The Federal Government on Saturday called on the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to consider the plights of Nigerian students who have stayed at home for six months and call off the strike.
The Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nanah Opiah, made the call in Owerri while fielding questions from Journalists. He said that the Federal Government has met all the demands made by ASUU, adding that the only issue on the table is the Government’s “No Work No Pay” policy.
He said the Government believes that the lecturers who did not go to work for six months did not earn their salaries, even as he assured that the Government has mapped out N50bn to meet up with the earned allowances.
Opiah said: “ASUU should consider the plight of our children and return to school. A lot of us have our children in public universities here and the lecturers also have their children in schools in Nigeria. We don’t feel happy to return home each day and see that they schools are still locked, and I wonder how the lecturers whose children are in public universities feel when they return home each day and see that their children are still at home.
“The Ministry of Education is critical. It is a large Ministry that has so much in stock for the future of this country. The Education sector is a very critical one and Government takes this seriously. That was why the Government had to bend backwards to settle all the grey areas made by ASUU. What is the issue now is that Government insists that it cannot pay for the six months the lecturers did not go to work. The policy of “No Work No Pay” is a global practice and not a witchhunt of the lecturers.
“ASUU strike is an unfortunate one, an avoidable one. It does no good to the future of our children and the country. No doubt, lecturers have a right to make demands, be that as it may, the Federal Government has since engaged the situation and we are in talks with the lecturers. Today, all grey areas have been settled, except that the lecturers are asking that the six months they have been on strike should be laid for. But the Federal Government said no, that “No Work No Pay” policy is a universal policy.
“I think we cannot afford to set the wrong precedents by paying people who stayed at home for six months. How do we compensate the students for all the days the lectures were at home if we compensate the lecturers by paying them? If we can answer this question, that will help. However, I plead with the lecturers to please return to school”.
The Minister also called on ASUU not to politicize the industrial action, saying that the call by Union on the students whom they forced to stay at home to use their votes to remove the APC Government, brings them into the political arena. He said such unguarded comments by ASUU gives the impression that some people want to politicize the strike.
“I feel bad each time ASUU calls on the students to use their voters cards and remove the APC Government. That call is in the wrong direction and should not have happened. Industrial actions should not be politicized by anyone, and making such unguarded comments means bringing both the issues and ASUU into the political arena and it’s not good for anyone. There are many issues raised by the lecturers and they have all been resolved”, said the Minister.
However, the Minsiter expressed optimism that with the recent suspension of strike by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and other Associated Institutions (NASU) on Saturday, the industrial action by ASUU would be over soon.
“You can see that the other unions are calling off their strike. We are almost there. I commend the President and the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu. The Federal Government has made a lot of concessions to move the Education sector higher. What I think is left is the “No Work No Pay” policy and I am sure that ASUU will come to the realisation that their insistence is not realistic.”