The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Port Harcourt (UniPort) chapter, has protested against their unpaid salary arrears, insisting that the Federal government must pay the lecturers before commencing full lectures.
Already, the students have been told not to bother coming for classes, until a final resolution of the issues that led to the last strike, which lasted for eight months.
The UniPort ASUU Chairman, Dr. Darlington Uzoma and other members, shortly after a special congress and protest rally at the university campus on Monday, lamented the ill treatment meted out to the lecturers by the Federal government.
The Congress was attended by the Port Harcourt zonal chairman of ASUU, Prof Stanley Ogoun.
The lecturers sang solidarity songs with placards, marched from the ASUU Secretariat at the Delta Park of the university through the main entrance, to the Senate building, Agriculture building and returned to the union’s Secretariat.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: ‘Lecturers deserve their full wages’, ‘No to casualisation of university lecturers’, ‘Federal Government stop maltreating lecturers’, ‘No nation can properly develop without teachers’, among others.
Speaking to journalists, Uzoma said the protest was to express the union’s dissatisfaction over recent attempts by the federal government to reduce the university lecturers to daily paid casual workers.
He said there was nowhere in the world where university lecturers are treated like casual workers like what is being experienced in Nigeria.
Uzoma said: “After the strike was suspended following an order by the National Industrial Court, we have come back to resume our duties. And we are currently doing all the arrears of work that we should have done during the period of strike.”
He argued that the no-work-no-pay adopted by the government was neither here nor there, saying: “During the strike, it was only teaching we were not doing.
“We were doing research, our members published during that period and we also engaged in community services. Already we are clearing the backlog of work. At the moment, we are combining two sessions.
“It is so clear now that the ruling class wants to decimate the public universities and of course as the egg heads of the nation, we won’t allow that to happen.”
According to Uzoma, “If the government continues to say they will not pay us, it simply means we are going to abandon all the work that we were supposed to do during the strike.
“The implication is that some of the sections, for instance here in the University of Port Harcourt, we are dealing with academic activities associated with the 2020/2021 session and 2021/2022 session.
“We call on the federal government to pay us our salary arrears and also expedite action towards resolving all the issues that led to the last strike so that we prevent the likely chaos that may come up in our universities.”
The ASUU Chairman, Port Harcourt zone, Prof. Stanley Ogoun, said what the government is doing with ASUU is being replicated in other sectors, but that in the latter, they do not have strong unions to fight.
“This fight is not only for ASUU. The students and their parents should be involved. If you think you are not affected, if the government succeeds in stifling and stopping ASUU, they will come for the students someday. So it is about fighting to save our public universities.”