The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Michael Okpara University of Agriculture,Umudike Branch,has held a one day congress/Protest Rally, against the casualization and intimidation of Academics by the Federal Government.
The Protest Rally which kick started with a congress titled, “ASUU’s Action: A display of Patriotism and Intellectualism”, was held at the Anyim Pius Anyim Hall of the School, addressing issues bothering around the over seven months salary arrears of lecturers, the “No Work No Pay” policy of the federal government and other issues.
In his opening remarks, the chairperson of ASUU MOUAU, Comr Chike Ugwuene, frowned vehemently at the ill treatment meted on lecturers, saying that the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency, pay off the seven and half months owed lecturers.
Comr Ugwuene stated that the lecturers have shown patriotism by going back to the classroom when the court ordered so, but lamented that the Federal Government have been treating them negatively, shying away from their part of the bargain, hence the Protest rally organized by the Union to cry out to the public over the maltreatment, intimidation, oppression from the government.
In his address, the ASUU chairperson, MOUAU, Comr Ugwuene, disclosed that ASUU suspended the eight months industrial action,it embarked upon on the 14th of February,2022, to press home its demands for the implementation of the 2009 FG/ASUU Agreement.
According to him, ASUU is truly demanding for a well planned paradigm shift from the regressive attention accorded to University education to a progressive one that can birth that which is so desired.”That which would spur our university to compete in the global circle of equals,an enviable university system that promotes decent renumeration, among other earnest challenges”.
“ASUU has been asking for a better education through a well funded and competitive University system in Nigeria.The energy and commitment with which ASUU has pursued the struggle speaks for themselves”,he stated.
Comr Ugwuene further disclosed that the Divide and Rule and Intimidation Act of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, further shows his inability to resolve the impasse or his vowed determination to deal with ASUU, which has resulted to using divide and rule game to weaken the strength of ASUU.
He also stated that the no work no pay policy should not apply to lecturers because the work of lecturers go beyond teaching.”In Academia,good teaching is impossible without good research.While teaching is put on hold during strike, research work goes on unabated. In the same manner, community development.Lecturers work round the clock.
“Lecturers after strike go back to where they stopped due to strike and teach, conduct exams, as well as, release results with the aim of making up for the lost ground.By this, lecturers do their work in arrears and so any right thinking person should not apply the principle of no work, no pay to lecturers”,he said.
The ASUU chairperson, however, prayed that the federal government should as a matter of urgency, intervene in the issue of the over seven months arrears owed lecturers and ensure they are paid soonest, properly fund public universities for rapid development that is largely hinged in the quality of graduates from public universities,who would be able to compete favourably at the global market.
He also added that the federal government should not allow forces both within and outside Nigeria to seduce the government to introduce exorbitant fees in the universities.
Also Speaking the Zonal Cordinator of ASUU,Owerri zone, Comr Uzo Onyebinama and Prof C.C. Offor, all condemned the federal government’s no work no pay policy, saying lecturers are not casual workers to be subjected to such maltreatment, rejecting the pro rata payment.
Meanwhile, the ASUU National President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, decried the poor level of education system in Nigeria, stating that all the institutions in Nigeria have collapsed including the Presidency.
According to him,no institution is working meaningfully,but stressed that the union would not relent in their quest for renovations.
In an interview with newsmen, Prof Osodeke assured lecturers that the arrears would be paid, stating that the decision on what to do concerning the backlog of salaries would be discussed at the next NEC meeting.
Osodeke also revealed that the industrial action embarked upon eight months ago have started yielding results,as the 2023 budget captured 470 billion naira for the upgrading of Universities.”Though we have not met our aim totally, but to some extent, the strike has been able to address the issue of the upgrading of our universities, with the 2023 budget”.
Shortly after the congress, the lecturers embarked on a peaceful rally, carrying placards that read, “ASUU Means Well for Nigeria, “Pro Rated payment is counter productive, “FG wants to destroy Tertiary Education, “FG An Agent of Neocolonialism”, among others.