The federal government has ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to reopen all federal universities in the country by December 4, or face mass sack.
Nyesom Wike, the supervising minister of Education, also directed the pro-chancellors and vice-chancellors to ensure that members of staff who resumed for work were provided with the enabling environment for academic and allied activities.
Wike warned that any academic staff who failed to resume on or before the stipulated date automatically ceases to be a staff of the institution.
ASUU had on July 1 started a comprehensive strike in public universities across the country, protesting the non-implementation of some issues contained in an agreement it entered into with the Federal government in 2009.
In his reaction to the directive, chairman of the university of Lagos branch of ASUU, Oghenekaro Ogbinaka, said the directive was strange and laughable.
He said that this was so considering the fact that the union was yet to get back to the government, after its deliberations with President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Our reaction is simple. Let us just wait for the seven days to come around. What government has just done shows that they were not committed in the offer they made with the union that had the Trade Union Congress President and the Minister of Labour in attendance,” he said.
He added: “We are not going to fall to that blackmail. Now, which one is better: government acceding to our demands or issuing out threats?
Honestly, this whole thing ought to have been easily resolved, given the approach taken by President (Goodluck) Jonathan, but it is like we want to be taken for granted after all and it is unfair.”
Also commenting on the government directive, Sat Obiyan, head of department of political science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said that the ultimatum was not the best approach to resolving the issue.
Obiyan said that the threat might achieve some success because some lecturers would resume for fear of losing their jobs, but it would not end the crisis in the education sector.
“Nigerians are worried over the situation. The prolonged strike is not good for the education system in the country, but the federal government’s approach now is not the best,” he noted.
Obiyan urged the federal government to have a rethink and implement the agreement reached with the union, while also urging union members to give the presidency the benefit of doubt that the agreement would be implemented.
The coordinator of Education Right Campaign, ERC, Hassan Soweto, said that the ultimatum would only worsen the problem, noting that it was against the principle of public bargaining.
“What ASUU wants is some level of commitment from the federal government before it will suspend the strike. It is not right for the government to use force in a democracy,” he said.