HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, HURIWA, a development focused and democracy inclined non-Governmental organization has faulted President Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s Ramadan message in which he singled out the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities [ASUU] for blame over the perennial and incessant industrial actions in the public University system and demanded public apologies from the federal Government to Nigerians for the insensitivity displayed so far by Federal officials towards the plight of public school system including the minister of education Sam Egwu who went partying when the public universities were still on strike.
The Rights Group instead asked the President to sack his minister of Education Sam Egwu for dereliction of duty and his deceptive approach to the negotiation with the striking lecturers which culminated in the unilateral and unfortunate withdrawal of the Federal Government’s negotiation team from collective negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities. The Rights Group blamed the federal minister of education for endangering the future of the Nigerian children in the public school system by his non-challant and incompetent approach to the issues in the current ongoing conflict with the University dons.
Specifically, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua had as part of his message to the Muslem faithful all across Nigeria to mark the commencement of the 2009 holy fasting season demanded that ‘’in the spirit of the glorious season, let me also appeal to our university lecturers to go back to classrooms, certain they can always pursue their claims without resorting to endless strikes that have over the years put the future of our children in jeopardy’’.
But the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, faulted the President’s comment and laid the blame on the doorsteps of the Federal Government for showing bad faith by its refusal to sign the agreement reached democratically with the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities [ASUU] eight years ago even as the group stated that the current administration has not demonstrated any willingness to resuscitate and rehabilitate the rapidly collapsing infrastructures in the nation’s public university school system apparently because the Children of the officials of the Federal Government are all schooling abroad while the children of the heavily impoverished Nigerian families are left to their fate in the dilapidated public university school system. The rights group urged the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities [ASUU] to make good its’ recent threat to publish names of federal and state Government officials whose children are schooling abroad.
HURIWA canvassed support for the striking University lecturers from all Nigerians because the ongoing strike action which is legal is aimed at bringing about fundamental improvement and the comprehensive upgrading of facilities and payment of commensurate salary package to the university teachers who for now earn less than elected and appointed political office holders some of whom possess little or no significant academic qualifications compared to the lecturers who labour daily to train the Nigerian children who are the leaders of tomorrow. The Rights Group asked the Federal Government to stop the massive blackmail and propaganda it is waging against the striking university teachers and work out much more democratic ways of resolving the crisis in Nigeria’s public educational system.
HURIWA stated thus; ‘’Come to think of it, why will the President appeal to the university lecturers to go back to the classrooms but is not prepared to sanction his minister of education who has manifestly handled the ongoing industrial action of the university teachers in the most deceptive and incompetent ways and manners? Why will President Umaru Musa Yar’adua blame the lecturers for jeopardizing the future of the Nigerian children because they embarked on constitutionally allowed strike action to press home the demands that will better the future of our children when the facilities in the public university system are upgraded? The president should channel his blame to his officials who have persistently misinformed and misadvised him on the strategies for ending the strike action in the Nigerian public university system’’.
‘’What the President has achieved with this comment on the ongoing strike in the nation’s university system is that he has behaved like a father who flogged the living hell out of his child and seeks to stop him through propaganda from crying aloud to the hearing of neighbours. The federal Government must end the ongoing blackmail against the striking university lecturers and resume normal negotiations in the spirit of collective bargaining to collectively sign an agreement before asking that the lecturers should end their strike’’.