The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has assured protesting students from the state-owned Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, that his government will take necessary actions to reopen the university amid the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The students, on a peaceful protest, stormed the Government House in Benin City, on Tuesday, issuing a one-week ultimatum to the government to ensure the reopening of the institution or face a mass action by the students.
Addressing the protesters, Obaseki, represented by his Special Adviser on Media Projects, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said education remains a top priority for the government, which will expedite action to ensure that the students get back to classes.
He said, “All that the leader of this protest has said today is in line with what the Edo State Government wants to do for the students of the institution. We have a challenge as the hand of the government is tied to some extent due to the activities of the various unions. Most institutions, including AAU, have staff unions and easily join strike actions called at the federal level; this is not in the best interest of the students and lecturers.
“Incessant strikes have become a problem in our higher institutions. Our proposition as a government is that at some point our lecturers should put the interest of the students above their own. We believe that the reason they sit at home during the ASUU strike is that at the end of the day, whether they teach or not, they will be paid, and this is wrong.”
“We call on university lecturers and workers in the university to come together and make a decision in the best interest of the students because the government is willing to support the institution with the resources it needs to run,” he charged.
Obaseki further noted, “Lecturers should realise that the education of the students is more important than their unionism. The government is working on other steps to help the students come out of this problem. I urge them to come together to allow the students to learn instead of being on strike.
“I assure you that the one-week ultimatum given will be adhered to by the Governor as he will take steps and actions needed to get students back to school. I want to appeal to you that when the government takes its decision, the students should rise up in support of the government so that lecturers will abide by the decision of the government.”
Earlier, the Vice President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) (Special Duties), Odiahi Thomas Ikhine said they embarked on the peaceful protest to register their displeasure with the ongoing ASUU strike which has kept students at home for months.
He called on the governor to emulate what is being done in Kogi State where there is no union and the academic calendar goes smoothly without strikes.
“In Kogi State, there is no staff union and their academic calendar runs to favour the students; a four-year course is a four-year course. There is no strike and the students are happy. I call on the governor to borrow the Kogi example to put the National ASUU strike to an end in AAU.
“We are here today to let you know that we are tired of the whole situation and we are giving the government one week to take drastic action to ensure that AAU is open and there are lecturers on the ground to lecture students. We want all academic activities to resume in full. We will be back in the next one week if things don’t change.”