Occasioned by the biting effect of the ongoing industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu on Monday donated cash and food items to members of ASUU.
The university teachers drawn from the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike besieged Kalu’s Igbere residence to seek his intervention to end the crisis.
Apart from seeking an end to the crisis the group Led by Engr. Dr. Okoro Christopher Kalu, a senior lecturer also sought Orji Kalu’s assistance to cushion the effect of the economic hardship on their members as a result of “the no-work-no-pay” imposed by the federal government against striking members of the Union.
Recall that since the commence of the strike in February this year, Nigerian students have remained at home for six months, ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke had confirmed that none of its members has been paid since the union embarked on industrial action in February 2022.
However, speaking at Kalu’s residence Engr. Christopher the strike action had brought untold hardship on themselves and their families due to the no work no pay rule by the Federal Government. Urging Kalu to intervene by assisting them .
Making reference to Abia State University when he was Governor, the former governor told the gathering that the strike could have been avoided , Kalu added that as Governor the state University never went on strike throughout his eight year tenure. He alluded to the reason for the prompt payment of lecturers salaries, leave allowances, 13th month and other emoluments.
The Senate Chief Whip reiterated his earlier appeal to the Federal Government to resume payment of salary to striking university lecturers. Kalu maintained there was a need for the union and the federal government to reach a truce immediately for the benefit of students. Due to his Love for Education and its importance Kalu said he introduced a free education policy throughout his tenure as Governor and never owed Teachers and other civil servants.
Kalu addressed the ASUU members;
“We have been pushing for the strike to end. I also suggested that even if the strike continues, some salaries of the lecturers should be paid, so that people can see money for eating food . When I was Governor, Abia State University never went on strike for a single day for eight years. The only day they went on strike was when they engaged in a sympathy strike with the University of Ilorin and it was a warning strike. Then I held a meeting with their leadership and I told them that I have given them everything they need. I pay them 13th month salary , leave allowances, bonuses and you want to join a strike with a University that does not receive such ? They apologised to me and went back to duty. That is the only attempt to strike in ABSU because I had an agreement with them. I told them that there mustn’t be any strike and students must graduate immediately as at when due and we maintained that level.
Speaking further Kalu said;
“Honestly, I sympathise with you all sincerely from my heart and because I am close to so many of you. We shall make sure that before the end of this month everyone gets back to school, we have spoken to the minister so that both parties can sir and resolve this issue once and all. I think that this issue should never have happened to our country. How I wish I was the Minister, because I know and understand the meaning of Education. This was why when I was Governor I made sure that Education was free in this state and the teachers were promptly paid, so none of the teachers engaged in side jobs or asked the students to buy unnecessary books. This made them concentrate on imparting knowledge into the students.
“As Governor, Abia State University was one the best in the country, for six years running the faculty of law from Abia State University produced the best law students in the Law School Abuja, the same with our Medical graduates. Today the hospital I built in Aba I’m not sure the hospital is still existing. All the general hospitals I rebuilt from Isuikwuato, Isiala Ngwa to Ukwa, Abriba to Umunne Nnaeato here have been abandoned.
Responding, Christopher lauded Kalu’s concern for their plight and that of the students. He assured to convey Kalu’s message to their communities and prayed for God’s guidance and protection on the Senate Chief Whip.
The Senate Chief while concluding donated a bag of rice to each of the lecturers numbering over 90, a Livestock cattle and cash sum to the union.