The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ahead of its Friday’s meeting with the Independent National Electoral Commission, has said that its ongoing seven-week strike is in the national interest.
The National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who stated this in an interview in response to the call on the union to call off the strike, said nobody had the monopoly of national interest.
He added that the strike would not be called off until the Federal Government acceded to the lecturers’ demands.
There have been calls on ASUU to end the strike in the interest of the nation and to enable university students and the National Youth Service Corps members to work as ad hoc electoral officers during the February and March general elections.
As a result of the strike, many public universities have not rounded off the 2018/2019 session, thus their final year students have not gone for the NYSC.
The calls for the suspension of the strike became heightened last week when INEC raised the alarm that the face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU constituted a serious threat to the 2019 general elections.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, had pleaded with ASUU to suspend the strike in national interest and for the sake of democracy.
He had in an interview where he said the commission had convened a consultative meeting involving its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, national commissioners and ASUU leadership on January 4 (Friday) concerning the ongoing strike.
According to him, the meeting would focus principally on the issue of the role and involvement of ASUU members in the 2019 general elections.
Okoye said, “The national interest, the interest of our democracy and the reputation of Nigeria demand the immediate resolution of the issues that led to the strike and we so urge. It is next to impossibility for members of the NYSC to provide all the ad hoc staff needs and requirements of the commission and over 70 percent of the ad hoc staff requirement in some states of the federation is drawn from students of federal tertiary institutions.
“Hence, the lingering strike by ASUU will no doubt have serious impacts on the preparations for the conduct of the 2019 elections. We therefore call on ASUU and the Federal Government of Nigeria to quickly and genuinely resolve the lingering impasse that has led to uncertainty in the education sector.”
But while confirming the invitation of INEC to the meeting, Ogunyemi said ASUU did not declare the strike with INEC, adding, “It is what they (INEC) will tell us that will inform our response.”
He said, “Well, INEC has requested for a meeting. The INEC chairman has contacted us and we are willing to oblige them. So our own procedure is that since they have requested for a meeting, we will listen to them. It is what they will tell us that will inform our response. First of all, we didn’t declare the strike with INEC.”