Just as university students in Nigeria were preparing for their first semester examination, the perennial strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) struck again.
The strike which has totally crippled academic activities in the about 49 Federal Government owned universities in the country, is disrupting an academic calendar already contorted by previous strikes and the long Covid-19 induced break.
As the campuses become deserted once again, ASUU and the Federal Government will definitely be locked in another round of negotiations likely to span weeks, even months. But students have become irked by the situation. They feel dehumanized not only by the federal government but ASUU as well. To this end, they have informed both parties to buckle up for a mass action.
The students, speaking exclusively to Crystal Express Newspaper, through the Public Relations Officer of the South South/ South East Zone (Zone B) of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Ekanem Utibe called for a permanent solution to the strike.
He bemoaned that over the years the Federal Government and ASUU have failed to prioritize the interest of the students in the matter hence the incessant strikes. He accused both parties of paying deaf ears NANS in previous years but warned of consequences if their requests are rebuffed this time.
“Federal government and ASUU are playing with the destiny of the Nigerian students. It will not be business as usual. We will occupy all federal government establishments, we will occupy the federal secretariats, federal government owned radio stations, federal roads and everything owned by the federal government. We will not be idle, we will make it a duty of ensuring that everyone including the federal government also stay at home. We have been trampled upon for so long,” Ekanem stated.
Describing the incessant strike actions as irresponsible action by ASUU, he advised the union to always take ingenuity and sound argument to the negotiation table with Federal Government, and resist using strike as avenue to perenially extort the federal government. “ASUU should change tactics. Shutting down universities and then going behind the students to be financially induced by government is an act of irresponsibility.”
Furthermore, the NANS Zonal PRO called for reforms in the education sector that would among other benefits ensure that tertiary institutions become self-sufficient. The current strike action comes after a 48 hour long meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) held at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
ASUU National President, Emmanuel Osodeke, at the end of the meeting, complained that the union’s demands on revitalisation of public universities, academic allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) promotion arrears, renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement and inconsistencies in Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS) payments have remained unfulfilled despite repeated assurances by the federal government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige. The strike was preceded by a three-week ultimatum to the federal government to meet their conditions.