The Federal Government has directed the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, to deploy policemen to all federal universities in the country in its bid to ensure resumption of academic activities in universities on or before December 4.
It was learnt this development was disclosed at an emergency meeting the Federal Government held with all vice-chancellors of federal universities at the National Universities Commission building in Abuja on Friday. The Acting Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, and the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof Julius Okojie, were also at the meeting.
Though Friday’s meeting was held behind closed door, a source at the meeting who craved anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the press, told Saturday PUNCH that the Federal Government directed the IG to draft policemen to federal universities to prevent members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities from disturbing some of their members that might want to resume work in line with government’s directive.
The meeting, we learnt, also discussed other modalities for calling off the bluff of ASUU whose members have been on strike for over five months.
The Friday meeting began at 9am and lasted for two hours. Part of the meeting’s deliberations, we gathered, also centred on how to recruit new lecturers to fill the space of ASUU members who might refuse to obey government’s directive. Also, the vice-chancellors were directed to call students back to campus on Sunday in preparation for academic activities which should start on Monday.
Wike, had on Thursday ordered lecturers to resume duties on or before December 4 or face being sacked summarily by the Federal Government.
It was learnt that already Okojie had been mandated to start the process of recruiting new lecturers by placing vacancy adverts in international journals and media.
Also, the vice-chancellors were directed to open registers in their institutions where ASUU members that resume work would sign so that those who failed to resume could be sacked.
It was also learnt that the Federal Government was planning to adopt the Ghanaian method where lecturers were asked to re-apply for their jobs after two years of strike.
“Not all lecturers are members of ASUU. Most professors don’t belong to the union, people think every lecturer in public university is a member of ASUU, which is not true. Government means business this time around and it is going to call off the bluff of ASUU,’’ the source explained.
Nigerian universities are currently in need of at least 30,000 lecturers because of acute shortage of lecturers in the university system..
There are also indications that the Federal Government and university lecturers may be heading for a clash as the December 4 deadline given by the Federal Government for the lecturers to return to work is also the date set aside by ASUU to bury a former President of the union, Prof. Festus Iyayi.
The Federal Government had claimed it decided to go tough on ASUU because the union made fresh demands in its letter to the government as a condition for calling off the lingering strike action.
ASUU had demanded payment of the four-month salary arrears of its members from July when the strike commenced and the release of N200bn that President Goodluck Jonathan promised to inject into the university system within the next two weeks.
The union also said the agreement reached between it and the Federal Government should be signed by the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation.
Though the President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Faggae, refused to pick his calls and also did not respond to a text message sent to him on the latest development, the Enugu State Police Command confirmed that its men had been directed to man universities to quell any protest that might result from the Federal Government’s order on lecturers to resume work on or before Wednesday.
The command told the press that police officers had also been directed to be stationed at the universities to forestall any disturbance from various groups or lecturers on Monday.
“There is no cause for alarm and we are combat ready in the event of any violence or disturbance,” the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, said.
Also, the Police Public Relations Officer, Akwa Ibom State Command, Mr. Etim Dickson, confirmed that the police had been mandated to provide security for lecturers that want to resume work against molestation by their other colleagues, who may not want them to do so.
“We are not going to their houses to force them to come and teach in the universities. Even though the Federal Government has taken a stance, we are not in the military rule to molest lecturers,” he said.
But reacting to the latest development, the Chairman, ASUU, UNIBEN chapter, Emina-Monye, said ASUU members were not bothered about government’s latest strategy.
He said, “They can go ahead with that. We are not perturbed. Let them call the police; let them advertise vacant positions and see how many international scholars will want to accept what Nigerian university lecturers are taking- let them go ahead.”