ASUU represents self interest not students, NANS says
The President, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Comrade Danielson Akpan, has warned that if the face-off between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, was not resolved and the ongoing strike called off, on 7th January 2019, the students body would mobilise students across the country to halt commercial activities and the February general elections.
Akpan who spoke to Vanguard described ASUU as a selfish and hypocritical union, adding that while it agitates openly for funds for infrastructure development in Nigerian universities, their primary motive for the industrial action is the payment of their earned allowances.
He argued that on several occasions when the Federal Government permitted the students’ union to attend the negotiation meetings it had with ASUU, the leadership of ASUU rejected. According to him, if there was nothing ASUU was hiding from the students’ union, why would it on two occasions reject their representatives? Not even the journalists had ASUU at any time allowed in their meeting..
“ASUU said they are fighting for the students and at the same time denied students’ union representatives access to the negotiation meeting to contribute to the discussion or even act as observers.
“It is only in Nigeria that you have education sector sold into strike as it were, without recourse to the students; without giving a thought to the challenges it brings to the sector. Our people fail to understand that incessant strike reduces the quality of education.
“How do you expect a student that has been at home for two months to be able to cope with academics?
People study, knowing that there are lectures, assignments and may be in preparation for examinations.”
To the government, Akpan said: “The government cannot constantly reach agreement and floor the agreement, it is unacceptable.
‘’However, when these two interests begin to clash, it is the students that suffer and of course, the parents. You will agree with me that the parents have spent more within the past few months in taking care of their wards and their children.
“Of what benefit is this strike to our system? If we say it is because of poor funding of the sector, strike has been on for at least two decades and has not in any way improved the system.
“Bothered by this, November 19, we held a state education rally, where we stated all the issues and challenges facing the education sector and urged government to improve the funding.
“We don’t know why it is difficult for government to gradually but consistent improve in education funding without meeting 26 per cent in the budget.
“When you have ASUU that always claim that they are fighting slowly for the interest of students, gets to where they are suppose to negotiate and they asked the students present to excuse them.
“We told the Federal Government that we want to be part of the negotiation process between ASUU and Federal Government which agreed. Immediately, the Federal Government printed an invitation letter inviting us to their next meeting with ASUU to witness what they are going to discuss.
Unfortunately, when we got there on the faithful day, ASUU said they can not allow students to be part of the meeting.
“Asked if one or two NANS member could represent the students, ASUU said never, it wasn’t possible or they would work out and at that point, the minister had to plead on the president excuse them.
“If ASUU claims it has been pushing for our interest, what stops them from allowing us to observe the process because they usually come and tell us that it is government that is not complying.
“When we protested, government said they are not the problem, but ASUU who don’t want to comply because they come with too many requests and all these requests are not the requests they are pushing in the public. Basically, they are to agitate on earned allowance and salary arrears.
“So, the Federal Government said we should come and observe and see that these people are not fighting for our interest but theirs. They are living in deception and hypocrisy. We got there only for them to prove them right by asking us to go out.
“It therefore means they have something to hide. When I reported to the NLC president, he pleaded with me that he will intervene and talk to ASUU. On the next meeting at the Federal Ministry of Labour, we got there again on invitation, the same thing happened.
“We had to issue two weeks ultimatum to both the Federal Government and ASUU because we don’t want to take sides. The ultimatum will elapse January 7.
“After it expires, students will be ready to shut economic activities across the country which will in no little way, affect February elections, I can assure you; with our population across the length and breadth of this country. The students will be forced to go on the streets and nobody should ask me anything, I will lead them.”
In his reaction, ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi said it would be inappropriate to allow the students union into the negotiation table with the Federal Government when it was not there when ASUU and FG signed the agreement.
He said: “Are the students party to the agreement we are discussing? It is not as if we are raising fresh issues, we are talking of what we signed in 2017 which came out 2009 and 2013. So NANS was not there 2009, 2013 and in 2017, why are they coming into it in 2018?’’
He said they had informed NANS that ASUU had an agreement signed by two parties, adding that if they are going to renew the agreement, the two parties are the best qualified people to be there.
His words: “I have met NANS president on a number of times, and I have always told him to wait for the outcome of our discussion. If they want to see the agreement that we reached at the end of the day, they can see it because we will make it public. What we signed is public knowledge, the memorandum of action is public knowledge. So if they want to see it, they can get that.
“What we are saying is that they should work with ASUU to get that agreement implemented.
“We have signed a memorandum of action and a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Government. Those things are there as documents. What they can only do is to say implement what you signed with our teachers, and with that, we will be able to move on.”