Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, on Sunday rued the prolonged strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, saying he had lost sympathy for the lecturers.
Kaigama, who spoke at the 80th Anniversary of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Jos, Plateau State, said that members of ASUU had lost focus on the cause for their battle.
The cleric said that ASUU, by allowing the strike to linger and allowing students to stay at home for four months running, had exhibited utter insensitivity to the plight of Nigerian students and their future.
He said he regretted that the association had failed to yield to pleas from all quarters, including the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, stressing that ASUU had shown that it was fighting for other causes other than the future of education in the country.
Kaigama said, “Initially I was with ASUU, but when they have allowed the students to stay at home for four months now they begin to lose my sympathy. You don’t go on a strike for a long time, especially in a sector like education, which is the bedrock of the development of any society.
“You said you are fighting for the students and have allowed them to stay at home for more than four months, you must be fighting for something else. You have made your point and all I expect is that they should have listened to all the pleadings by Nigerians, including the Catholic Bishops Conference, which has just ended its meeting in Benue State and where we appealed to ASUU, in the interest of Nigerian students, to go back to the classroom”
Meanwhile, Kwara State Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed has joined others who have been begging ASUU to sheathe its sword. Ahmed appealed to the striking university teachers to reconsider their stance and return to the classroom.
Ahmed made the call while speaking with journalists in Abuja on the sidelines of the 2013 World Teachers’ Day Celebration where he received the NUT Award of Excellence alongside his counterparts from Enugu and Yobe states, Sullivan Chime and Ibrahim Geidam respectively.
The governor expressed the confidence that the Federal Government would soon end the protracted industrial action.
“I am sure the Federal Government is looking at the industrial action critically to ensure that all areas of dispute are brought to an understanding that will bring to an end the current dispute,” he said.
The National President of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Mr. Michael Olukoye, while fielding questions from journalists reiterated his advice to the Federal Government to set up a team comprising the President, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and former presidents like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and representatives of the Vice Chancellors to meet with ASUU and find a common ground to resolve the impasse.
Olukoye observed that members of ASUU refused to call off despite the government’s commitment because of lack of confidence in the government.
He said, “Immediately we gave that ultimatum the first person to invite us was the Minister of Labour and the Supervising Minister for Education, we met with them and they told us all that they have been able to do to put the matter behind us.
“We have not been able to meet with ASUU but we advised that if these people said they need about N400bn and you have been able to provide N130bn, well, to all intent and purposes, it is a good beginning.”