Leaders of the 3rd Force Movement under the auspices of the National Consultative Front, NCFront have called on the Federal Government (FG) to take urgent steps to immediately find lasting solution in resolving the issues associated with the ongoing Universities Workers’ (ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT) strikes.
The Front in a statement e- Signed by Dr Tanko Yunusa pointed out thatit made the call in the overriding interest of our nation, but more particularly for the huge number of students, parents, academic and non- teaching staff in all Federal and state-owned universities across the country who have been affected directly by this avoidable strike.
The body lamented that youths in public universities are losing their most active and creative years due to no fault of theirs, while their parents are undergoing a painful agony of witnessing their children and resources waste away under their very noses.
It noted that the children of most top government officials attend private universities or study abroad; they do not feel the distress and torment of the ordinary parents which we continue to call for a law mandating State actors their nuclear families to attend only Nigerian institutions while in office In addition, the government is also wasting our national resources because by the end of the strike, all academic staff and non-teaching staff that are mostly inactive now would still receive their salaries.
It added that the bedrock of modern nation building was education and any country that trivializes it, is clearly on a path to failure.
The NCFront declared it was regrettable that the Federal Government continues to be aloof to its responsibilities by undermining the issues associated with Collective Agreements with the University based unions which has become a vicious cycle for decades, adding that the concerns are not insurmountable; however, it requires a symbiotic relationship between Government and all critical stakeholders in the education sector to resolve them amicably.
The body’s statement read in part: “Let us begin by isolating indisputable facts that are trite. The unions have an avalanche of genuine demands; and these demands are increasing from year to year due to Government’s reneging or failing to address the issues in a timely manner. There have been recent meetings or dialogue sessions between Government, led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, and the unions which ended in deadlocks, probably due to past experiences of Government failure to honour agreements reached.
“It is our view that the issues concerning the public universities can be resolved, if government comes to the table with sincerity of purpose by recognizing the problems and show willingness to fix them. It is known to all concerned that the main concerns of the unions since the 1980s are no more than the inadequate funding of the university system, decaying and overstretched infrastructural facilities, conditions of service (salary and non-salary), autonomy and academic freedom, brain drain, and the survival of the university system.
“The current spate of strikes also revolve around some of these same issues and governments’ failure to honour previous Collective Agreements. And for how long would our nation continue to suffer from the pains of such insincerity and incapacity?
“The Leadership of the 3rd Force Mega Movement under the auspices of NCFront therefore pleads with all key stakeholders that are relevant to the resolution of the ongoing strike action to reconsider and prioritize the pains and agony of our youths and parents affected by this unfortunate situation and make every effort to resolve this impasse as quickly as possible so that our students can return to their educational and life pursuits.“
“We have come to a point in our country, where the federal and state governments, students, parents and all relevant stakeholders must lay their concerns, challenges and missed opportunities on the table so that we can collectively fashion out a long-term solution to prevent these incessant but avoidable strikes.
“Therefore, beyond calling off the current strike, NCF also strongly recommends that the federal government takes a leadership step in proactively instituting a nationwide EMERGENCY on our university and indeed tertiary education system and initiate an open and sincere dialogue in the manner of an Education CONFAB, where all critical stakeholders in this sector are present: Government (Federal and State), the Unions, NUC, Labour, Student and Parent-body representations, Private University representatives, Education financing institutions and education foundation representatives, etc”.
NCF assured it would be advocating for a win-win situation where all critical stakeholders and the citizenry can be made to understand the real or imagined challenges to government funding of our university education, the need, benefits or challenges to research, curriculum, autonomy, as well as a need for appropriate strategic and systemic review, hoping that the that the public should be able to learn from the experiences of other nations and factor these into the discussions at the Confab.
“In addition, government must begin to demonstrate visible forthrightness and genuine willingness to solve the challenges in our social fabric by ensuring that it is careful and prudent in the expenditure of our national resources. The waste and personal aggrandizement that is going on in government is alarming and unacceptable by all standards.
“A situation where every citizen now has to cut their coats according to their cloth, while government is not seen to be doing the same (for example it still operates a huge and superfluous fleet of presidential aircrafts and recently approved huge billions for the renovation of the National Assembly complex) does not engender confidence in the citizenry that government is doing its best to deploy resources to productive use and save resources to fund education” NCF stated
It expressed hope that the Education Confab as proposed would come up with critical resolutions that should alter current policies and laws in a way that would prevent University based Unions’ strikes in the foreseeable future, asserting that its dream was to build a nation in which every citizen shall be free and educated, healthy and prosperous.