A group, the Unity Project Nigeria, yesterday accused the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) of engaging in clandestine meetings with leading opposition groups in the country.
The accusation came just as traders marched on the streets of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over the work boycott by the university teachers that began in July.
The group, whose founder and Leader, Igwekala Ugomefule, addressed a press conference in Abuja, alleged that the labour leaders may have been offered financial gratifications in pursuit of the strike.
Ugomefule, while expressing concern about the continued hard-line position of the ASUU leadership over the strike despite overtures made by the federal government to resolve the issue, blamed the NLC for trying to escalate the strike by threatening to call out its affiliates on a nationwide strike.
“Information on ground indicate that the Nigerian political opposition, a known desperate, power-mongering philistine and undemocratic movement has since hijacked the ASUU movement and now the NLC leadership, ” he said.
Ugomefule alleged that there was a meeting between the NLC leadership and one of the arrowheads of the opposition and the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, last Friday on the matter.
But the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Amaechi have described the allegations that the opposition was behind the ASUU strike as baseless.
“With recent developments, the bubbles have finally burst and the cat had been let out of the bag on the real motives of the seemingly endless strike by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU).
“Our organisation based on facts at our disposals, through our information gathering network, has raised the alarm at the several clandestine meetings of the leading members of the opposition and the ASUU and NLC leadership, ” he said.
However, APC said the federal government should blame its inability to end the industrial crisis on its incompetence rather than chasing shadows or blaming the opposition.
The party’s Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told THISDAY on telephone yesterday, that government had absolutely lost initiatives on how to negotiate its way out of the crisis.
He said: “The insinuation that it is the opposition that is behind ASUU strike is baseless. Meanwhile, we know that the federal government has gone to lobby the religious leaders and they have been lobbying everybody but this will not help them. They should do the right thing by going into an agreement and obeying such an agreement.
“Any government that does not place education as a priority is doing a disservice to the children unborn. The PDP government should not rope in the opposition in their incompetence. They should find solution to their problem. For God’s sake what has the opposition got to do with ASUU’s insistence that the federal government should implement an agreement between them?”
Also, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, who spoke on behalf of the governor, described the allegation of his involvement as figment of the imagination of the group.
“It is the figment of the imagination of the group. The Rivers State Government is accountable to the Rivers people and therefore will spend its resources purely for the growth and development of Rivers people, ” she said.
Meanwhile, a group of traders in Abuja, has joined the protest against the ongoing strike on by ASUU members.
The women, who protested at the Federal Ministry of Education yesterday, lamented that while the impasse between the union and the government continued, the students were being made to bear the brunt.
President of the National Association of Market Women, Mrs. Felicia Sani, led the protesters who were received by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. MacJohn Nwabiala.
Sani described as outrageous the demands by the striking lecturers, adding that it was unfair for lecturers in state universities to expect to earn the same benefits as their counterparts in federal institutions.
She accused the union of being selfish, rather than striving to address real issues in the university system.
Nwaobiala appealed to the women to be patient as the government was working to end the strike.
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