The Lagos State Government has warned striking lecturers of the Lagos State University, LASU, that they cannot stampede government in meeting their demands.
The government described the strike by the Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, of the school as illegal and unjust.
“Government will not allow itself to be stampeded into acceding to demands which are inconsistent with its policy objectives. It is imperative for ASUU LASU to have a rethink on its proposed industrial action in the interest of the students and allow for dialogue,” says State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba.
Ibirogba, in a statement appealed to striking LASU workers to embrace dialogue instead of continuing with their industrial action which government described as an unnecessary drawback for its spirited efforts to boost the academic standing and reputation of the institution.
He described the strike by the lecturers as crude attempt to force new terms and conditions of service on the university without due regard to their practical feasibility or the State Government’s interests and perspectives as employer of labour, proprietor and sponsor of the university.
“The striking members of the local branch of Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) appeared to be whipping up sentiments to justify a premeditated industrial action, as all the points they advanced could not even be properly classified as trade disputes that could warrant an ‘Indefinite Strike Action’.
“The lecturers’ union executives have in an attempt to rush out on strike, evaded all attempts to make them follow due process and engage in reasoned dialogue as regards the issues raised, most of which,” he said, “were not at all contemplated by the terms and conditions of the lecturers’ employment as well as it’s financial and academic plan.
“The lecturers should have exhausted the dialogue option before resorting to a strike which could by law only be called after a well constituted meeting for which a proper notice would have been served on all members beforehand, with a clear articulation of the agenda and procedure that would guide the decision for or against the strike,” he stated.
He said following a “14 day ultimatum” issued by the Union, the State Government set up an ad-hoc committee which examined all the points raised by the lecturers and that even though it was discovered that the issues did not warrant a strike action, the administration made clear it’s determination to carry on the dialogue towards resolving the issues through the established processes.
On the call for the reversal of LASU School fee’s regime, he expressed surprise at how this could have justified a strike since the lecturers themselves knew that government was already in constructive discussions with the students. “It is a matter of fact that the students have already submitted a position paper on the issue which government has also constituted a 7-man committee to review and advise upon”, he said.
Ibirogba added that the University’s main source of funding (80%) was from the State Government while the new fee regime accounted for only 10 percent with the Governing Council being mandated to fund the balance of 10 percent.
Reacting, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, LASU branch, Dr. Idris Adekunle, said the lecturers would not bow to any intimidation from government, insisting that the lecturers went through the right channel before embarking on strike. He said the matter had been on since last year April before the national ASUU strike as the lecturers consulted with the relevant bodies to ensure thay the strike did not hold.
“We went through due process and we engaged the school authority, the Pro-Chancellor, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas; we also met with the committee government set up on this matter, we met with the parent body and the alumni and with some Obas in Lagos on this issue.”
“We met with Oba of Lagos and the Akran of Badagry and thereafter, our congress decided that it was time we embarked on strike. After going through these processes, how can they say our strike is illegal? Even the National Executive Council of ASUU approved our strike,” he explained.
Adekunle said their demands were not outrageous as being claimed by the government.
He said the lecturers wanted the students fees to be slashed to N50,000 per student, saying that at the initial time, the lecturers wanted outright reversal of the fees.
Adekunle added that asking the government to approve the 70 years retirement age limit for lecturers which was already being implemented in other universities could not be said to be outrageous demand by government.
“We are here to fight for the public and we will bear the brunt of our action. We are ready to be sacked. Our resolve is that ‘sack one, sack all.’ Last time, they said we were being used by the opposition party. We are resolved to go on until our demands are met,” he said.
Adekunle, however, said the lecturer got a letter from the state government on Saturday asking them to come for a meeting on Tuesday, saying they would attend the meeting.