ASUU strike: NLC rejects FG’s two-week ultimatum, insists on protests




The Nigeria Labour Congress had rejected the two-week ultimatum given to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to end the lingering Academic Staff Union of Universities strike.

According to The Punch, the NLC stated that it will not back down from its planned two-day nationwide protests scheduled for July 26 and 27 adding that the government can settle ASUU’s demand in two days.

Buhari had ordered Adamu to resolve ASUU’s demands in two weeks, adding that the Minister of Labour and Employment steer clear of the negotiation, following an accusation from the union that he was misinforming the president on ASUU’s demands.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday, said the protest was illegal since the Nigeria Labour Congress had no pending disputes with the government but the congress retorted that it would go on with the protest, saying the freedom to protest is guaranteed by the constitution.

He said, “The NLC is not a political party. The NLC can go on strike or protest if the rights of the NLC members are involved. What the NLC is planning in the next few days is about interest. There’s no dispute whatsoever between NLC as a body with the Federal Government.

“Well yes, there’s a dispute between some members of the NLC, ASUU and the federal government, which is being looked into. And NLC itself is a party to the committee that is looking into the solution.

“So, calling out people on street protest; you begin to wonder, what is the motive of the NLC in this matter? But you see here, we do not interrogate what the NLC is doing. The NLC by its own laws cannot even give out pamphlets. And the NLC is supposed to be completely insulated from politics.”

In the same vein, 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.

Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja, 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.”

Reacting, the Head, Information and Public Affairs, NLC, Mr Benson Upah, in an interview with The PUNCH, 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 July 26th and then the mega one is on (July) 27th. So, I mean, 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.’’

While acknowledging the ultimatum handed down to the education minister, the NLC spokesman argued that nothing had happened to change the proposed rally.

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 about 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.”

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