In spite of assurances by President Muhammadu Buhari who met the chairmen and pro-chancellors of federal universities on Friday to engage in further consultations with relevant stakeholders to end the seven-month standoff between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) yesterday declared its intention to ground operations at all international airports in the country.
The national body of NANS which met at the weekend in Akure, Ondo State condemned the way the government is treating the lecturers as well as education in general in the country.
The students said the four-day closure of expressways across the country was a success, prompting their decision to stop international travel from tomorrow to make the government and upper class experience what they (students) have been going through for the previous seven months.
The chairman of NANS national taskforce on #EndASUUStrikeNow, Ojo Raymond Olumide, said at a news conference that students were already tired of pleading with government and ASUU on ending the strike.
“We will begin another round of protests next week by storming the airspaces on Monday, September 19, 2022 to #OccupyTheAirports. We want to let the world know about the pains and anguish students are going through. Nigerian students whose parents create the commonwealth cannot continue to be suffering at home alongside our lecturers while the few who gain from our sweat and blood have their kids abroad jollying and flexing. We will, by this statement, not beg again. We shall be mobilizing all students to shut down the country. No Education! No Movement!”
“The President Muhammadu Buhari administration must settle all outstanding arrears and the lecturers’ salaries”, Olumide said, adding that the airports that would be occupied will remain closed until the strike is called off,” he said.
On comments by the minister of works, Babatunde Fashola, on the barricade of federal roads by the students, NANS said they had passed a “vote of no confidence” on both the ministers of labour and education.
Protesting students had on Friday grounded the Ijebu-Ode/Benin/Ore Expressway in a demonstration against the strike.
The students under the aegis of NANS had blocked traffic flow as part of the protests which began on Tuesday with the blockade of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. According to them, it was meant to force the government into action.
Commuters and motorists were trapped in the logjam and commercial activities were grounded following the protest.
Meanwhile, the management of the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) in Akwa Ibom State has resorted to prayers for God’s intervention on the strike.
The vice chancellor, Professor Nyaudoh Ndaeyo, led the management team, some council members, staff and students, traditional rulers and well-wishers to seek the face of God at a special solemn service at Uyo yesterday.
Organized by the Victory Chapel of the institution, they prayed for quick determination of the issue.
They stressed the need for a peaceful resolution to enable universities resume academic activities.
The vice chancellor appreciated Victory Chapel for the Solemn Assembly Service tagged: The God of Answers, with the scripture reading and message taken from Isaiah 65: 21-24.
He said the prayers offered would surely be answered victoriously by the Almighty God within the shortest possible time and stressed the need for consistent prayers to move the heart of God on the matter.
In a related development, Igbo youths have appealed to the leadership of ASUU to accept the offers made to them and call off the strike to save their members who they said were dying because of hunger due to non-payment of salaries.
The Igbo youths through their umbrella organisation, Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) lamented that the nation’s education system was collapsing as a result of the strike.
The COSEYL president-general, Hon. Goodluck Ibem who made the views of his members known advised the striking ASUU members to use the coming 2023 general elections to ensure that someone who would give priority attention to education and take the welfare of the university staff members, especially lecturers seriously is voted in as president of the country.
Ibem said; “The essence of the struggle by ASUU is for a better wages and salaries for her members but if all the lecturers die before a better wage is approved, who will now benefit? The dead we all know do not collect salaries, it is only the living that are paid salaries”, he said.
He advised ASUU; “A soldier who fights and runs away lives to fight another day,” and urged the lecturers’ leadership to call off the strike.
“We will advise that our striking lecturers will sheath their swords and accept the present offer made to them by the federal government and go back to the classroom to teach our students. This move will save the families of lecturers who are facing hardship as a result of the prolonged strike and our education system that is now collapsing,” he said.
Advising the university lecturers to ensure that the next president of the country is someone who would give education the priority it deserved and take proper care of lecturers Ibem urged “We must also ask ourselves some pertinent questions. How did we get to this present situation we found ourselves today? Who did this to us? Of course, the answer is not far-fetched, our professors who were appointed as electoral returning officers allowed themselves to be used to legitimise electoral fraud.”
Ibem advised the lecturers who might be appointed to participate in the conduct of the coming general elections to resist any pressure or offer that would compromise the chances of credible candidates from emerging winners in the poll.
He said; “The striking lecturers should own up and accept the fact that the problem that they are facing today was brought upon them by themselves and it is only the same lecturers that will correct the anomalies come 2023 by ensuring that they vote wisely and their members appointed as returning officers stand by the truth to declare the right winner in the election,”