Strike: FG’s order barbaric, says Ebonyi ASUU chair

The Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Ebonyi State University Chapter, Dr. Ikechuku Igwenyi, has said Federal Government’s forceful directive that lecturers should go back to the classroom was not only barbaric, but was capable of worsening their already debilitating situation.

This was as the university don pointed out that the authorities’ decision to drag ASUU to the Industrial Court was an indication that it lacked the power to conciliate and negotiate.

He stated this, on Tuesday, in Abakaliki, while reacting to the Federal Government’s Monday directive that the striking nation’s lecturers should return to the classroom, adding the current scenario had constituted a national shame.

He said, “ASUU is an academic Union of intellectuals, who are distinguished in excellent service of human development, character moulding and informed learning. To be a University Don, which actually begins at the level of a Senior Lecturer, one must have spent at least twenty years of uninterrupted scholarship from Primary school certificate to Doctor of Philosophy with scholarly articles published in highly ranked journals.

“Academic staff members have core mandates of teaching basic concepts and applied knowledge, research and community development. This by implication means that lecturers guide students to academic excellence by leading them to the fountain of knowledge and academic freedom. This can only be achieved where there is autonomy, proper funding, regular visitation, proper remuneration and incentives as well as placing such institution on a proper competitive mode to attain a world class standard. These are the reasons for University autonomy, which helps to guarantee independence from political effect and undue influences that disrupt academic calendar and occasion incessant strike actions.

“Tertiary education system cannot be placed side-by-side with regular civil service in terms of remuneration, payment platforms and service structure or delivery. While a regular civil servant goes to work by 8:00am and dismisses by 4:00pm with opportunities for overtime, casual and annual leave periods, lecturers service structure is a form of contract with target, where he/she works all round the clock with lectures commencing from 8:00am and ending by 6:00pm.

“During the weekends, he is engaged in part-time lectures of both undergraduates and graduates while free periods are invested in updating lesson notes, review of articles and textbooks, empirical research, publication of scholarly articles that contribute to both personal and University ranking, advise students and respond to calls for reference letters, assess and appraise academics for promotions and even community development activities. To this end, it is sinful to impose IPPIS as a payment solution for University lecturers due to the peculiarities that are not in conformity with regular civil service because most of the services with their earned allowances are not captured in IPPIS. The IPPIS was customarily made for Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

“To think that lecturers, who simply decided to withdraw teaching services to draw Government attention to a 13-year-old agreement that has been reviewed several times and Memoranda of Understanding and Action have been developed and signed in good faith cannot be taken for NO WORK as to attract a NO PAY policy. One major question should be: what precipitated the strike action?

“How did we arrive at this point? Which other organisation in Nigeria has embarked on a strike and it was not resolved within days and weeks? What sin did lecturers commit against the Federal Government that they want to strangulate the education system? Meanwhile, going for meetings called by Federal Government and other stakeholders is part of work on its own because one cannot be in a meeting and in the classroom at the same time.

“The policy of ‘No work, no pay’ is a display of stack illiteracy and allergy to learning because promotion of academic staff is hinged on qualification, research and creative output, community service, which include going for negotiation or renegotiation as the case may be, attendance to conferences and workshops and other duties that may be assigned to staff from time to time.

“The nature of lecturers’ engagement is such that it runs in semesters and whenever the issues are resolved, lecturers sacrifice all their leisure times and pleasures to bring the system up to date. If it is considered that no work is done, it then means that whenever the strike is called off or suspended, lecturers will jettison all outstanding lectures, admissions and assessments and begin from where they shall meet the system.”

He added, “To take ASUU to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria is distractive and shows lack of capacity to conciliate and negotiate. We have a self-acclaimed conciliator, who is not conversant with the principles of collective bargaining, negotiation and conciliation, no doubt the Federal Government decided to take the Union to Court when the reverse should have been the case. Unfortunately, forcing lecturers to the classroom will only compound the problem because lecturing and class control has physical, emotional, psychological and health implications. No good result can be effectively achieved when there is rancour, intimidation, trauma, mental and emotional torture, hunger, psychological mortification, health challenges and economic hardship.

“All Nigerian University lecturers are sick because World Health Organisation defined health as a complete state of mental, physical, emotional, social, economic and psychological well being, not necessarily the absence of disease or infirmities. Forcing lecturers to the classroom as Vice Chancellors and Pro-Chancellors have been directed is like asking people who ran out of a collapsing building in search of help to run back into the building.

“The system is in autopilot and crashing is imminent. When survival instincts take over the reasoning of men, they cannot be held responsible for certain actions perceived as survival options. The implication of these government actions and inactions will be divided attention as lecturers are now forced to seek for survival strategies and second addresses. As funny as it may seem, lecturers are forced to go back to class and teach without salary while their own children are driven away from schools, including the schools where they teach for non-payment of fees. This means that on resumption, part of the time for research and development shall be channelled to small businesses that can sustain workers as government has not changed their approach to tertiary education system.

“This is a show of shame for Nigeria as a country. It is shameful before the world that we have leaders that are not sensitive and capable of keep.”