The immediate past Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, has faulted lecturers of state universities who are participating in the going strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
While saying state universities have no business in the ongoing strike, Nwajiuba, who resigned last week due to his presidential ambition, explained that most ASUU’s demands centre on challenges being faced by federal universities.
He spoke in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday just as university students in the South West protested against the ongoing strike in Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Edo States.
The PUNCH had reported that ASUU, on February 14, 2022 announced the commencement of a nationwide strike which involved all its chapters across the country, including those in state universities.
While Kaduna State University had announced that it was opting out of the strike, some other state universities such as Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma; Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho; and Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, among others insisted that they would not call off the strike.
Nwajiuba, however, encouraged ASUU members to shelve the strike.
He said, “State universities have no business with the ASUU strike. The demands that were laid down contained issues relating to federal universities and their employer, which is the Federal Government.
“For instance, ASUU talked about the introduction of University Transparency and Accountability Solution for the payment of salaries of federal lecturers. Why are state universities engaged in a struggle between the Federal Government and lecturers of federal universities? It is the state government that pays state universities, so why the need for the strike?
“We are optimistic that the strike will be called off soon. They agreed to meet with the government and that is a good step. I have always been a firm believer that you do not have to go on strike before your demands are met.”
Students of different universities in Ondo State on Monday staged a protest to register their displeasure over the prolonged strike.
The protesting students blocked the Ilesha-Akure Expressway in Akure, chanting different solidarity songs.
They wielded placards with different inscriptions such as ‘ End ASUU strike,’ ‘Save our future,’ and FG, we’ve had enough,’ among others.
The protesters included students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko; Olusegun Agagu University of Technology, Okitipupa; and the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
The protest caused traffic gridlock on the highway with many travellers and motorists stranded while some motorists had to take alternative routes to their destinations.
Speaking on the protest, the Vice Chairman, National Association of University Students, Ondo Chapter, Shittu Afolarin, stated that the move became imperative after it was discovered that the Federal Government is not concerned about the plight of students.
In Osun State, protest by some students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife organised by Great Ife Concerned Students in collaboration with Fund Education Coalition against strike, resumed on Monday as the protesters blocked some major roads in the state too.
The protesters had initially blocked Ife-Ede Road, and later moved to Ipetumodu and blocked Ife-Ibadan, Ilesa-Akure road in front of Oduduwa University, thereby preventing vehicular movement.
Speaking with The PUNCH, the leader of the protesters, Omowumi Abraham, popularly known as Ewatee, said a vehicle conveying two soldiers heading towards Gbongan-Ibadan end from Ipetumodu, had forced it way through their barricade.
She said two other vehicles also conveying soldiers heading towards same direction were however prevented from going through and were forced to make a detour.
Students in Ogun State also on Monday blocked the Sagamu-Benin Expressway in protest against the ongoing strike.
The joint protest had in attendance students from OOU, Ago-Iwoye; Tai Solarin University of Education, Science and Technology, Ijagun and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the students stormed the TASUED axis and blocked the expressway, leaving many motorists stranded and travellers trapped.
Speaking at the protest ground, the Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students in the state, Damilola Simeon, appealed to the Federal Government to respond urgently to the yearnings of ASUU.
The President, Student Union Government of TASUED, Don Ayomide, also said the protest was necessary to let both the Federal Government and ASUU be aware of the plight of Nigerian students.
Reacting to the students’ protest, ASUU Chairman, FUNAAB, , Dr Gbenga Adeleye, told NAN that the students had a right to quality education, saying that they were not happy with the ongoing strike.
In Edo State, students of the University of Benin on Monday shut down the Federal Secretariat in Benin in continuation of their protest over the strike.
The students stormed the Aduwawa area where the office is situated and told the workers that they could take the day off as it was impossible for them to carry out their duties, while students continue to suffer over the strike.
The students said they have resolved to shut Federal Government offices in the state to press home their demand for the resolution of the crisis
President of the UNIBEN Student Union Government, Foster Amadin, said the government has not shown seriousness over the resolution, wondering for how long the students would stay at home doing nothing.