BREAKING: Nigerian govt makes U-turn, withdraws letter asking vice-chancellors to reopen

September 26, 2022
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The Nigerian government has withdrawn its earlier directive asking the management of federal universities to reopen the institutions “to ensure that the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) resume and commence lectures immediately.”

The latest development was contained in another letter by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and dated 26 September.

Like the earlier copy containing the “marching order,” the new letter was also signed by NUC’s Director of Finance and Accounts, Sam Onazi, on behalf of the Executive Secretary, Abubakar Rasheed.

The agency had earlier on Friday directed the management of all federal universities to comply with the order of the National Industrial Court (NIC) directing ASUU members to return to classrooms pending the determination of the substantive matter before it.

The government had asked the pro chancellors and vice-chancellors to ensure that the striking lecturers resume and commence lectures immediately.

U-turn

The government’s directive had caused confusion for the university management as the vice-chancellors were unsure of how to go about the decision.

The confusion is reinforced by the pending application for a stay of execution at the appeal court by the counsel to the striking union, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

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Femi Falana (SAN)

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Femi Falana (SAN)

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Femi Falana (SAN)

But the new letter by the NUC which was addressed to the pro-chancellors and vice-chancellors of the federal universities is titled; “Withdrawal of Circular Ref: NUC/ES/138/Vol.64/135 Dated 23rd September 2022.”

The new letter referenced NUC/ES/138/Vol.64/136 and dated 26 September, reads in part; “I have been directed to withdraw the National Universities Commission (NUC) circular Ref, NUC/ES/138/Vol.64/135 and dated 23rd September 2022 on the above subject. Consequently, the said Circular stands withdrawn.

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“All Pro-Chancellors and Chairmen of Governing Councils, as well as Vice-Chancellors of Federal Universities are to please note. Further development and information would be communicated to all relevant stakeholders.”

The letter, however, did not give reasons for the withdrawal but it might not be unconnected to the criticisms by many Nigerians who have taken to social media to comment on the development.

Backlash

Many Nigerians including the members of the management of various institutions had earlier on Monday condemned the government’s directive for reportedly “ignoring the stay of execution application filed at the appeal court against the NIC order by the lecturers’ union.”

While some university management members spoken to on the phone on Monday by PREMIUM TIMES said they were yet to take a decision on the matter, others said they were unaware of the development.

An official of NUC who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity earlier on Monday said the agency only carried out the instruction by its supervising ministry and that it was not in a position to query the decision.

“On how the directive would be implemented NUC has no say on that. It is a different matter entirely. We were only asked to communicate the decision and we did,” the official who does not want to be quoted for fear of sanction said.

True to the source’s claim, the earlier directive issued by NUC was a follow-up to an earlier letter by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, conveying the enrolment order of the NIC to his counterpart at the Ministry of Education, Adamu Adamu.

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Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu

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Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu

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Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu

Mr Ngige had written to request that the NUC and the universities be directed to “immediately re-open all the universities, recall the students of the various Universities, ensure that ASUU members immediately resume/commence lectures, restore the daily activities and routines of the various University campuses.”

In response to Mr Ngige’s letter, Mr Adamu, through his ministry’s Director of Human Resource Management, David Gende, told the NUC to carry out the instruction.

Background

The government through the labour ministry had referred the dispute between it and ASUU to the NICN. The government counsel, James Igwe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, subsequently filed an application seeking the court to order ASUU to suspend the strike while the court heard the dispute.

Despite ASUU’s objection, the court granted the government’s application ordering the lecturers’ union to suspend its seven-month-old strike. ASUU has appealed the judgement and filed an application for a stay of execution.

ASUU embarked on the ongoing industrial action on 14 February, to compel the government to fulfil its part of the 2009 agreement, the Memorandum of Action signed in 2020 and to implement the recently concluded negotiations with the government-constituted committee which renegotiated the 2009 agreement.


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