Lecturers with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has been on strike for months, described the Nigerian government’s Dec. 4 ultimatum as foolish and a “joke.”
The government said that lecturers who do not resume teaching by that date will be removed. The move came as the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, said his office will increase the number police officers at each campus in the coming days.
“This is designed to help secure life and property in the Ivory Towers and provide enabling environment for lecturers, students, academic and non-academic staff to go about their lawful businesses without let or hindrance,” reads a statement from his office, according to AllAfrica.
But Oghenekaro Ogbinaka, the head of the University of Lagos’ branch of the ASUU, told the Premium Times that threats won’t work.
“Our reaction is simple. Let us just wait for the seven days to come around,” he said. “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.”
“We are not going to fall to that blackmail. Now, which one is better: government acceding to our demands or issuing out threats?”
Prof. Oyelowo Oyewo, with the University of Lagos, echoed Ogbinaka’s statement, saying the move is a “a glorified joke and laughable.”
The ASUU walked out in July, claiming the government would not implement a 2009 deal that would improve lecturers’ welfare and upgrade facilities at campuses.
But the strike has left hundreds of thousands of students across Nigeria without classes–essentially losing a semester.
On Thursday, Nigerian Education Minister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike said he was frustrated because the ASUU has made new demands after meeting with the government three weeks ago.
“As a responsible government we cannot allow the continuous closure of our public universities for this length of time, as this poses a danger to the education system, the future of our youths and national development” said Wike, according to the AFP news agency.
He said the universities need to reopen immediately, adding that “any academic staff who fails to resume on or before December 4, 2013, automatically ceases to be a staff of the institution.”
ASUU National Treasurer, Dr. Ademola Aremu said the Dec. 4 ultimatum is a sign of desperation, and he added that the threat won’t keep the ASUU from striking.
“It is a pity if the Federal Government is not willing to perfect the resolutions reached with the union. This is why we find it difficult to trust our leaders by their words. How can someone be threatening to sack lecturers when universities are already short-staffed by almost 60,000?” he said.