University teachers are accusing the Federal Government of using security agents to threaten their leaders’ lives.
Their union – the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) – has been on strike for over three months.
Security agencies are said to be probing the sources of finance of ASUU members after the stoppage of their salaries.
In a statement by ASUU, University of Ibadan (UI) chapter, signed by Dr Olusegun Ajiboye, titled “ASUU strike: Union leaders go underground”, the ASUU leader alleged that he had received telephone calls warning him on his role in the ongoing strike.
Ajiboye urged Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar to save the lives of ASUU leaders. He said no amount of threat or clampdown on the union would make them back down from the strike, until public education is saved from collapse.
According to him, the security threat has forced many ASUU leaders to go underground. Many of their phone numbers have also been bugged.
“Apart from finance, ASUU leaders are now being trailed all over the place. A majority of our union leaders have now gone underground while many have their telephone lines bugged. Some are now living in fear of their lives,” Ajiboye said.
Ajiboye, who noted that ASUU members are not security threats to the nation, added that citizens are guaranteed freedom of association.
He urged the Federal Government to leave its leaders alone and implement the agreements it reached with the union for normalcy to return to university campuses.
“The position of ASUU is that Nigeria is a democratic country and citizens are guaranteed freedom of association. Members of the union are apprehensive for the lives of their leaders. We urge the government to leave our leaders alone. Our leaders are our servants; we are their principals; they report to us on all matters. Rather than chasing shadows, government is, once again called upon to implement the FGN/ASUU 2009 agreement. Only this will bring members to their classrooms,” Ajiboye said.
At UI, ASUU executives disappeared from the public shortly after last Thursday’s Congress. Most of them have switched off their phones.
The secretariat of the union has been deserted.
The Deputy Director of Information and Public Relations of the National University Commission (NUC), Ibrahim Yakasai, defending the salary stoppage, said the directive was not a policy but a law that affects all sectors of the economy, adding that it had been in the constitution for a long time.
His words: “It’s a law in this country that if you don’t work you will not get paid. But the government was magnanimous enough to pay their salaries for a month or two when they started the strike. After everything that has been done, the lecturers don’t want to go back to work; so, the law must be applied,” he said.
Mr. Yakasai lambasted the lecturers for collecting salaries in the first place while on strike.
“Let’s watch and see how far they can go with this strike. In any case, why would anyone want to pay someone that is not working? Should they even have accepted the salaries in the first instance? In fact, what are salaries for? It’s for work to be done,” he said.
Unless 2.5 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was allocated to education, recurring industrial action by workers in the sector would not cease, Greg Mbadiwe, the deputy chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Safety and National Security, has said.
Urging a compromise between the government and the striking lecturers, Mbadiwe said: “A major problem that must be addressed is the underfunding of the education sector and that Nigeria must agree to commit at least 2.5 per cent of our GDP to education. Anything less will only amount to scratching the surface.
“The current ASUU strike has gone on for more than three months with no end in sight as both government and ASUU are stubborn… The chasm only seems to be widening by the day, with claims and counterclaims.
“The sole victim is Nigeria and the beneficiaries are Ghana and other neighbouring countries and for those who can afford it in Europe and America.”