The Federal Government has directed the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, to deploy policemen to all federal universities in the country in its bid to ensure resumption of academic activities in universities on or before December 4.
Saturday PUNCH learnt this development was disclosed at an emergency meeting the Federal Government held with all vice-chancellors of federal universities at the National Universities Commission building in Abuja on Friday. The Acting Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, and the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof Julius Okojie, were also at the meeting.
Though Friday’s meeting was held behind closed door, a source at the meeting who craved anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the press, told Saturday PUNCH that the Federal Government directed the IG to draft policemen to federal universities to prevent members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities from disturbing some of their members that might want to resume work in line with government’s directive.
The meeting, Saturday PUNCH further learnt, also discussed other modalities for calling off the bluff of ASUU whose members have been on strike for over five months.
The Friday meeting began at 9am and lasted for two hours. Part of the meeting’s deliberations, Saturday PUNCH gathered, also centred on how to recruit new lecturers to fill the space of ASUU members who might refuse to obey government’s directive. Also, the vice-chancellors were directed to call students back to campus on Sunday in preparation for academic activities which should start on Monday.
Wike, had on Thursday ordered lecturers to resume duties on or before December 4 or face being sacked summarily by the Federal Government.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that already Okojie had been mandated to start the process of recruiting new lecturers by placing vacancy adverts in international journals and media.
Also, the vice-chancellors were directed to open registers in their institutions where ASUU members that resume work would sign so that those who failed to resume could be sacked.
Saturday PUNCH further learnt that the Federal Government was planning to adopt the Ghanaian method where lecturers were asked to re-apply for their jobs after two years of strike.
“Not all lecturers are members of ASUU. Most professors don’t belong to the union, people think every lecturer in public university is a member of ASUU, which is not true. Government means business this time around and it is going to call off the bluff of ASUU,’’ the source explained.
Nigerian universities are currently in need of at least 30,000 lecturers because of acute shortage of lecturers in the university system..
There are also indications that the Federal Government and university lecturers may be heading for a clash as the December 4 deadline given by the Federal Government for the lecturers to return to work is also the date set aside by ASUU to bury a former President of the union, Prof. Festus Iyayi.
Iyayi died in a ghastly auto accident along the Abuja-Lokoja Road when the vehicle in which he was travelling had a collision with the convoy of Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State on November 12, 2013.
The former ASUU chairman was on his way to Kano to attend a crucial meeting of the union which was called to deliberate on the Federal Government’s offer to the lecturers.
The Federal Government had claimed it decided to go tough on ASUU because the union made fresh demands in its letter to the government as a condition for calling off the lingering strike action.
ASUU had demanded payment of the four-month salary arrears of its members from July when the strike commenced and the release of N200bn that President Goodluck Jonathan promised to inject into the university system within the next two weeks.
The union also said the agreement reached between it and the Federal Government should be signed by the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation.
Though the President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Faggae, refused to pick his calls and also did not respond to a text message sent to him on the latest development, the Enugu State Police Command confirmed that its men had been directed to man universities to quell any protest that might result from the Federal Government’s order on lecturers to resume work on or before Wednesday.
The command told Saturday PUNCH that police officers had also been directed to be stationed at the universities to forestall any disturbance from various groups or lecturers on Monday.
“There is no cause for alarm and we are combat ready in the event of any violence or disturbance,” the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, said.
Also, the Police Public Relations Officer, Akwa Ibom State Command, Mr. Etim Dickson, confirmed that the police had been mandated to provide security for lecturers that want to resume work against molestation by their other colleagues, who may not want them to do so.
“We are not going to their houses to force them to come and teach in the universities. Even though the Federal Government has taken a stance, we are not in the military rule to molest lecturers,” he said.
But reacting to the latest development, the Chairman, ASUU, UNIBEN chapter, Emina-Monye, said ASUU members were not bothered about government’s latest strategy.
He said, “They can go ahead with that. We are not perturbed. Let them call the police; let them advertise vacant positions and see how many international scholars will want to accept what Nigerian university lecturers are taking- let them go ahead.”
Also, ASUU branch at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, said government’s directive was an attempt to waste students’ time.
The UNIUYO ASUU Chairman, Dr. Nwachukwu Anyim, said in Uyo on Friday that Nigeria was no longer in a military era and so lecturers could not be coerced by anybody to work against their wish. He said, We will see how they will come to our homes and force us to resume work.
“Only the Federal Government can tell the world what it has in mind. We have a shortfall of 60,000 lecturers in the university system. If they are advertising this one, it means they must have an idea of where they are going to put them, and they must be people who are going to work without equipment.”
However, the University of Nigeria chapter of ASUU on Friday said its members would not resume work until their demands are met.
The UNN-ASUU also described the Minister of Education, Wike, as a “tout”.
The union, however, told Saturday PUNCH that it won’t react officially to Wike’s order until President Goodluck Jonathan speaks.
“We have not heard from the President, so we cannot speak officially on the matter. It would be senseless to begin to react to a statement from Wike since he is a tout,” said Dr. Ifeanyi Abada, Chairman of UNN-ASUU.
Abada said that Wike’s order cannot hold and vowed that ASUU would unleash terror if the minister attempts to carry out the order.
“We stopped the late General Sani Abacha, so stopping Wike and these bloody civilians won’t be any problem to us,” Abada vowed.
Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress on Friday described the action of Wike as hasty.
The Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Mr. Chris Uyot, said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents that Wike ought to have considered the circumstances that delayed the leadership of ASUU from getting their resolutions to the government.
Uyot said that ASUU was not able to get the resolutions of the NEC meeting to the Federal Government because of the death of Iyayi.
Reacting to the latest development, Mr Femi Falana [SAN], said President Goodluck Jonathan should call Wike to order in the interest of the education system..
.He said If Wike had familiarised himself with FG/ASUU face-off in the past two decades, even under the defunct military junta, he would have discovered that ASUU members had never been cowed to submission.
He said, “In 1992, the Ibrahim Babangida junta fired all lecturers and threatened to eject them from their official quarters. When the lecturers defied the junta a decree was promulgated which made strike by teachers a treasonable felony. ASUU also ignored the obnoxious decree and called off the bluff of the military dictators. But at the end of the day it became clear to the regime that universities could not be run like military barracks. Hence the junta swallowed its pride, withdrew its empty threats and decided to honour the Agreement which it had rejected.’’