The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday held a meeting with heads of regulatory agencies in education sector to douse the brewing tension over an alleged hike in registration fees in some tertiary Institutions.
In attendance at the meeting were the Executive Secretary of the National University Commission(NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed, Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education(NCCE), Professor Paulinus Chijoke Okwelle and Hajia Bilkisu Salihijo Ahmad representing the National Board for Technical Education( NBTE).
In his opening remarks, the Senate President told his guests that he convened the meeting as a follow-up to an earlier engagement which he had last week with the Coalition of Northern Groups – Students’ Wing which brought a complaint of a plan by some tertiary institutions to hike registration fees.
“We felt that we actually owe it a duty to listen to our students and of course also hear from you because we need to establish beyond reasonable doubt what the situation is,” Lawan said.
The Senate President cautioned that “whatever situations we find ourselves, we must not do anything that will jeopardise the position of our students particularly at a time that is so difficult.
“We understand that our tertiary Institutions have need for more resources but we equally understand that our students are mostly from very poor background and we must do everything possible to protect those who are so vulnerable.
“The finances for their education must never be hurdles between them and actualising their dreams. So we have to find out how this situation is and we take the appropriate measures.
“Because you represent the supervising bodies for our tertiary Institutions, we felt that we should start with you, listen to you and then we can now find a way out of this.”
He assured the students that the National Assembly and indeed the government would always work to protect and support them to continue with their education.
Responding on behalf of his other colleagues, the NUC Executive Secretary, Professor Rasheed commended the Senate President for his timely intervention.
“Your concern is shared by all of us. It will, at this point, be difficult to know exactly which Universities are violating or not. But after this meeting, we shall consult all the Universities with a template to complete and tell us exactly what charges they have.
“We shall advertise. If we are misled, we shall be able to get to know. We understand that the Universities cannot be forced to charge uniform fees across the country because they have different demands and they come from different situations.
“Possibly a University in Lagos or Port harcourt may charge slightly more than Universities in some rural areas. But there should be a base line.
“One University cannot charge 20,000 naira while the other charges 150,000 naira to Nigerian students where tuition has been free since 1978 at the undergraduate level.
“We are happy that you have now raised this alarm on time and I will go back immediately, consult Vice Chancellors and if possible we shall bring them to a meeting to discuss whatever resolution we arrive at, at the end of this meeting,” Professor Rasheed said.
ASUU Sets To Appeal Court Order Directing Lecturers To Call Off Strike
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will appeal the ruling of the National Industrial Court which ordered the lecturers to call off their ongoing strike.
Mr Femi Falana, who is the counsel to the union, confirmed this to Channels Television on Wednesday hours after the ruling of the court, saying he was preparing the grounds of appeal at the time of this report.
The industrial action by ASUU has continued to take a toll on the nation’s education, especially the tertiary sector as academic activities in most government-owned universities have been halted for over seven months.
The lecturers downed tools on February 14 over the controversy on the adoption of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) of the government as the payment system in the university sector, among other issues.
They had also condemned the poor funding of universities, non-payment of salaries and allowances of some of their colleagues, as well as the inability of the government to pay earned academic allowance to lecturers.
But efforts to get the academics back to class have failed until now as several negotiations between the union and the government have failed.
Amid outcry over the effect of the industrial action and after seemingly exploring all available options, the government decided to take legal action against the union.
The government, through its lead counsel, Mr James Igwe, had filed an application for an interlocutory injunction, seeking an order of the court restraining ASUU from further continuing with the strike.
Delivering a ruling on the government’s application, Justice Polycarp Hamman restrained ASUU from continuing with the industrial action, pending the determination of the suit.
He ordered that the case file should be returned to the president of the Industrial Court for reassignment to another judge, as he is a vacation judge.
According to the judge, the strike is detrimental to public university students who cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions.
He added that the Trade Dispute Act mandates workers not to embark on strike once an issue has been referred to the industrial court.
Justice Hamman upheld the application of the government, saying it was meritorious and granted, but refused to fine the government as demanded by ASUU.
Education: Court Orders ASUU To Call Off Strike
The National Industrial Court has ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to call off the ongoing Strike.
Delivering a ruling on the interlocutory injunction filed by the Federal government, Justice Polycarp Hamman restrained ASUU from continuing with the industrial action pending the determination of the suit.
Justice Hamman who is a vacation judge ordered that the case filed should be returned to the President of the Industrial Court for reassignment to another judge.
The Judge further held that the industrial action is detrimental to public university students who cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions.
He said the Trade Dispute Act mandates workers not to embark on strike once an issue has been referred to the industrial court.
Justice Hamman also upheld the application of the Federal Government saying it was meritorious and granted.
The court therefore restrained “ASUU, whether by themselves, members, agents, privies or howsoever called, from taking further steps and doing any act in continuance of the strike action pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed.”
The judge refused to fine the federal government as demanded by ASUU.
This order comes a few hours after the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatened not to allow any political campaign hold across the country till students of public universities return to classrooms.
Chairman, NANS National Taskforce, Ojo Olumide, announced this at a press conference in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, on Wednesday, some days to September 28, the official date for candidates to kick-off campaign as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“Our blocking of access to public roads and ports is just a warning. If the government fails to conclude all the negotiation and agreement with ASUU within the frame of two weeks, they will witness more protests and rallies all over the country, they will also witness the annoyance, anger and frustration of Nigerians Students who have been at home for the past seven months.
“As we promise them that we will not allow any political campaign to hold across the country until we are back to class. This government has pushed so many Nigerians students into depression. We say enough is enough; we can no longer bear the brunt from this avoidable crisis in our nation public ivory towers again,” he said.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since February 14, 2022 as talks between the Federal Government and lecturers of public universities have not yielded a comprise upon which students can return to class.
In a bid to get the lecturers back to the citadels of learning, the Federal Government dragged the ASUU to the National Industrial Court.
In a statement, the Head of Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, said the Federal Government took the decision after dialogue between it and ASUU failed.
According to him, the government wants the National Industrial Court to order ASUU members to resume work, while the issues in dispute are being addressed by the court.
The referral instrument addressed to the Registrar of Industrial Court was dated September 8, 2022, and signed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
In a reaction to the FG’s legal action, ASUU cautioned the Federal Government against forcing striking members of the union back to class via court order.
According to the president of the union, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, one can only wonder what manner of teaching the academic staff will dish out after they have been forced back to the classrooms.
ASUU strike: Students Sets To Ground Airports
— Pass vote of no confidence on FG
— We’re tired of pleading with both parties
Dayo Johnson, Akure
The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, has vowed to ground activities at international airports across the country, to protest against the seven monthly impasses between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
The Chairman, NANS National Task Force on ‘End ASUU Strike Now,’ Ojo Raymond Olumide, who spoke in Akure, decried the attitude of the federal government towards the striking lecturers as well as education as a whole.
Olumide said that “the four-day shutdown of busy highways and expressways had been a success, hence the move to disrupt international travels in order for the bourgeois and the government to feel the pains that had subjected students to in the past seven months.
According to him, the students were already tired of pleading with both parties over the need to end the strike.
Olumide said that the airports that will be occupied will remain grounded until the strike is called off, adding that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration must pay all outstanding arrears and salaries of the lecturers.
“We shall begin another round of protest next week by storming the airspaces to #OccupyTheAirports. We want to let the world know about the pains and anguish students are going through.
“Nigerian students whose parents create the commonwealth cannot continue to be suffering at home alongside our lecturers while the few who gain from our sweats and blood have their kids abroad jollying and flexing.
“We call on students to rise and join us as we take our destinies into our hands. Our demands remain consistently clear and simple. We Call on ASUU leadership for a meeting as soon as possible to discuss Solidarity actions and plan for the next phase of the struggles.
“Nigerian Students are not subjected to security agencies and we haven’t seen any step from them to avert the ASUU strike. He said they could not tell them that they were not aware of what is going on.
“Being on the road for the past four days and had garnered a lot of solidarity. Grounding the airport is for us to get solidarity and we will keep on grounding the local and international airports they know the effect of us grounding the airport, the only thing we request for them is to open our campuses back.
“They should give enough budgetary allocation, we are not asking for 26 per cent we are asking for 22 per cent.
“We pass a vote of No Confidence on both Ministers of Labour and Education. We Call on the Buhari government to pay all outstanding arrears and salaries of the lecturers.
“The policy of “No Work No Pay” is a Fascist one; it is, therefore condemnable and nonacceptable to all the millions of students in Nigeria.
“We will, by this statement, not beg again. We shall be mobilizing all students to shut down the country. No Education! No Movement!
Olumide who berated the Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, over his purported comment on the barricade of federal roads by the students, said that the strike had continued to linger due to the absence of children of the political class in public universities.
“Through Nigerians, the Federal and state governments became and are still uncomfortable with our protests.
” Instead of them responding to us responsibly and what have you; we were shocked that the Minister of Works Babatunde Fashola came up with an illegal utterance befitting of only rabble-rousers and political irritants by calling out fundamental Human Rights “illegal!”
“What Minister Fashola has done is amazing.
After all, the camera he found at LekkiTollGate after the massacre is still a mystery.
“Yet, the Minister’s outburst is also another evidence that the Buhari government hates real educational development.
“They are never apologetic and are hell-bent on destroying every remnant of State welfare left. They prefer to kill the public schools instead of revamping them.
“Nigerian students are not surprised that the Buhari government does not care about public education.
“After all, all the politicians have their kids schooling abroad while the children of the masses that constitute 99% of the population are only fit to be thugs, hard workers, and sex slaves.
Olumide added that “We dare say that this cruelty will not continue anymore. And, it is on this note we call on the national leadership of ASUU to synergise with Nigerian students in achieving this struggle that we have commenced by ensuring that a state of emergency is declared in the educational sector.”
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