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THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Rivers State government are trading blames over the lingering industrial crisis by teachers in the state-owned university of science and technology.
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the striking teachers may sue the governing council of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) over plans to sack them beginning from Thursday.
The Registrar and Secretary to the council, Mrs. D.C. Odimabo, had on penultimate Thursday issued a directive to ASUU members who have been on strike since October to resume work by this week Thursday or consider themselves sacked.
But the chairman of the RSUST branch of ASUU, Dr. Felix Igwe, disclosed to that at the striking teachers’ congress held at the weekend, they resolved not to call off the strike and instead take legal actions to thwart the council’s threat.
“ASUU-RSUST held a meeting and resolved to continue the industrial action and ignore any threat from the governing council or any group of individuals who is using intimidation to forestall implementation of the 2009 Federal Government of Nigeria /ASUU agreement in RSUST,” he said.
Igwe, who reiterated that the strike was necessitated by alleged refusal of the state government to implement the agreement reached between the Federal Government and ASUU, explained that ASUU would take all legal actions against the government, which he accused of being the only one that has not implemented the pact.
He accused the council, which is the representative of the state government, of refusing to dialogue with the union, and instead circulating letters to individual teachers asking them to resume work on Thursday or be sacked.
“We have not been called for dialogue; rather they brought a letter, which they distributed to individual lecturers giving them up to January 27th to resume work. ASUU congress has rejected this letter and nobody will collect it. We have decided to ignore the letter. They are avoiding dialogue with us. We need to sit down and dialogue,” he said.
The ASUU chairman said the call for the resumption would continue to be ignored until the university council decides to dialogue with the union.
According to him, the union has uncovered plan by the governing council to evict teachers who are residing in the university from their flats beginning from Thursday if they continue to participate in the on going industrial action.
The university has however denied shunning dialogue with the teachers. The Registrar had in the statement issued after the council’s meeting penultimate Thursday explained that without prompting, the council had in March set up a committee to work out the financial implication as contained in the Federal Government and unions agreement and made appropriate recommendations to the state government.
According to her, ASUU was invited by council and properly briefed on the recommendations made to the government. But without waiting for further information from council, ASUU declared an illegal indefinite strike with effect from October 21, 2010.
She said the governing council had made overtures to the various striking unions to resolve the issues despite the fact that it has no direct conflict with any of the unions, but to no avail.
But Igwe whose union members yesterday commenced a one week fasting to seek divine intervention into the lingering deadlock with the state government, refuted these claims and accused the council of not been disposed to dialogue.
When The Guardian contacted the Registrar yesterday to ascertain if the council was still bent on sacking the striking teachers this Thursday, she declined to comment on the issue.
Some irate students of the institution had after an emergency congress to assess the implication of the four-month strike, stormed the staff club and vandalised a vehicle belonging to ASUU in protest over the strike.
The House of Assembly, Rivers State chapter of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), the state Traditional Rulers Council, the Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention, and other interest groups have tried to broker a truce between the government and ASUU but to no avail.
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