The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has lashed out at members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), accusing them of deliberately prolonging the six-month nationwide strike that has crippled academic activities in Nigerian universities.
NANS President, Sondag Asefon, said in a statement on Thursday that the students have noticed that university lecturers have consistently presented unrealistic conditions to the Federal Government and insist that they be met before the strike ends.
He said the students were sympathetic and supportive of ASUU demands but have now decided to withdraw their support because ASUU was insensitive to the plight of the students.
He said: “Since the commencement of this ASUU strike six months ago, the NANS has advocated and campaigned for ASUU. We directed our protest, advocacy and struggle against the Federal Government and requested that they agree to the demands of the striking lecturers.
“We supported their demand for earned allowance, revitalization funds for tertiary institutions and the adoption of the UTAS platform for the payment of university lecturers against the Federal Government’s insistence on IPPIS. In the same vein, we rejected the Minister of Education’s proposal that students should hold ASUU responsible and seek legal compensation for liabilities incurred as a result of the strike.
“Undoubtedly, we have supported ASUU so far because we believed that those demands were fair and reasonable. But we condemned
in totality, the insistence of ASUU on the payment of six months salary arrears for the entire period of the strike before they can call off the strike.
“This claim is not only insensitive; it is also selfish, inconsiderate and unmerciful. The six months are periods of no work. As much as we encourage the government to pay their arrears regardless, it is unfair to base the resumption of academic activities on full payment of the arrears.
“We have also, unfortunately, noticed that since the beginning of the strike, ASUU has refused to consider the students who are the big losers. They have hidden the main areas of contention from us. Every other stakeholder except ASUU met directly with us to discuss the issues.
“ASUU presented some of their interests as the interest of tertiary education in Nigeria, and at one stage presented their interest as the interests of the students. We know that ASUU is less concerned about the interest of the students because of our experiences with them at our various tertiary institutions.
“University authorities used ASUU members and leaders to expel, suspend and rest students for merely protesting for improved welfare. They suspend and harass students for protesting for basic needs like water, power, livable hostel accommodation, etc. At some point, their anti-student actions are so reckless that you keep wondering if these lecturers even understand the right to disagree.
“ASUU members arbitrarily fail students for questioning their positions or opinion and sometimes asking too many questions. These same people cannot suddenly turn around to claim they are fighting for our interest, our interest which they trample on at every given opportunity at our various tertiary institutions.”
However, the NANS president advised the striking lecturers to call off the strike if the government met significant areas of their demand. We demand an immediate end to this strike as we encourage the government to honor all their promises to ASUU in good faith.
He added: “We no longer believe that this ongoing strike is fashionable, reasonable, justifiable and necessary. If the Federal Government has agreed to most of the demands that necessitated the strike in the first place, the continuation of the strike means that there may be other ulterior motives unknown to the public and the students, and we will not no longer continue to support ASUU. to hold the nation and tertiary education to ransom.
“Demanding six months’ salary arrears before calling off the strike is just like kidnappers demanding their ransom before releasing their victim. If ASUU members insist that their six months salary which they have been on strike be paid in terms of section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act, who will pay the students for their six months house rent and other expenses?”
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