By Faith Igbudu
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s two weeks ultimatum to resolve ASUU strike, insisting that its planned protest will still hold.
The congress, in solidarity with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had on Thursday last week said it would hold a two-day national protest to force the Federal Government to meet the demands of university-based unions.
Other critical stakeholders in the country were said to be in full support of the solidarity protest, vowing to shut down vital sectors of the economy.
Making a swift response, President Buhari on Tuesday issued a two weeks ultimatum to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu to resolve ASUU crises and ensure the schools are reopened.
However, Head, Information and Public Affairs, NLC, Mr Benson Upah, in an interview, said the government could resolve the lingering strike within three days if it was serious about the crisis, stressing that the union was going ahead with its protests.
He said: “We’re still going ahead with the protests. The public action is on the July 26th and then the mega one is on July 27th. So, I mean, of what effect will two weeks have on that?
“I am saying that had the government asked the Minister of Education to solve this problem within two or three days, aha. But he is giving him two weeks, and two weeks will come after our protest must have taken place. Don’t you think so? So it’s like take charge of it.’’
The NLC spokesman argued that the two weeks ultimatum does not change the proposed rally.
He further added, ‘’If the government wants to end this matter today, I assure you that they will be able to fix it in three hours. Remember when the airline operators planned to go on strike and within hours there was an intervention; remember?
“The summary of what I want to tell you is that nothing has happened for us to change our proposed action. All I know is that we’re going on with our action.’’
In an interview with a leading newspaper in Abuja, the spokesperson for the education ministry, Ben Goong, pleaded with ASUU to call off its strike, pending the commencement of the negotiations by Adamu.
He stated that, “The President has given specific directives and the minister of education has said that he will carry out the president’s directive to the letter. It is a presidential directive and it will happen. Actions have been taken.
“If they still go ahead with the strike then it will be unreasonable. It will be a slap on the face of the president and also on the minister. In fact, we will advise ASUU to suspend its strike pending when the negotiations begin.”
Earlier, while addressing State House correspondents after Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, chaired by the president, the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, said the planned protest by NLC is illegal, accusing the congress of being motivated by partisan interests. He said ASUU crises is supposed to be “completely insulated from politics.”
“The NLC is not a political party. The NLC can go on strike or protest if the rights of the NLC members are involved. What the NLC is planning in the next few days is about interest. There’s no dispute whatsoever between NLC as a body with the Federal Government.
“Well yes, there’s a dispute between some members of the NLC, ASUU and the federal government, which is being looked into. And NLC itself is a party to the committee that is looking into the solution.
“So, calling out people on street protest; you begin to wonder, what is the motive of the NLC in this matter? But you see here, we do not interrogate what the NLC is doing. The NLC by its own laws cannot even give out pamphlets. And the NLC is supposed to be completely insulated from politics,” he said.
No fewer than 40 unions, including the aviation workers will participate in the rally called in solidarity with the striking ASUU which has shut down public universities since February 14, over the failure of the government to meet its demands.