UNIVERSITY teachers in Nigeria, under the auspices of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Sunday, embarked on a work action.
They described it as a resumption of the strike action they suspended in 2017 over the inability of the federal government to fulfill an agreement with them over increment in an increased funding of universities.
THE strike has elicited mixed feelings from Nigerians as well as some members of the union and stakeholders in universities across the country. While the ASUU action is effective in some universities, some institutions have adopted a sit-down-and-watch approach.
FOR instance, University of Lagos only joined the strike two days after its commencement while the University of Ilorin has refused to join.
EXPLAINING why the action took off late in University of Lagos, ASUU Chairman, Dr. Dele Ashiru, said, “UNILAG has just joined the action, we did not join before now because the university was on break when the strike resumed. I only called the ASUU Congress on my return from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, where the decision to resume the strike suspended in 2017 was taken.
“THIS strike is total, comprehensive and indefinite. Our members have withdrawn their services until government fully implements all outstanding issues as contained in the MOU of 2017, and concludes renegotiation of the 2009 agreements”.
HIS counterpart in University of Ilorin, Dr. Usman Raheem, expressed a different view when he said, “we did not join the strike because the parent body failed to communicate the information to my executive. It was the same case in Kwara State University where lectures are still going on.
IN ANAMBRA State, the strike action is being upheld by universities. For instance, lectures are not holding in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University. However, while the lecturers are not in classrooms, other categories of workers are busy with their jobs.
SPEAKING during an interview after announcing the commencement of the work action, ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said that the work was hinged on delays in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the government agreed to in 2017. He also said that the strike was intended to compel the government to conclude the renegotiation of other agreements also collectively reached in 2009. He re-echoed what he described as insincerity on the side of the government in meeting its demands.
“HAVING waited patiently for action and meaningful negotiation with reasonable men using the principle of Collective Bargaining that ASUU at its NEC meeting of 3rd and 4th of November, 2018, at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), resolved to resume the nationwide strike suspended in September, 2017, with immediate effect.”
COMMENTING on the development, Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said that ASSU’s request for increased funding of universities which is the focal point of their strike cannot be met now by the federal government.
ADAMU, who traced the history of the problem to 2009 during the administration of late President Musa Yaradua stated, “The issue necessitating this strike, dates back to 2009 when the then president, Umaru Musa Yaradua, signed an agreement with the ASUU on funding of federal universities.
“THE agreement provided for funding of universities to the tune of N1.3 trillion over a period of six years. It is instructive to know that Nigeria was experiencing the oil boom at that time. It was therefore expected that government will be able to meet the terms of the agreement.
“HOWEVER, international oil prices crashed in subsequent years, thereby throwing the country into economic hardship. At the inception of this administration, the country’s economic fortunes worsened, nose-diving into recession with dire consequences on all sectors of the economy, including education.
“WE EXITED recession not too long ago, and we are just beginning to recover from the consequences of low oil prices, which are happily beginning to pick up.
“IF THIS trend continues, definitely, the education sector will also improve. This is the stark reality for now which all of us must acknowledge and accept.”
ONE fact stands out from the positions of the two parties. First is the likelihood of a long period of wait before normal academic activities will commence in the universities. Second is that with the federal government’s stand that the ASUU’s demand cannot be met for now, and the union’s threat that the strike will be comprehensive until the contents of the 2009 agreement is implemented in full, only patriotism, good conscience and the spirit of give and take can solve the situation.
WE MUST therefore, state here that the problem requires sane thinking, wisdom and the understanding of all the vexed parties. Government must also show sincerity of purpose in the negotiation, knowing the dire consequences of shutting down universities for a long time.
WE BELIEVE that the parties can find an amicable solution to the matter if they allow patriotism instead of personal or group interests to be uppermost in their minds during negotiation. We urge both federal government and ASUU not to allow a breakdown of the system. Rather, they should consider an incremental gain option. The agreement could be met through instalmental liquidation of the money involved since it is clear that the government cannot solve the problems at once.
PARENTS and the students who have been forced to remain at home as a result of the strike have a role to play here. Parents should have patience with their children who are already at home because of the strike.
They may get restive because of the anticipated long wait. Temperance, understanding and encouragement from the parents would calm them down. The students while at home may engage themselves in one productive act or the other such as craft, practical skill acquisition or volunteer jobs to keep themselves busy. No knowledge is a waste.
GOVERNMENT and ASUU must start the renegotiation now so as to settle the matter as soon as possible, bearing in mind that the future of our children, the acclaimed leaders of tomorrow is at stake.