ASUU: Unizik students protest with lecturers over poor working conditions, welfare
By Gabriel Chy Alonta
The Students Union Government (SUG) of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka on Thursday, December 1, 2022, joined the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Unizik Chapter in a solidarity protest over poor working conditions and welfare.
The protest, which took place in the Awka campus and university gate, attracted hundreds of staff and students who were unsatisfied with the state of public universities following continued negligence by the Federal Government.
The protesters were seen carrying placards of various inscriptions such as “Our working conditions must improve or you kill the Nigerian University”, “No to commercialisation of Nigerian public universities”, “Shame on destroyers of Nigerian public universities”, “Stop casualisation of Nigerian academics”, “Nigerian professor’s salary is less than 500 dollars”, “Government’s deliberate destruction of Nigerian Public Universities must stop”, among others, this paper reports.
Speaking during the protest, the ASUU-NAU Chairperson, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, said the protest was against the prorated October salaries, withheld arrears of salaries of ASUU members and failure of FGN to implement agreements she willingly entered with ASUU, which, according to him, led to the just suspended 8-months strike.
He said, “We are here to press further the demands of members of ASUU so that the Federal Government can implement our agreement reached in 2020 which include implementation of renegotiated agreement, deployment of UTAS, improved funding for public universities, visitation panel and presentation of the white paper, control of the proliferation of public universities, and so on”.
While decrying the non-payment of arrears of the academic staff, the ASUU-NAU chairperson urged the Federal Government to urgently release the arrears of university staff, remarking that every academic programme lost during the industrial showdown would be duly covered. He regretted that until now that the Federal Government has not done anything positive to assuage the plight of University lecturers.
The university vice-chancellor, Prof. Charles Okechukwu Esimone, in a remark during the protest, commended the lecturers for living up to their expectations despite the Federal Government neglect, while assuring them that the university management would continue to support their just cause. According to him, Nigeria intellectuals are the best and have distinguished themselves all over the world.
“Unfortunately in Nigeria, the intellectuals are neglected and treated unfairly. My heart is bleeding. How can a professor be earning less than 500 USD? This is preposterous and embarrassing especially after diligently discharging their tripartite functions of teaching, research and community service.
“We as a management will continue to prevail on the government to do the needful because the demands of ASUU are legitimate and just. Also, they should be paid the backlog of their salaries because a worker deserves its wage”, Esimone, who is the 6th substantive vice-chancellor said.
Also speaking on behalf of the students, the Unizik SUG president, Comrade Charles Obinna Ijeomah, knocked the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige for working against the university lecturers, reminding him that lecturers were their teachers and parents.
“The federal government should sit up and do the needful. They should give lecturers their just demands and treat their welfare as sacrosanct. “On behalf of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), especially the South East zone, we want to assure our lecturers of our solidarity with them. We will not relent in sharing your pains and agony”, he said, while entertaining fear that poor treatment of lecturers would indirectly affect students.
Earlier before the protest, Comrades Chioma Evangeline and Amaka Udogu of Department of Modern and European Language, Comrade Ngozi Ulogu of Linguistic department, Comrade Chioma Ikebudu of Sociology and Anthropology and Comrade Uzodinma Okafor, narrated the sorry-state of lecturers’ welfare and how it has affected their careers at different stages. They, therefore, called on the Federal Government to do the needful.