IRKED by the alleged insensitivity of South East governors to the plight of lecturers in the zone, the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has declared a nationwide strike from Monday, Oct 11. It affects all universities.
“That will be the first in a series of strong and telling actions which will follow shortly after, the National President of ASUU, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, declared in Enugu yesterday at a press briefing.
“For the avoidance of doubt and as a measure of our commitment to the struggle for the emancipation of the South East state universities in particular, and for the proper implementation of the Federal Government and ASUU 2009 agreement and the better funding of Nigerian Universities in general, the Academic Staff Union of Universities had directed academic staff in all Nigerian Universities to proceed on strike from October 11.”
Flanked by other officials of the Union, Awuzie stated that the three-day (October 11 to13) strike was in sympathy and solidarity with their colleagues, the affected institutions as well as students of the state-owned universities.
Academic activities have been paralysed since July this year in all state-owned universities in the zone following the inability of the state governments to meet the terms of the renegotiated agreement reached between representatives of Federal Government and leadership of ASUU.
Although governors of the zone had met on two occasions to discuss the over three months old strike, nothing concrete had been achieved as the meetings ended with them asking the teachers to go back to the classrooms.
Awuzie who lamented the ugly development stated that the governors had ignored the demands as well as the welfare of the generality of the people of the zone, stressing that ASUU would not renege in her effort to ensure the full implementation of the agreement.
He said: “The governors of the South East states have basically ignored the demands; they have completely ignored the sad and dangerous fact that over two hundred and fifty thousand of their youths have been idle, roaming the streets and merging with the hundreds of thousand other unemployed in the regions; they have ignored the fact that it is their duty to ensure that such a crisis never occurs; they have ignored the dangerous crisis completely and with impunity.”
Awuzie, who painted a gory picture of the situation of the state-owned universities in the South East said the rot arising from the criminal underfunding of the institutions was unmatch anywhere in the world.
In Abia State University (ABSU), according to him, staffing is utterly dismal as a result of conscious government policy not to attract or retain the appropriate staff in number and quality, adding that for a student population of about 30, 000, the university has only 63 professors out of whom only 32 are permanent members of staff.
For a student population of 21, 000, Anambra State University can only boast of five professors, four readers, and 49 lecturers, while government subvention to the institution had remained abysmally low.
With a student population of 20, 000, Ebonyi State University has 61 professors most of whom are borrowed either as adjunct or contract staff. At Evan Enwerem University in Imo State with a student population of 30, 000, there are only 32 professors.
While lambasting the Enugu State government for dragging members of the ASUU in its university to the National Industrial Court over the lingering dispute, Awuzie said the union was no longer ready to tolerate the situation and would engage Governor Sullivan Chime’s administration in a showdown.
Awuzie added: “It’s obvious that the political class in the South East has collectively failed their people. They include the governors, legislators at the state and federal levels, ministers and other government political appointees because they have all refused to ask the governors to address the problem. The interest of the people is completely abandoned.”
“ASUU wishes to make it clear to the governors of the South East and their conniving political associates that the crisis in their universities is one responsibility that they can neither shirk nor wish away. The current strike will continue as long as they compel it to, even if it takes them five years to make up their mind to either run their universities or totally abolish them.”