Lecturers' union leader sacked in dispute

January 3, 1997

EIGHT Nigerian university lecturers who were active in the six-month strike that ended in September have been sacked and evicted from their tied accommodation.

The lecturers, including Assisi Asobie, national president of the proscribed Academic Staff Union of Universities, were all employed at the the University of Nsukka.

During the dispute, union leaders had gone underground to escape security agents bent on harassing and eventually arresting them.

Dr Asobie's house and his office at the department of political science were under constant surveillance. His wife and children have been living in constant fear as he hardly ever appeared at home in case of arrest.

Then in November plain clothes security agents accompanied university officials to Dr Asobie's house to serve a 48-hour notice on him and to vacate the university quarters where he and his family live.

The notice recalled that a circular to all academic staff, following the proscription of the union last August, warned that if they failed to register their intention to return to work they would be dismissed. The other seven, all ASUU officials, include George Amadi, the branch chairman at the university's Enugu campus.

The dismissal of the national president was met with anger and dismay by the entire profession, including some vice chancellors, who feel the move could disrupt academic life after several months of strike action.

Mike Ikhariale, a constitutional lawyer who teaches human rights at the Lagos State University's faculty of law, said: "What is happening at Nsukka is very unfortunate. There is an injunction at Enugu federal high court restraining the university from tampering with the conditions of service of university lecturers pending the outcome of a motion brought against the university authorities by the academic staff.

"In a civilised environment where the rule of law reigns supreme, none of the parties in the dispute must do anything that could jeopardise the integrity of the law of the land. The sacking of the national president is both a clear contempt of court and a deliberate provocation of the teachers."

Abubarkar Momoh, a political scientist and branch chairman of the union at the Lagos State University, said it had become a predictable pattern for Nigeria's military rulers to jail, sack and harass union leaders. Two national newspapers, the Daily Champion and the National Concord, have spoken out against victimisation of the lecturers.

The government council of Ogun State University has rescinded an earlier decision to sack 162 lecturers. This would have included the entire leadership of the local union branch.

It is the third time a national president of the union has either been sacked or otherwise harassed. After a strike in the early 1980s the then national president was fired from his job while in the late 1980s a successor was detained by the security forces for three months.

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