The federal government has called on the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) not to politicize the union action, but to take into account the plight of Nigerian students who have been at home for more than six months and to call off the strike.

Secretary of State for Education, Rt. Hon. Goodluck Opiah, called in Owerri while answering questions from journalists.

He said the federal government has met all of the ASUU’s demands, adding that the only issue on the table is the government’s “No Work No Pay” policy.

He said the government believes that the teachers who did not go to work for six months did not earn their salary, even though he assured that the government has earmarked N50 billion to cover the fees earned.

“ASUU must take into account the plight of our children and go back to school. Many of us have our children here in public universities and the teachers also have their children in schools in Nigeria.

“We are not happy to go home every day and see that the schools are still locked, and I wonder how the teachers whose children are in public universities feel about coming home every day and seeing that their children are still at home.

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“The Ministry of Education is critical. It is a great ministry that has so much in stock for the future of this country. The education sector is a very critical one and the government takes this seriously.

“That was why the government had to bend backwards to resolve all the gray areas of ASUU. What matters now is that the government insists that it cannot afford the six months that the teachers have been out of work. The “No Work No Pay” policy is a worldwide practice and not a witch hunt by the teachers.

“ASUU strike is an unfortunate one, an avoidable one. It is not good for the future of our children and the country. No doubt teachers have the right to make demands, either way, the federal government has been addressing the situation ever since and we are in talks with the teachers.

“Today, all the gray areas have been resolved, except the teachers are asking to impose every six months they are on strike. But the federal government said no, that “No Work No Pay” policy is a universal policy.

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“I don’t think we can afford to set the wrong precedent by paying people who have stayed at home for six months. How do we compensate the students for all the days the teachers were home if we compensate the teachers by paying them? If we can answer this question, it will help. But I beg the teachers to please go back to school.”

The minister also called on ASUU not to politicize the union action and said Union’s appeal to the students they forced to stay at home to use their vote to remove the All Progressives Congress (APC) government put them in the political arena.

He said such unguarded comments by ASUU give the impression that some people want to politicize the strike.

“I feel bad every time ASUU calls on the students to use their voter card and remove the APC government. That call is in the wrong direction and should not have happened.

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“Industrial actions should not be politicized by anyone, and making such unguarded comments means bringing both the problems and ASUU into the political arena and it is not good for anyone. There are many issues that have been raised by the teachers and they have all been resolved,” said the minister.

However, the minister expressed his optimism that with the recent suspension of the strike by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and other Associated Institutions (NASU) on Saturday, the union action by ASUU would are soon over.

“You see the other unions cancel their strike. We are almost there. I commend the President and the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu. The federal government has made many concessions to boost the education sector. What I believe remains is the “No Work No Pay” policy and I am sure ASUU will come to realize that their insistence is not realistic”.

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