Inter-Religious Council, ASUU disagree over commencement of strike

The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, has criticised the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government over the ongoing strike by lecturers across universities in the country.

He said ASUU was impatient and disrespected him and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar, by going ahead with the strike despite wading into the matter.

Ayokunle said the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council, which they both chair, would have left ASUU to continue but for the future of the affected students.

The CAN chairman spoke during the first quarter meeting of the council with the theme ‘Education for peace and nation building’ in Abuja on Monday.

He said, “For me, I am not pleased enough with ASUU because they were impatient. I am the co-chairman and others went to meet with them (ASUU), instead of them to be patient with us to know how to get the government to commit itself, they went ahead with the strike again while our intervention was going on.

“To me, that was not respectful enough; that was the reason we left them, but for how long shall we continue to allow the impasse between ASUU and the government to continue?

“Our children are the ones suffering from this, and the future, because our future is the children God has given to us. How can they be playing with the future of these children like this?”

He also faulted the Federal Government’s claim that it lacked the required fund to meet the demands of ASUU.

Ayokunle said, “I think the government also does not allow us to believe that they don’t have the money. It was at that time when they were saying there is no money for ASUU that the government went and donated $1m to Afghanistan. How reasonable is that? When you have your own Afghanistan at home, you have not taken care of it, you are donating to another one.

“We need to take a drastic decision about this impasse between ASUU and the Federal Government which is prolonging for months now without any solution.”

But ASUU said NIREC withdrew from the negotiations between the Federal Government and the union the moment the union embarked on its initial four weeks warning strike.

The union’s National President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday.

He said, “NIREC withdrew from negotiations the moment we started the strike, should they have done so? We accorded them enough respect last year when they pleaded with us not to go on strike. We did not get angry because nothing was done despite all the moves for negotiations?

“The comments about we disregarding their advice is not necessary because we respected you, followed your advice and did not embark on any form of strike in 2021. When we saw that nothing was done, we did the needful. So what is disrespectful in that?”.

Abubakar lamented the insecurity in the country as well as the invasion of Ukraine.

He said, “We have serious problems in Nigeria and the rest of the world. What is happening in other countries should be of concern to us in Nigeria. Innocent people died by this action.

“We have to always speak against violence anywhere because if we do not do so, we will face serious questions from our creator in heaven.”

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, appealed to NIREC to continue to appeal to ASUU to call off the strike.

Mustapha, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, General Services, Office of the SGF, Maurice Nnamani, added that the strike must be called off in the interest of the country.

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