THE ongoing strike embarked upon by four university-based unions has taken a new twist, as lecturers in medical schools of some Federal Universities have distanced themselves from the industrial action.
This came on a day the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, said the Federal Government’s promise of immediate reply to its submission to the committee set up to negotiate with it had not been fulfilled, nearly a month after.
In a letter to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, by the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, MDCAN, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, UMTH, branch, which Vanguard sighted, the lecturers said they never joined the strike and, consequently, requested for payment of their withheld salaries from March to June 2022.
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The lecturers also sent the same letter to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, as well as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
The letter, dated June 29, 2022, signed by the Assistant Secretary of the union, Dr. Mohammed Abdulahi, and entitled: ‘Request for Payment of Our Withheld Salaries from March-June 2022’, read: “We, members of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital branch, majority of which form the College of Medical Sciences Academic Board, University of Maiduguri, wish to kindly request for payment of our withheld salaries from March 2022-June 2022.
“This is because our members (medical lecturers in the University of Maiduguri) have been patriotically doing their work, which includes teaching, training and conducting examinations of medical students throughout the period of the ongoing strike.”
They drew the attention of the minister to their earlier correspondences in March, with the Provost, College of Medicine, and Vice Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, notifying them of their resolve to remain at work, notwithstanding the strike declared by ASUU.
They explained that the proactive step was taken in case the Federal Government decides to stop the salaries of ASUU members.
The medical lecturers, therefore, appealed for the kind intervention of the minister to encourage their patriotic members to continue their services for the good of Nigerians.
It was reliably gathered that apart from UMTH, other institutions, which medical colleges pulled out of the strike, include Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, ATBUTH, Bauchi, and Usman Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, UDUTH, Sokoto.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, could not be reached for his comment at press time, yesterday.
However, a source in the Education Ministry said they had verified that medical lecturers were teaching and that Usman Danfodio even graduated medical doctors in March/April.
The source, who is a senior official of the ministry, showered praises on the lecturers for their patriotism and assured that their withheld salaries would be paid as soon as possible.
“Theirs is an act of patriotism. Persistent strike by lecturers is at the base of poor grading of Nigerian universities and part of the reasons for the falling academic standard.
“How I wish others will emulate those who have decided to remain in the classroom while the numerous challenges facing higher education are sorted out,” the official said.
One of the medical lecturers, who preferred anonymity, further confirmed that their members had not been participating in the ongoing industrial action, adding that they were concerned about the deleterious effect of incessant strikes on the quality of education in Nigeria.
Govt’s promise of immediate response to our demands unfulfilled –ASUU
Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, said yesterday that the Government’s promise of immediate reply to its submission to the committee set up to negotiate with it has not been fulfilled, nearly a month after.
The union also called on well-meaning citizens of the country to take the government to task on how it was handling the running of universities and education generally in the country.
The National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said this in a chat with the Vanguard yesterday.
Prof. Osodeke spoke as Prof. Nimi Briggs, who led the committee set up by FG to renegotiate the 2009 agreement with ASUU, said he didn’t know what was causing the delay in government making its stance known on the report submitted to it.
“When we met with the Briggs Committee about a month ago and our submission made, it promised to report back to the government and revert to the union immediately.
“Up until now, we have not heard anything from them. It shows the levity with which they take the issues.
“They have stopped our salaries since March, we didn’t die because of that. We only want Nigerians to see this as a battle we must all fight, so our education system can be adequately funded, facilities improved and that education becomes a right that should not be taken away from the average citizen.
“The ball is in their court and when the right thing is done, we will all benefit and our society will be better for it,” Osodeke said.
The ASUU president in a separate interview on Channels Television programme, Politics Today, on Monday night, said the union was ready to call off its strike as soon as the federal government signed the negotiated agreement it had with it.
“As far as ASUU is concerned, the strike can end tomorrow, we have finished the negotiations, let the government call us this night that we should come tomorrow and sign the agreement, we will be there.
“Let government tell us they have finished testing the UTAS, we have accepted it. By tomorrow, we will call off the strike. We have finished (with negotiations).
“We are just waiting, and challenging the government. When will they sign the agreement? And when will they accept UTAS? Those are the two questions we need to ask the Nigerian government,”he added.
Contacted on what was causing the delay in government’s response to ASUU’s demands and government’s stance on the report of his committee, Brigss said: “I don’t know.”
According to him, the committee has concluded its assignment and handed over its report to the appropriate authorities.
“Acting on the report or not is not within our purview. We cannot also force anybody to do anything. We have done our assignment,” he said.
Asked what the FG was doing about the report, the Director, Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Ben Goong, said he was not authorized to speak on anything relating to ASUU.
Recall that ASUU had been on strike since February 14, this year.