YENAGOA – Niger Delta University (NDU) chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) insisted on Thursday that its members would not resume work as directed by the Bayelsa State Government, saying the ongoing national strike is a battle to save the country’s university system from collapse.
The chairman of ASUU in the state-owned NDU, Kingdom Tonbara, stated this while reacting to the state government’s directive, which asked them to disengage from the seven-month-old nationwide strike of the national body and return to the classroom.
The state Governor, Douye Diri, while speaking during a dinner in honour of the victorious Bayelsa United Football Club in Yenagoa on Tuesday, had urged the state-owned university’s lecturers to end their sympathy strike with the national body of ASUU and resume work.
Diri said the solidarity industrial action by lecturers of the NDU was no longer justifiable as they had been receiving their salaries monthly without going to work.
He also said the state government had settled all the issues between it and the university’s ASUU, pointing out that lecturers in federal tertiary institutions might have issues with the Federal Government, but that was no longer the case with NDU lecturers.
Tonbara vowed that they would not return to the classroom because it was not the state government that directed them to embark on strike in the first instance.
He also debunked the notion that NDU lecturers were on “a sympathy strike”, stressing that as bonafide members of ASUU they were part of the national industrial action declared by the union.
Tonbara said, “No, we are not resuming (work). The state government did not give us directive to go on strike, so they cannot tell us to suspend the strike.
“We need to also correct the impression that we are on a sympathy strike or solidarity strike as some people may want to say. We are not on a sympathy strike or solidarity strike. We are on our own strike. The national strike affects us.”
He also clarified that although they had been receiving their salaries since the strike started, they had been carrying out research and also supervising final year and post-graduate students while doing community service as part of lecturers’ mandates.
Tonbara, while justifying the need for NDU teachers to continue with the strike, said, “When people start saying that we are on a sympathy strike, it’s not true. It’s a national strike. We are members of ASUU, and the issues are not for federal universities’ workers alone.
“The issues of this national strike affect us also. There are major issues. For instance, revitalization fund is what we have used to develop NDU. If you go to Niger Delta University, the presence of the state (government) is just five per cent, apart from the fact that the state owns the land.
“Every other thing is as a result of the revitalization fund from the Federal Government. Secondly, we have been on the same salary since 2009, and we need to renegotiate the 2009 agreement so that it will improve the conditions of our members. So, it’s a national strike. It’s a battle for the survival of university education in Nigeria.
“As academics in the university, we have three mandates: teaching, research and community service. As we are on strike, we still do research, we still do community service. We are still supervising our final year students, MSC and Ph.D students. So, it’s not true that we are collecting salaries without working. We are still working.”
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