Despite the ultimatum given by the Federal Government, the Nigeria Labour Congress has insisted it would go ahead with its planned protest nationwide in support of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said he had proposed one week to resolve the FG-ASUU faceoff but that the education minister volunteered to resolve the issues in two weeks.
He also debunked reports that the President asked him to steer clear of the negotiations saying “the truth of the matter is there is no such thing, it’s just categorically untrue. There is nothing like a hands-off.”
Also, the Federal Ministry of Education described as unreasonable the plans of the NLC to embark on a two-day solidarity protest despite the directive of the President to the education minister to end the lingering strike in two weeks.
According to Punch, the spokesperson for the education ministry, Ben Goong, advised ASUU to call off its strike pending the commencement of the negotiations by Adamu.
He stated, “The President has given specific directives and the minister of education has said that he will carry out the president’s directive to the letter. It is a presidential directive and it will happen. Actions have been taken.
“If they still go ahead with the strike then it will be unreasonable. It will be a slap on the face of the president and also on the minister. In fact, we will advise ASUU to suspend its strike pending when the negotiations begin.”
But the Head, Information and Public Affairs, NLC, Mr Benson Upah, said the government could resolve the lingering strike within three days if it was serious about the crisis, stressing that the union was going ahead with its protests.
He stated, “We’re still going ahead (with the protests). The public action is on the July 26th and then the mega one is on (July) 27th. So, I mean, of what effect will two weeks have on that?
“I am saying that had the government asked the minister of education to solve this problem within two or three days, aha. But he is giving him two weeks, and two weeks will come after our protest must have taken place. Don’t you think so? So it’s like take charge of it.’
He further added, ‘’If the government wants to end this matter today, I assure you that they will be able to fix it in three hours. Remember when the airline operators planned to go on strike and within hours there was an intervention; remember?
“The summary of what I want to tell you is that nothing has happened for us to change our proposed action. All I know is that we’re going on with our action.’’
Responding to the allegation that the protest was illegal, Upah averred that the minister should be worried by the damage caused to the education system by the protracted strike.
He noted, “Freedom of expression, freedom of protest are within the ambit of the law and guaranteed by the constitution; so, he (minister) does not have the power to abolish it.
“ASUU is part of the unions that make up the NLC and we all know that for the past six months or so ASUU had had issues with the government; an issue that government has not resolved.’’
Insisting that the union was not partisan, Upah stated, ‘’No political sentiment, we are guided purely by national interest. It should be of conscience to the minister of information that for the past six months our children and wards have been out of school and the collateral damage of that is simply inestimable; it is mind-boggling.”