Nigerians have expressed deep concern, frustration and anger as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday extended its strike by another 12 weeks.
Also, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) will tomorrow begin a national strike over the non-implementation of the Memorandum of Action (MoA) it reached with the federal government in May 2021. This came as the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) declared today a national protest day against the continuous closure of schools due to industrial action.
Earlier yesterday, ASUU extended its ongoing strike by another 12 weeks after an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, held at its national secretariat in Abuja. The extension of the industrial action by three months followed the expiration of its additional two-month warning strike on Monday.
ASUU national president, Emmanuel Osodeke, who confirmed the development in a statement accused the minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, of stopping salaries of ASUU members, but approved payment for other unions in the university system that were also on strike.
He said the continuation of the warning strike came on the heels of government’s failure to satisfactorily implement the Memorandum of Action (MoA) it signed with the union in December 2020 on renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
Other demands include, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), funding for revitalization of public universities (both federal and states), proliferation and governance issues in state universities, promotion arrears, withheld salaries (owed for over 20 months in some cases), and non-remittance of third-party deductions.
He said, “NEC noted with serious disappointment that the three-man committee set up by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 1st February, 2022 to resolve the lingering issues between ASUU and FGN has not called a single meeting to date.
“NEC was equally disappointed that ASUU’s only meeting with the Professor Nimi Briggs-led Renegotiation Committee did not reflect the expected level of understanding, preparation and clarity that undergird collective bargaining going by the committee’s confession of “going about consulting stakeholders”. Unless urgent steps are taken to redirect the committee on concluding a draft agreement that has been pending since May 2021, its activities may end up as another wild goose chase.
“NEC condemned the federal government’s cavalier attitude towards the strike action in the last 12 weeks. Government’s resort to the use of starvation as a weapon for breaking the collective resolve of ASUU members and undermining our patriotic struggle to reposition public universities in Nigeria is ill-advised and may prove counterproductive.
“NEC was shocked that public universities have remained closed for about three months while members of the political class were busy purchasing expression of interest and nomination forms worth several millions of Naira in preparations for 2023 elections! Those in power turned their back on our degraded universities as they shuttle between Europe and America to celebrate the graduation of their children and wards from world class universities. This speaks volumes on the level of depravity, insensitivity, and irresponsibility of Nigeria’s opportunistic and parasitic political class.
“After extensive deliberations, noting government’s failure to live up to its responsibilities and speedily address all the issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) within the additional eight-week roll-over strike period declared on 14th March 2022, NEC resolved that the strike be rolled over for 12 weeks to give government more time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues. The roll-over strike action is with effect from 12.01a.m. on Monday, 9th May, 2022.”
ASUU Strike: Who Bears The Loss?
Osodeke said the result of the criminal neglect of education and gross mismanagement of the nation’s patrimony was evident in the collapse of the security architecture of the country, adding that insecurity was getting worse by the day and spreading like the harmattan inferno in hitherto peaceful and secured parts of Nigeria, including university campuses.
According to him, ASUU warns, once more, that unless something drastic is done to reverse these ugly trends, the country may be headed for a state of anarchy. He added, “NEC condemned the provocative statements of some government functionaries and salutes the Nigerian Labour Congress, patriotic students’ groups and civil society organisations who have taken steps towards resolving the current labour dispute with the Nigeria government.”
The union also described the planned overseas trip organised by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities’ Spouses (CVCNUS) as despicable and condemnable, labelling the advertised five-day conference in Istanbul as a waste of scarce resources of universities, insensitive and provocative, particularly at a time like this when lecturers are denied their salaries for daring to struggle to improve the lot of the public universities.
However, the implication of the extension of the strike is that public universities would remain closed for another three months. Following the declaration of the strike, Nigerians have lamented that it is already having serious repercussions on the future of students and the nation as a whole.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP at the sidelines of Tertiary Education trust Fund (TETFund) strategic interactive session with heads of institutions in Abuja yesterday, the vice-chancellor of Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Prof Aloysius-Michaels Nnabugwu Okolie said it was unfortunate that strike was happening at the moment.
While saying vice-chancellors were greatly concerned about the development, he urged government to engage the vice-chancellors and other unions together in a close-door meeting to bring solutions to the crisis once and for all.
He said, “It is very unfortunate, you heard the permanent secretary, ministry of education, assuring that issues are being looked at with a view to addressing them. It is not as easy as we may think, even though as vice-chancellors we have fundamental roles to play in making sure that these things work out.
“We are greatly concerned. There is no way a vice-chancellor will be happy addressing empty campuses, what makes vice chancellors to be vice chancellors is because other stakeholders are around and students are critical stakeholders. It is regrettable that I wake up every day and I don’t see my students so no VC is happy I can assure you.
“My own advice is why not the government engage both vice chancellors and those unions together in a close-door. So, you can’t say ASUU that are part of the system, you will engage them separately and Vice Chancellors should not be part of it. I think we should one day lock ourselves up if the federal government is really serious about what they are doing so that the matter can be resolved.”
Meanwhile, ASUP zonal coordinator of Zone D which comprises of South South and South East, Mr Precious Nwakodo stated at a press briefing yesterday held in Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo that the National Executive Committee of the union would meet tomorrow to ratify the planned industrial action.