which orchestrated his selection in 2009, had revealed to his friends that Okolo, having bumbled to the 5th position in the screening for Vice Chancellorship that happened a few months after NUGA, bribed his way through by offering the council members the sum of 350 million naira. Weeks later, that council member, Prof. R. U. Okafor, who leaked that information died in circumstances that puzzled experts in Parklane hospital, Enugu. He spent one sick week in the hospital without medication because the experts, having run dozens of tests, were still at a loss as to what the problem was. Two years later, Prof. Miriam Ikejiani-Clarke, an obvious challenger of Prof. Okolo’s maximum rulership, died in similar circumstances in another hospital in Abuja. The fear of Okolo then became the beginning of wisdom for other professors.

•    UNN students, having already known the administrative disaster Okolo was wont to be, protested for days against the questionable emergence of this substandard academic. And his first administrative decision was to ban student unionism. (It has stood banned until this day despite repeated appeals from many quarters).

•    One of the first struggles Prof. Okolo waged as VC was with a professor of Agriculture, Prof. Alex Ikeme, who was the director of an entrepreneurial outreach program with which the UNN, with sponsorship from the CBN, trained many people into self-employment. It was a fight to take personal control of the funds issuing from the CBN. That fight – because the professor refused to give in to his imperial command – sounded the death knell on that wonderful program. The CBN officials who severally visited and investigated that case are still alive to tell you what they found.

•    In Okolo’s hands, university admission became a gift for cronies and money bags. Majority of the intake are those who barely passed entrance examinations but admitted in what is called VC’s list; whose parents/guardians command Okolo’s personal interest. And these are admitted at the expense of many other bright candidates who are unfortunate to have applied under a VC that is a stranger to merit.

•    Under Okolo, 2,000 naira is deducted from the salaries your government pays all categories of staff as internet charges without their consent. Staff still spend on the same internet in Modems and cybercafés because the university internet signals are weak in most parts of campus. It is even worse for those who double as staff and postgraduate students: As students, they pay 18,000 for internet; as staff they cumulatively pay 24,000 annually for same internet. So, in sum, they pay 42,000 for services they hardly get.

•    Without consultation, Okolo’s administration deducts fixed sums of 3% at source from salaries of on-campus staff as electricity bills, no matter how much electricity was available or used each month.

•    Dear president, you know that after a long drawn out struggle by ASUU, the TETFund (Tertiary Education Trust Fund) was established to assist Nigerian university staff with funding for research, conferences and postgraduate studies. In UNN, if you are not related to Okolo or his friends, you cannot access TETFund, no matter the merits of your proposal. The failure of UNN to secure more funds from TETFund under Okolo is due to his failure to account for the sum earlier received.

•    UNN would have been luckier if it was only TETFund that Okolo squandered. More than 80% of the 6 billion naira intervention his administration got from your administration remains unaccounted for. The whereabouts of the billions generated yearly as IGR in UNN, and sundry other funds and government subventions, also remain unknown.

•    UNN staff are yet to get the earned allowances for which your government made provisions about four months ago. It has been found that the bursar, with Okolo’s directive, put the earned allowances in a fixed deposit to yield interests at the expense of your employees.

•    Apparently to control moneys from levies students pay for running faculties and departments, Prof. Okolo directed that all dues be made into a singular account from which deans and HODs would draw to handle their responsibilities. As I write you, Sir, deans and HODs run their faculties and departments with their (already depleted) salaries, while nothing is known of the proceeds of those levies.

•    Dear president, it has been found that much of the financial directives from Prof. Okolo to the bursar (whom the university council later had to suspend) were done not on paper but by telephone conversation. It is no wonder then that Okolo had nothing to show when the Council, with Dr. Emeka Enejere as chairman, directed him to account for his financial dealings. He continued to dodge council summons until Chief Nyesom Wike, the Supervising Minister for Education, allowed himself to be deceived into ignominiously pronouncing Dr Enejere suspended, to be replaced by the minister’s legal adviser, without due process that your government very well preaches.

•    I will tell you, dear President, something remarkable that happened soon after you instituted the new university council. One Mr. Fayemi,  representing the education ministry in the council, visited parts of UNN. He could not hold back his frustrations at the level of dilapidation despite the billions in Prof. Okolo’s disposal. However, it was with shock that the university stakeholders received the news that Mr. Fayemi had been withdrawn from the council due to his insistence that things be done right. Investigations later showed that Prof. Okolo had bribed his cronies in the education sector at Abuja to recall “the unguarded” Fayemi.

•    Dear President, do you know that Okolo’s wife is Alex Ekwueme’s daughter; that Okolo had projected his brother-in-law and Alex’s brother, Prof. Laz Ekwueme, to chair the UNN council, and almost had a heart attack when you thought differently and instead got a no-nonsense man, Dr. Emeka Enejere, to chair the council.

•    When, in mid-2013, that the new Council began to investigate Prof. Okolo’s financial dealings and job recruitment processes, they made findings that will break Your Excellency’s heart. When the Council suspended the bursar and controller of personnel, there was rejoicing in the university community because both officers, being Okolo’s hatchet men, represented the quiddity of official malfeasance. The council also found a harem of personal assistants and advisers that swarmed around the VC, milking the UNN. Following a directive of yours as visitor to the university, these were also sacked. The joy in UNN knew no bounds as your transformation agenda was seen to be embodied in the new council.

•    After having invited the VC for a meeting for the umpteenth time to account for his stewardship, the council, in their meeting slated for December 16, was set to take decisive decisions. One of the Pro-Chancellor’s aides, whom Okolo had bought over, informed him that council was set to suspend him and call for an independent investigation into his dealings. This led the professor to induce the Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, with the sum of N200 million to remove the Pro-Chancellor without the knowledge of Your Excellency, who alone are empowered by law to appoint and remove federal universities’ Pro-Chancellors.

•    Dear President, it is curious that Dr. Enejere’s removal came a day after the Pro-Chancellor shared the report of Council’s activities with Chief Wike, and just a day before Council’s decisive meeting already mentioned above. You can look at that report yourself. It will reveal to you Okolo’s colossal fraud and mismanagement of the University of Nigeria. Is this what you want, Mr. President?

•    Dear President, I write you this letter because it seems to me that you, who are The Visitor to the UNN, could not have authorized the minister to remove an excellent Pro-Chancellor and replace him with his (the minister’s) legal adviser without following due process.

•    The Alumni, all the unions of the university as well as the host community members, who had all seen the sincerity of purpose of the Pro-Chancellor were crestfallen by the news of his hurried suspension. We wonder whether you could have ordered the removal of a strict, incorruptible Chairman of Council. Well-wishers of the University of Nigeria call on you to keep a date with history and re-instate Dr. Emeka Enejere, the Pro-Chancellor whose conducts have won every well-meaning stakeholder’s heart. Solidarity with his leadership is so much that the Alumni, all staff of the university as well as members of the host community have come together in an unprecedented synergy to ask you to stop whoever wants Dr. Enejere removed as UNN Pro-Chancellor. Dear President, do you know that love for Dr. Enejere’s leadership among the staff is so much that they have been in overwhelming protest and have vowed to do no work until he is restored as Pro-Chancellor?

•    The Minister’s action this time is one too many, out of the law, and demonstrates disregard for your office.

•    Dear President, please do not keep quiet over this matter. You hold the University of Nigeria in trust not only for Zik and other founding fathers but also generations coming after us. Will you abandon it for the few whose ambition is to destroy an important part of the country you are laboring to build.

Dear President, the issues raised here are verifiable and I invite you to send a team to investigate them. Your Excellency will marvel to find that I didn’t even scratch the surface of Prof. Okolo’s mismanagement of the university he holds in trust for you and Nigerians. Dear President, I know you are a person that loves those who build and not destroy; those who detest evil and desire right; those who uphold standards and not mediocrity. I ask you, in all sense of patriotism, to restore Dr Emeka Enejere as Chairman of UNN council. People like him are hard to find in our clime in these times. He is an asset that your government needs. Please bring him back and work with him.

Sincerely
Millicent Chikani
Department of Accountancy
University of Nigeria
Enugu Campus

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

A Plea For City/Town Self ­Rule In Nigeria By Adamu Muhammad Dankore.


By Adamu Muhammad Dankore

It drives me crazy no one is about about it.

In 1963, Nigeria adopted the United States Federal Republic structure, leaving behind the Parliamentary System of its colonial master, Britain.  In a Federal Republic, the executive, legislature and judiciary are each independent arms of government while one arm can perform the function of another in a Parliamentary System. In order words, elected legislators are also ministers in a Parliamentary System. Legislators cannot be ministers at the same time in a republic.

It was brilliant of our forefathers to have chosen to adopt the Federal Republic System. Here’s the conundrum though: US Economic Freedom Index, the overall health of the economy, increased 0.5% from 1999 to 2013, while Nigeria’s Economic Freedom Index reduced 0.6% over the same period. The point? The Federal Republic System is working for the US and not for Nigeria.

Same democratic structure, different directions? Maybe we should look a little deeper. Looking closely, our democracy lacked the bedrock of a Federal Republic­ harnessing the power of interest.

Interest is a loose concept I coined for things people do because they have to, because if they don’t there will be negative consequences. If they do, there will be positive consequences. And actually, democracy harnesses the power of interests in order to properly function. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is an example of an organized interest group. They have vested interest in the proper functioning of their staff and one of the ways they showed that is by going on strike. Farmers groups, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, student associations, the lists goes on, are examples of groups having restricted interests. In general, the wellbeing of our children, wife, husband, parents, town, state, country and so on are things we have a vested interest in. We have to care about these units otherwise there would be negative consequences.

The closer these units are to us, the more we care about them, the further away they are, the less we care. It is more likely we would care about an issue happening in our town than in another town 3 hours away. It is more likely we would care about an issue 3 hours away than 10hrs away.

Nigeria does not fully harness this concept. In fact, we left the mechanism behind after we remodeled the republic­ type democracy from the US, and that is the root cause of our problems. Yes, that is literally the root cause of our problems. Because we lacked the mechanism that empower people the most, no wonder Nigerians feel they don’t matter. When you make people feel they don’t matter, you can expect the worse from them. The Biafran War, Boko Haram, and Niger Delta Militancy are examples.

So how exactly does Nigeria’s Federal Republic fail to harness the power of interest? The answer is the absence of city/town self­ rule. This sounds mediocre but is one of the most, if not the major, indicators of how the common people have control over their democratic process. China, a communist country, has a city/town rule. South Africa, a parliamentary ­republic also has a city/town rule. Overall, countries that practice city/town rule do better in the Economic Freedom Index. The difference is glaring.

City/town rule is common sense than anything else. It’s not a privileged rule that works for some countries and not others. This common sense comes from the concept of vested interest I mentioned above­ people have the tendency to care more for things closer them, physically or emotionally, than those far away. Therefore, giving people the authority to manage the closest reasonable entity to them does not only deliver the most efficient results but also make the people in control of their future.  A city or town is the most reasonable governance entity closer to the people, not a Local Government Area we currently have in Nigeria.

Our Local Government Area/Wards structure is a good idea, except the local governments are not the closest reasonable entity to the people, compared to cities/towns/villages, more so, the Wards have few to zero administrative powers. It makes all sense to give cities/towns administrative authority rather than local governments. Supervisory, education, jail, hospital, and so on are examples of roles Local Government Areas should play. We should give our cities/towns the authority to collect taxes, manage roads, water, electricity, sewer system, environment, police and so on.

Unfortunately, not every Nigerian think local control is our main problem. I don’t blame Nigerians but the system. Our current democratic structure has made us accept top to bottom rule as the normal; a power structure that is not only ineffective at its best, but create takers instead of creators. Top to bottom means taking care of others instead of given them the power to do so. This kind of system cripples innovation, encourages money laundering, fuel godfatherism, create hopeless followers, and the root cause of 99% of our problems.

Adopting a city/town rule would give many more Nigerians, instead of the few, the opportunity to shape the future of their country by themselves. It would make Nigerians creators of wealth rather than takers. It would attract people and businesses into our communities creating jobs and securing our future.

Below is an outline of the logic behind why city/town rule produces the best results:

●     People have stakes (something to gain/lose) in their city/town; give them the authority, they will not allow it to rot. If they do, they suffer the consequences and make corrections themselves.
●     Better managed cities/towns attract people
●     The more the people in a city/town, the more businesses will relocate
●     The more businesses, the more economic activity and income for the city/town
●     The more money a city/town gets in form of taxes and fees, the more services it would provide
●     Improved cities/towns gives rise to financially strong local governments
●     Better local government makes a great state
●     Better states make a powerful country.

The top to bottom democratic structure we currently have in Nigeria does not work and it will never work. It is about the few babysitting the majority, a structure that does not only discourage being independent, but also encourages corruption (Nigeria is 144 out of 177 countries in terms of corruption says Transparency International), while also very incompatible with economic stability, the list goes on.

Countries that adopt city/town rule tend to be relatively less corrupt and have a more transparent local, state and national governments than those who don’t. Benin Republic, Botswana, Ghana, and South Africa are examples of countries that have city/town rule and have much less corruption, good elections, and of course investment­ healthy environments because it is the majority not the few that control their future.

Even though our problems are too many and with no apparent solution, local control aka city/town rule will solve our problems one after the other. It will create jobs and infrastructure, ease regional and tribal tensions, produce good leaders who would rise from local to national, conduct credible elections, and corruption will fall greatly because now millions more people would be responsible for managing their resources.

It is the majority that build cities, towns and villages so give them the power to do so. Safe and friendly cities, towns and villages make a strong local government, state and a country. It is not the other way round like we currently have in Nigeria.

City/town rule will put Nigeria on the path to economic freedom and corrupt­free society.

Adamu Muhammad Dankore
Hartley, Iowa, United States
+1-319-296-5799

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

ASUU Strike & Its Ripple Effects By Adesegun Damazio.


By Adesegun Damazio

It is indeed ironical to find that the same set of people who clamor to make Nigeria a foremost contender among the world’s most buoyant economies are the ones draining the yolk of its future representatives. As sluggish days progressed into nerving weeks, and then into unbearably arduous months, the 2013 strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities proved to be one of the most devastating and lack-luster uproars ever staged by the body. With most stringent issues being left unattended to, while sensitive blame and provocative accusations are now the daily topics of public discourse, all seems to be unwell among the custodians of our nation’s constitution.

However, this piece is not aimed at revealing the harbingers of the incessant turmoil in the country’s various administrative dispensation, nor is it a pointer to the quiddity behind the ASUU/FG showdown, instead, it posits the discernible effects and most importantly, imminent results that the strike action may deal on the Nigerian youth. One ideology that guided the entire citizens to be the punch line of the just-concluded battle and perhaps, the reason why it garnered much publicity and support from within and outside the country was the FG’s unwillingness to fulfillits promises to revamp the educational sector, either by allocating more funds or increasing the pay of university lecturers, if not both. The two parties had been accused of having alternative motives for their stern refusal to reach a comprehensive agreement, with ASUU coming under fire from prominent bodies such as Catholic Bishops and the Market Women Association of Nigeria. Meanwhile, Nigerian students who are essentially on the receiving end have been left to question who is really fighting for their welfare.

Also, various chapters of the executive committee of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) did not emerge from the discord unscathed, having being accused of incompetence and accepting bribes from top government officials in order to remain docile throughout the course of the strike. Needless to say, nothing qualifies to be held tangible enough for the restoration of the educational sector. Recent polls have cited Nigeria to possess the most numerous amount of Internet users, the redundant undergraduates taking a lion’s share of the pie chart. While some are beginning to see Internet fraud as a booming occupation owing to the sheer oppression by the ostentatious lifestyles of their peers, others have simply taken solace in online pornography. The number of attendees at night clubs has also witnessed an overwhelming surge, thereby paving the way for constant abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Efforts at reducing crime rates in the society have taken a sudden plunge, with most holiday job providers now more reluctant to employ students-turned-urchins to their workforce. The pungent strike discouraged a large number of undergraduates from reading their books since most of them felt there was nothing to read for. Several social networking sites declared huge profits from the sky high increase in the number of registered users. Although, it is quite remarkable to find that amidst the anarchical political system, some students strived to make good use of their time either by volunteering to participate actively in governmental and community services, or modeling, blogging, just to cite a few.

In addition, the strike created a thriving habitat for famous bloggers both in Nigeria and the diaspora, to reveal various acts of indecency, negligence and corruption at the various arms of government and its parastatals, backed with pictorial and corresponding evidence. This did nothing other than sorely fuel the lividity of the ASUU top guns and its members, who seemed relentless in their struggle for stability in the country’s most promising sector. It would be of no surprise if the new annual ranking of the world’s best universities is devoid of a Nigerian institution, thereby leaving a sordid indentation on the erstwhile blooming reputation of UI, UNILAG & OAU amongst others. Furthermore, an impending malady might come to play if the victims of the 2013 ASUU STRIKE are rendered unemployable due to months of inactivity, with undergraduates in the medical and engineering field standing to take the most fatal gash. This however, allows either for downright nepotism or rigmarole in job acquisition, while the redundant populace are left to venture into unrelated lines of work in order to make ends meet. The phrase, “ASUU SUSPENDS STRIKE” is a reminder of a possible reoccurrence of an industrial action in the case of a breach of agreement, which underscores the horrendous level of dishonesty at the country’s helm of affairs. For the average Nigerian student, the road to redemption stretches to endless extremes.

The series of ongoing events all culminate in a famous saying, “a nation divided against itself is destined for ruin.” Will Nigeria yield to the Americans‘ proposition of a nation that would cease to exist come 2015, even though they have their own dirty linen to wash? Will the Nigerian youth one day, stage an uprising and rid the government of corrupt officials as seen in other African countries? Or would the state of affairs be returned to a pristine state following fruitful dialogue and national conferences? These and many more are crucial questions left unanswered by the respective Nigerian bodies, and would go a long way in determining the credibility of the nation’s heritage. In the end, we are all Nigerians and certainly are culpable if things go awry.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

By: Adesegun Damazio

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

OFFICIAL : ASUU Strike Ends.


ASUU leaders and FG officials
By Saharareporters, New York

The Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) has officially suspended it five months old industrial action action starting from today.

The union took the decision  after a marathon meeting in Minna, Niger State.

The decision to end the protracted industrial action was taken after ASUU signed a new agreement with the federal government on December 11 2013.

ASUU President, Dr. Nasir Fagge told SaharaReporters shortly before commencing a press conference in Minna that ASUU has concluded its National Executive Council meeting and accordingly decided to suspend the strike.

Growing Repression Of Free Speech And Attack On Human Rights Defenders In Nigeria By Victoria Ohaeri.


 

Victoria Ohaeri
By Victoria Ohaeri

The growing repression of citizen reporters and advocates that challenge the never-seen-before levels of corruption and political under-performance going in Nigeria has now assumed frighteningly alarming dimensions. For some time now, I have been the target of deliberate attacks, threats, accusations leveled against me by persons who hold themselves out as Igbo ethnic champions and supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.  Their main grouse is that I have refused to heed their ‘wise counsel” to support a president from my tribe and region. Over time, they have continuously launched series of deliberate campaign of calumny against me on the social media, employing all sinisterly bewildering means to coerce me into silence.

Particularly on December 12, 2013, I had made the Facebook posting below:

Yes, Obasanjo clearly lacks the moral ground to write GEJ and level accusations he himself was, and is still guilty of. But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether there is any question OBJ has asked in that letter that isn’t true, and deserving of compelling answers. If all that most Nigerians can do after reading that letter is to hurl tirades at OBJ, then the bigger joke is on us all.

The truth is that GEJ may chose to call his estranged godfather’s bluff, but citizens, the diplomatic and international community are alarmed, and are taking the contents of that letter very seriously. He should also keep in mind that OBJ isn’t the kinda person whose hard questions can be wished away or dismissed with a wave of the hand.

GEJ is free to order his aides to decline a response, but most of the grave accusations – especially those bordering on all kinds of presidential corruption, oil theft, arms-piling and pursuit of a regional agenda – in that letter MUST be answered. Many issues raised in that letter have given the calls for regime change more tonic. And if these questions aren’t answered, then a regime change by “all means necessary” has become very imperative.

Capitalizing on the phrase, “by all means necessary” contained in the above post, a Facebook group named, Nigerian Liberation Movement (NLM) published hate messages with very malicious and defamatory content with intent to harm my reputation, and promote their characteristic ethnic bigotry. Very preposterously too, the above post was misinterpreted to mean that I was calling for the assassination of President Goodluck Jonathan, and on that basis, they urged the State Security Service to arrest me.

The statement contains in part:

Mrs Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri with ties to northern Nigeria has been a vocal critique of the Jonathan-led administration and believes that for the country to move forward the president should be removed by impeachment or through a military coup, which may result in his assassination.

Many Northerners have reacted to the call by Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri with suspicion and view her as a spy amongst them while their eastern counterparts have distanced themselves from the call. The Northerners view such a move as another repeat of the 1966 debacle for the eastern people of Igbo origin to seize power while using a “detribalized” mole like Mrs Ibezim-Ohaeri to wade off suspicion. Easterners on the other hand see such call as an attempt to push the country into another round of “Igbo killing and massacre” which they called pogrom.

Ordinarily, the above interpretation is laughable and undeserving of a response as there is clearly no way that the phrase, “by all means necessary” connotes or even suggests a recommendation of an assassination plot.  Such mischievous misinterpretation, steeped in incurable idiocy again brings to the fore, the continuing rot in the Nigerian educational system, which has seen the universities churn out retards as graduates. Determined to overturn this rot, Nigerian lecturers under the auspices of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a protracted strike, refusing to yield to official intimidation and all untoward pressures aimed at breaking their resolve.

There is simply no way a statement made within the limits of free speech, and again, made well within the context of  established modes of democratic ascendancy could be myopically construed to mean a backing to murder a serving president! A subsequent post made the following day (December 13, 2013) specifically referenced an impeachment process, confirming my original intent on constitutionally-prescribed modes of political changeover. Sight must not be lost of the fact that the call for regime change “by all mean necessary” was preconditioned on the president’s refusal or failure to provide cogent and compelling responses to the allegations of  “presidential corruption, oil theft, arms-stockpiling and the secession agenda” contained in General Olusegun Obasanjo’s infamous letter to President Goodluck Jonathan.

This trend is however, not entirely new. In the last two years, there has been a clearly defined pattern of branding anybody who boldly speaks against the frustrating levels of bad governance and unprecedented corruption in Nigeria as an “enemy”.  Patriotism is now defined as loyalty to the serving president, and not to the country itself. While this persecution against real and imagined critics of government persists, ex-militants and warlords famed for their inflammatory statements continue to enjoy the support and protection of the authorities.

Even more hurtfully, the statement by the NLM demonized the northern part of the country, insinuating that anyone “who has ties to the north” is inherently evil or a terrorist. Never in the chequered history of this country have we seen such alarming levels of bigotry and polarization along ethnic, tribal and regional lines, as we are witnessing since President Goodluck Jonathan came to power. Almost every issue, analysis,  advocacy and even policy interventions that affect generality of the populace are now understood and dissected through ethnic prisms and warped regional predispositions. That is why an important bill like the Petroleum Industry Bill has remained on the parliamentary shelf, gathering dust, blocking billions of investments and oil revenues that could have been used to provide infrastructure, create jobs for restive youths and clean up the environmental mess in the Niger Delta.

It is difficult to believe that the Nigerian authorities are unaware of the ignominious activities of overzealous pests and rodents on the social media purporting to be acting on its behalf. No known attempt has been made to dissuade the activities of these often faceless groups and actors who have succeeded in making more enemies for the government of the day. These nuisances, mainly characterized by their low intellectual depth, fake identity and abusive expertise spend long hours on the social media throwing mud at personalities, citizen advocates and human right defenders perceived to be strong critics of President Jonathan’s administration. That these cyber rodents never use their real identities to mobilize public support for the present government is compelling proof that they are ashamed of the wicked roles they play, and wounded by their conscience.

For more than a decade, I have been actively involved in the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria, mainly through public interest litigation and other channels of popular expression to achieve these goals. Having come this far, I cannot be intimidated by the ranting of cheap blackmailers and lazybones.  The struggle to restore sanity to Nigeria’s democratic and political climate has only just begun!

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Beyond The ASUU Strike By Modiu Olaguro.


By Modiu Olaguro

“Its high time ASUU starts being the change it wants to see in the nation.”
I’m writing this piece in anticipation of the call-off to the industrial action by the academic staff union of universities which is evident due to the memorandum of understanding that was signed between the union and the federal government on the 11th of December 2013.

The several months’ old strike like any other that has plagued the country was met with diverse reaction from stakeholders across the country. The lecturers on their part reaffirmed their position on the rationale for the strike as one that was needed to revitalize the ailing education sector. The government was quick to point out that the demands of ASUU if met would only signal the end of the country’s economy.

The interesting aspect of the strike was that the students who have been the direct victim of the “chalk-down” were divided in opinions as a number of us supported ASUU while others, probably due to the extension of stay in school or the presumed benefit they get from it especially the leadership of the National association of Nigerian students (NANS) decided to take sides with the reneged party that signed an agreement, but failed to honor it.

The students that were in support of the strike took that position out of the conviction that in a land filled with abundant human, material and mineral resources such as ours, there should not be a reason why our ivory towers should remain at the very bottom of the Webometrics– below several universities, colleges and polytechnics of other African countries.

This development brings to fore some burning issues that have been a source of concern, worry and apprehension for undergraduates across the country.

First is the fear of rushing students in order to close-in on the lost weeks to accommodate students who take other satellite, part-time and distance learning programs offered by the Universities. Rumors are rife among students that if the strike is called off in December, examinations might be held before the end of the year leaving the students with less than two weeks for lectures and tests though a number of school calendars had at least five weeks to examinations before the strike commenced.

It is pertinent to point out that the aim of education far exceeds the “four-walls, teaching-learning process”, it transcends a rigid, hasty completion of an academic calendar; on the contrary, education should aim to focus on those policies and decisions that are geared towards enabling the students achieve both their innate and manifested potentials as against the old ways of letting them be a victim of not only the strike action but also a rushed examination.

It would do the students and management of the respective universities much good if the councils sit on a round table to make an in-depth assessment and analysis on the best way to go about adjusting the school calendar in order to ensure that the students are not short-changed by making them the grass in the tussle between two elephants. Such criteria that ought to be considered include but are not limited to the number of weeks to examinations before the strike and the psychological effect of the months old strike on the students and lecturers.

It is also imperative for ASUU and the federal government to devise other means to settle their scores because though it appears that the leadership of ASUU is in haste to see that the education sector is revamped (which is a laudable development), the result to incessant strikes do leave a devastating scar on the system. A step in the positive direction was the decision that was reported to have been made that the new agreement be signed by a host of government institutions including the central bank in order not to have a repeat of the 2009 agreement that was not implemented.

There is also a need for ASUU to look inward and get its house in order by not compromising standards as regards the unethical conducts of some university teachers. As a way of justifying the financial and intellectual trust put in its care, the university managers should as a matter of necessity ensure that only qualified lecturers not only in terms of certification but also character remain in the system.

As an undergraduate, I have been involved in discussions with colleagues from the faculty of engineering and environmental sciences who complain bitterly that a handful of their lecturers do not have an iota of practical experience in the construction industry and field work. They give instance where first class students were retained to teach immediately after their undergraduate or graduate studies which according to them, has been inimical to the passing across of practical concepts to them.

The leadership of ASUU while fighting the government on the adequate funding of the sector should not also wait to let others point it out to them that there is an urgent need to put the culture of waste to check by prudent management of scarce resources; the issue of sexual harassment on the part of their colleagues and students still steers right on our faces; there is a need to work with the management of the respective universities in order to provide a clear-cut template for the dos and don’ts binding the conduct of both the lecturers and students.

ASUU and the university managements would also do well by providing and sustaining an atmosphere where meritocracy thrives and its members are checked by the students and supervisory bodies and feedback provided to the appropriate authorities on such yardsticks such as attendance to lectures, knowledge of subject matter, discipline and character. Rewards should be handed out to deserving ones while punishment ranging from query, suspension or termination of appointments should be meted out to erring ones irrespective of status.

The forced selling of handouts and textbooks is also a bane in our higher institutions as some lecturers do take down names of the students that purchase their materials- this is in contrast to what operates in other neighboring and western nations where lecturers produce course notes for the students to download at no fee at all.

It has widely been reported that one of the reasons why cultism remain pervasive in our citadels is because some lecturers and even university managers who were cultists during their undergraduate days still remain apologetic to their secret groups; ASUU would write its name in gold if it sees this as a blemish on its part and fishes out culprits in other to solve this social problem.

The issue of leakage of examination papers ought to be seriously looked into as it as widespread and pervasive as a cholera outbreak. There is a need to put in place stringent measures in order to nail this academic disgrace in the bud. There had been allegations that personal assistants to lecturers and secretary to departments are mostly culpable.

The voices of some stakeholders who called for the proscription of ASUU were loud but the call was not allowed to hold substance because as a trade union with several members, they have every right to agitate and struggle especially in a democratic setting; it is thus unfortunate that though ASUU remains a viable and formidable union in Nigeria, most of her members including professors, PhD holders and even graduate students occupying various position in our citadels have in one way or another contributed to the weakening, dismantling and even the proscription of student unionism across the country.

A good example is the University of Lagos who prides itself as the University of First Choice and nation’s pride but has denied her students the right to participate in a democracy for eight years since the student union government was banned. I wonder what the administrators of UNILAG are afraid of to warrant this abuse of civil rights.

The students cannot be absolved from this malice as most of us stay in the university as though we are strangers begging for favors; on the contrary, the university in all its entirety- the buildings, books and members of staff would not have been in place were it not for the students hence, a need to start cultivating the right attitudes of demanding for a better service and quality education from the government and lecturers.

I’ve been a university student for two years, and since then, I have had cause to remain at home for almost a year: two months on the subsidy protests, a month was wasted during the change of the university’s name, five months and still counting on the ASUU strike which totals nine months.

This is really not a good time to be a Nigerian.

Modiu Olaguro finds “X” at The University of Lagos
Email: dprophetpride@gmail.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Like ASUU, Like Niger Delta Militants By Biodun Shaiban.


By Biodun Shaiban

Insurgency in the Niger Delta region started with some natives (militants) demanding to have better infrastructural development and their environment better maintained. Major parts of the Niger Delta were and are still actually in a poor state. Sincere Nigerians will actually agree that this is unacceptable especially as this is a region providing a huge share of the nation’s funds.

So, some of the natives decided to put their fate in their own hands. They decided to catch the full attention of the government by holding it to ransom. They embarked on kidnapping and vandalism of workers and facilities respectively. Did the methods work? Yes, they sure caught the government’s attention. A lot of the militants now live on the dole and receive amounts of money that exceed salaries of modest graduates in various parts of the country. Some of the militants got contracts worth billions of naira and even now have private jets. Are their actions justified? This depends on the angle you view it from.

If you are a militant native, the end justifies the means; after all it is your oil money the whole nation lives on. If you are a worker in the petroleum industry and you and your family experienced the ordeals of kidnapping or murder, you will find their actions to be criminal. What an irony? One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist. To be honest, I feel the Niger delta region and its natives should be adequately taken care of, but it is the method that the natives (militants) go about it that is condemnable because it lacks justice. You should not hold in captivity anybody (especially innocent people) just because you want to advance your own cause. It is outright selfishness, insensitivity and injustice.

But as the government has granted the militants amnesty, doled out money to them freely, created a ministry of Niger delta, splashed out more funds to the region, how come the region is still very much undeveloped and insecurity including kidnapping and vandalism is still on the increase? I think it is because the militants have always been selfish and insincere. The militants never saw anything wrong in the governors of their respective states who embezzle billions of naira; they even defend(ed) them. The militants themselves aid the degradation of their environment by vandalizing facilities and then seek compensation and also kidnap oil workers for ransoms. Clearly, splashing of funds is not the solution.

Comparing the Niger Delta region and the situation in our public universities establishes a nexus of some kind. They are both in a bad state and are mismanaged by their respective authorities; they also both have very aggressive cum cunning stakeholders advancing their causes; the Niger delta militants and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) respectively.

Analyzing the Niger Delta debacle further reveals more conclusions, which we all as a nation should learn from. The release of funds (no matter the amount) just like in the Niger Delta situation would not solve the issue of our public universities and halt the decadence because ASUU members are selfish and insincere as they encage millions of innocent students just as the Niger Delta militants do to innocent people.

Just as militants see nothing wrong in their thieving state governors, so do ASUU members see nothing wrong with their vice chancellors who embezzle and waste funds in hundreds of millions on needless projects; as the militants damage the facilities then cause spillages so as to claim compensation, so do some ASUU members engage in cash and sex for grades; as militants use the tool of ransom holding to negotiate, so are ASUU members doing now by keeping students at home. When the Government splashed out money all in the name of amnesty, the only major change that occurred was in the pockets of some militants and government officials. No major change has occurred as the insecurity and degradation of the Niger Delta region continues. The lives of majority of the ordinary people in the Niger Delta region have still not changed for the better. It is obvious from this that the only major change that will occur after Government releases billions of funds to the universities will be in the bank accounts of ASUU members (in salaries and allowances) and few government officials and cronies who will help them launder the money. Nigeria is a country where corruption is very prevalent; if you think these funds allocated to the universities are immune from graft then you need to have your head examined.

There are also many other reasons to believe that ASUU is very insincere. Does ASUU think our public universities will develop better under a culture of gerontocracy where older lecturers deify themselves and stifle younger colleagues? Does ASUU not think our universities need strict regulation? All ASUU ever talks about is money and more money. You will never hear them call for better regulation. What is ASUU doing about its members’ poor dedication to their duties? There are rampant situations of lecturers not coming to classes frequently, supervisors abandoning their project students, lecturers involved in cash and sex favours for grades, lecturers’ victimization of students etc. All these unwholesome practices are perpetuated and perpetrated by ASUU members. I guess the leadership of the union does not think all of these ills would hinder development of our public universities.

Does ASUU also not know that until most parts of the country have good power and transport infrastructure, the universities will not function optimally? Does ASUU think it is sustainable to keep running the universities with generators? For those who do not know, a major part of funds allocated to universities go into the purchase of generators; their parts, diesel and their maintenance. How will lecturers and students solve our societal problems when they can’t even move around the country with ease? It is not news that a majority of our roads (where they exist) are death traps. If ASUU is sincere, it will know that all of these factors seriously hinder educational development. One would never hear ASUU point as these factors. One of the ways to solve it is by going political. That is why several trade unions worldwide are political.

After comparing Niger Delta kidnapping with ASUU strikes (they both use the tool of ransom holding), a conclusion deduced is that strike actions should never be embarked upon under any condition. If you think it can ever be justified to damage the lives of millions of innocent people for any reason, then I am short of words to qualify you. Strike actions do not help the cause of educational development at all. The financial loss incurred due to this strike by all the stakeholders runs into several billions of naira. There is nothing that the government will release that will make up for that loss. And how do you quantify the loss of a lecturer like Professor Iyayi and other future ‘Iyayis’ (students) who died due to the strike?

When kidnapping began about ten years ago in the Niger delta, it was subtle. It was restricted to expatriates. But what do we have today? It has evolved into a hydra-headed monster. Random kidnapping is now very rampant. Even native individuals are now kidnapped, and ransom sought for their release. That is why all should have fought kidnapping very seriously when it started. Most Nigerians then felt since they were not ‘oyinbos’, they wouldn’t be bothered. This current strike action is already evolving into ugly dimensions. The unfortunate death of Professor Iyayi and some students is just one of them (some students died on their way home too). Students had to stay home further because of his death. You may want to call that a ‘national educational grief hiatus’ or whatever. Other unions in the educational and other sectors in the nation will also want to make their own marks too of course through strike actions. They might even compete to see if they can outdo each other in terms of the length of time or if a personal presidential involvement can be achieved too.

Another reason why there should be no indefinite strike in the universities is because it seriously affects national security. ASUU is an appendage of the government. Yes, ASUU members are government employees. ASUU members are employed in order to engage students who are mostly youths and therefore keep them from being idle. Once that is not being done, national security is being jeopardized no matter how little it may seem.

One would expect opposition parties politicizing the situation, and several civil society advocates to know all of these. But because most of them are obsessed with hatred for the Government, they keep quiet or take sides with ASUU. My dissatisfaction and distrust with this government doesn’t mean I should not see the bigger picture. The bigger picture in which millions of innocent and helpless citizens are feeling the brunt of the strike. The Government never asked ASUU to go on strike. It went on the strike of its own volition. It can easily have chosen not to toe that path. It could have chosen a more honorable part. Only myopic people will say a strike is the only solution to the problem. Keshi and his team did not go on strike when they were owed salaries. They handled it honourably. They could have gone on strike a day before a crucial world cup qualifier and thrown the team and nation into a frenzy. But they saw the bigger picture. They knew anything that will risk our chances of qualification were unacceptable. They knew the joy a world cup qualification will bring to the whole nation.
You can engage the writer on twitter via his handle @beeshaiban or email:biodunshaiban@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Beyond Mo Ibrahim Ranking: ASUU And The Insincerity Of Federal Government By Anthony Kola-Olusanya.


By Anthony Kola-Olusanya

It is no more news that President Goodluck Jonathan met with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities on November 4th, 2013. By the end of the historic meeting between President Jonathan led team and ASUU leadership, it appeared the federal government (FG) was ready after all to resolve the lingering ASUU’s industrial strike action. According to Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, “the meeting ended positively and the message of the President to ASUU is full of hope and high expectations, and our prayer is that they come back with positive response.

They might not even come back to meet us; they might even take decisions there that will meet your expectations.” Labour Minister Wogu also noted that “the offer made by the president was in line with the 2009 agreement reached with the union. The offer is within the issues that led to the strike; the issues contained in the 2009 agreement and we did not go beyond the agreement”. The breakdown of the new offer from the FG was that “the Federal Government would give N 1.1 Trillion to public universities in the next five (5) years. The government will release N220 Billion yearly into the sector beginning from 2014” towards revamping the Nigeria’s public universities.  The NUC, NLC and TUC as joint guarantors of the agreement while the Minister of Education will be the implementation officer. Also, the meeting agreed that the money will be placed in a special account at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

To an average layman or woman, the outcome of the meeting was a nice way for President Jonathan to earn praise from Nigerians for helping to resolve the logjam, which all the small men and women in and around his cabinet couldn’t deal with. Like the animated saviour of the people in the cartoon movie ‘Spiderman’, President Jonathan’s resolve and his 13 hours sitting with ASUU was commendable. A meeting which has earned him comparative credentials liken to that of late Dr. Nelson Mandela, hero and former President of the Republic South Africa, who spent 27 years in prison.  Of course, we cannot take it away from President Jonathan, this is by no means an achievement in a country where political office holders hold the citizens with a ‘go and die’ disdain.  Be that as it may, the positive resolution of the ASUU strike in November could have helped the President put his much vaunted ‘transformation agenda’ back on track and probably Nigeria on the part to being a member of the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020. But all that appears to be history now.

What could have gone wronged, despite the President’s 13 hour sitting-down meeting with the lecturers’ union leaders? Nobody except the President and his men and women of his cabinet can tell. But as an outsider, I like every other Nigerian believes that the President Jonathan led federal government team are neither committed to the greatness of this country nor the welfare of its citizens. Reflectively, 27 months earlier, in 2011, when President Jonathan launched the transformation agenda with the pomp and glamour nobody could have doubted the fresh air blowing round the Nigeria’s political landscape.

The Transformation Agenda is based on a summary of how the Federal Government hopes to deliver projects, programmes, and key priority policies, from 2011 to 2015 coordinated by the National Planning Commission (NPC). These key projects, programmes, and priority policies are not different from those contained in the Vision 20:2020. To attain the overarching goal of the vision 20:2020, key parameters such as polity, macro-economy, infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, and manufacturing would have to be met and sustained.

While the identified key parameters could be considered very potent, the education parameter appears to be the bedrock upon which all other parameters are built. The important role accorded education in this drive towards attainment of the vision’s goal for the country is crucial given that  the educational goal includes the provision of modern and vibrant education system, which provides for every Nigerian the opportunity and facility to achieve his/her maximum potential and provide the country with adequate and competent human power. By no means, education is a form of investment in human capital, which in turn yields economic benefits and contributes to a country’s future wealth by increasing the productive capacity of the people. Suffice to say that the success of other sectors of the economy largely depends on the extent of support for the country’s educational development. Hence, without the provision of a vibrant educational or training system, it will be very difficult, if not impossible for the country to achieve the lofty aims contained in the vision 20:2020 and Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

With the ASUU strike in its 6th month, it is gradually becoming obvious that the transformation agenda of the President Jonathan and Nigeria’s vision 20:2020 is in jeopardy. A revisit to the Mo Ibrahim IIAG ranking places Nigeria in the 41st position in Africa behind more serious countries like Mauritius (82.9%), Botswana (77.6%) and Cape Verde (76.7%) in first, second and third position respectively. Whilst the top three leaders at the West African sub-regional level includes Ghana (66.8%), Senegal (61%) and the island nation of Sao Tome  and Principe (59.9%). Comparatively, at the continental level, the leading country on the IIAG ranking, in 2012, Mauritius devoted about 15% of its GDP and between 30 and 40% of her annual budget on education during the same period. Also between Ghana and Nigeria, Ghana in 2012 spent 8.2 per cent of its GDP on education while Nigeria spends 0.8 per cent of its GDP on education. Meanwhile, the combined earnings of the two countries are by far less than Nigeria’s during the same period. In addition, Southern African countries are spending about 35 to 45 per cent of their annual budget on education. This, therefore, forces the question of which country is richer and serious about its national development goals in relative terms? Of course, the answer to this question is not far-fetched, as this is very obvious with 2013 publication of IIAG ranking and the FG’s handling of the ongoing ASUU strike which has paralysed the top echelon of the country’s educational sector.

It goes without saying that the seriousness and commitment of a country to national development and institutional performance can be viewed from education sector performance. Education is universally recognized as a form of investment in human capital, which in turn yields economic benefits and contributes to a country’s future wealth by increasing the productive capacity of its people. Universities all over the world are accepted as the citadel of knowledge, education and human resource development. The gross neglect of this sector by successive Nigerian governments over four decades, is a classical demonstration of the FG many double speaks on the issue of university funding. That President Jonathan would suddenly find solace in issuing threat of sack on the striking university teachers is a further demonstration of the fact that the FG and President Jonathan is not wholly committed to its own project and programs of both the vision 20:2020 and Transformation Agenda. Archetypically, the FG has not deviated from the norm, since it appears whether a military or civilian administration, there is a particular trend of line which must be toed. And this is to always obfuscate the issues; such that its resolution becomes a mirage, while the chaos continues in perpetuation.

This perhaps explains FG’s claim that ASUU was making new demands even when it was very obvious that there was nothing like that from ASUU and on the strength of that, the lecturers are to be sacked. On the issue of salaries for the period, ASUU is right to request for the withheld salaries since the strike is justified and rooted in the international Labour laws regarding lockouts and non-payment of salaries. International labour laws guiding lockouts or strikes stipulate inter-alia that “the employer shall not lockout employees during the tenure of the agreement” as well “employees shall not embark on strikes during the tenure of the agreement”. This clause is always fundamental clause in any labour agreements signed across the world to protect the system. I say this as someone who has previously participated in workers’ union negotiations both within and outside Nigeria. What this suggests, is, where the employer(s) lockout workers, the employers shall pay the workers remunerations and dues to them since the workers have not shown or demonstrate unwillingness to work. But where the employees embark on strike or lockout while the agreement subsists, the employees shall forfeit their dues and remunerations. There have never been troubles over this as parties are known to respect and implement agreements signed.

Now, what makes the present case of ASUU strike different is that the ongoing strike is aimed at forcing the FG to respect and implement an agreement it signed with the union in 2009. On the basis of this, the FG owe the university teachers hereto referred as the employees in the agreement their dues and remunerations for the period in question. Hence, ASUU justified in its request for the payment of the withheld monthly salaries as a condition for the suspension of the strike. Having said this, I need to quickly say that strike as a weapon is not a strange phenomenon throughout the world. Even in the global headquarters of capitalism, the United States of America (USA) and other G8 countries, workers do embark on strike when and if they needed to. Strikes are the only means with which employees can force their voice to be heard. No workers’ union is known to embark on needless strikes.

The accusation against ASUU strike as self-serving and politicised is grossly unfair and absurd. If anything, we should support ASUU in its fight against impunity and the revitalization of our universities. Our universities, polytechnics and colleges of education need serious intervention; otherwise the future of the country is doomed. I am at loss that it’s only when ASUU or any other workers’ union are on strike that things will collapse when it comes to funding issues. For the avoidance of doubt, it need be known that it was ASUU strikes that brought about Education Trust Fund (ETF) and Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). Of course, ASUU or the universities is not the only beneficiary of these gains on the long run, the major beneficiary is the government and Nigeria. Further, any labour agreement being signed after a strike all over the world always carry a statement that no one will be penalized for taking part in the strike.  As per ASUU insisting that N200 billion should be deposited in universities accounts is not out of place. This is December 2013, if truly FG wants to start implementation this year, I don’t think this should generate any issue. The entire sack threat thing goes to confirm that FG is actually not interested in implementing the agreement. Nigerians must not forget that the present strike was called after the union had written 351 letters and met various government officials at least 150 times to remind government on the need to honour the agreement promise.

Beyond the issue of trust, let’s look at this from another angle. ASUU has not made any demand that the money should be in a special account in the CBN, this was agreed to by the President as a guarantee that the money will be safe. ASUU had requested from the President that an official of the Federal Government at the level of a Minister preferably the Attorney General and Minister for Justice sign on behalf of the FG so that the agreement/resolution will have the force of Law. This, President Jonathan himself had guaranteed ASUU; that it will be done also. This is not too much to do if the President and FG actually love Nigeria and believe in the great future for the country.

After all the shenanigans, it’s a welcome development that the FG has acceded to ASUU by signing the memorandum of the understanding (MOU).  According to the MOU, the FG is to fulfill all the obligations agreed upon during President Jonathan’s November meeting with ASUU, including the non-victimization clause. For a country that has grown weary with FG’s lies and half-truths, let’s hope the FG will demonstrate good faith by implementing this newly signed MOU. For the avoidance of any doubt, the MOU among other issues stipulates that the FG will inject N200 billion yearly beginning from 2013 towards revitalization of the country’s universities over the next five years.

Anthony Kola-Olusanya is a teacher and citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

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