• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
businessday logo


Matters arising on ASUU strike

Enough won’t be enough until FG does the needful – ASUU


Since Tuesday, June 24, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on an indefinite strike to protest the refusal of the Federal Government to endorse an agreement made in 2006 provided for a new salary structure for the university teachers. The government first denied the agreement had been approved by it to make it operational.

Since the latest strike began, many individuals and organisations have intervened. For instance, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said the strike has worsened the deplorable condition in the education sector in Nigeria.

According to the NLC, even though it has acknowledged the recent intervention of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and ASUU following the strike, it described it as inadeqquate.
“The intervention came too token and too unhelpful for the poor parents, hundreds of thousands of students and the striking academic staff as well as Nigeria as a whole. It was bad enough that ASUU had two weeks warning strike during the month of March.

Read Also: Only President Buhari’s intervention may end ASUU strike -Source

“It is now even worse enough that we even allowed the warning strike to degenerate into indefinite industrial action meaning mass closure of public universities.
“At the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the Federal Government reportedly accepted three out of the four major demands by the striking lecturers namely autonomy for all the universities, increased funding and approval of 70 years as the retirement age for university lecturers. Other issues still in contention include the demand for pay increase and funding of the university.
“The lecturers’ pay as well as increased funding for education are two outstanding demands that are critical to the resolution of the current crisis,” NLC declared.
We align with the position of the NLC on this issue and urge the government to expedite action on its effort to resolve the crisis.
Since the military era, ASUU’s struggles have revolved around the survival of the university system, with three components- the conditions of service (salary and non-salary), funding and university autonomy/academic freedom.
By 1992, the situation of the academic staff on the university campuses in Nigeria had become more intolerable. The drive to leave the universities for foreign countries and the private sector had become, for many lecturers, the solution to the decay in the universities and the demoralisation of university teachers.
The September 3, 1992 Agreement was a product of several negotiations. The Agreement, by providing a periodic view of the funding needs of the universities, allowed universities to plan based on expected funds. It re-affirmed the right of workers to collective bargaining and enabled a more scientific approach to funding the universities.
It also kept the democratic aspiration of the people for democratic rights alive and formed the basis for further struggles by the union for the defence of the university system and for education.
In 1994, the union again went on strike to demand from the government of the late head of state, Sani Abacha, re-negotiation of the Agreement; the re-instatement of the over 80 lecturers whose appointments were terminated at the University of Abuja ; and the de-annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections. But the strike did not succeed, especially because of the political demand in ASUU’s struggles, which caused internal disagreement within the union.
The struggle, which lasted six months, saw the unleashing by government of various tactics, including divide and rule on ethno-regional lines to break the strike. Salaries were stopped and vice-chancellors were allegedly given money to organise false classes to convince ASUU members and the public that it had broken ASUU’s strike.
It can therefore, be seen that ASUU’s struggle has been on for several years. The government has a duty to ensure that Nigerian students go back to classes. It is bad enough that no Nigerian university is rated among the best 1,000 universities in the world today despite the preponderance of very expensive private universities in the country.
ASUU’s demands are for the interest of Nigeria’s education sector. If Nigerian universities are well funded, meaningful research will be carried out and the best brains will be attracted into the university system. Nigerian graduates will begin to compare with their peers across the world. These are noble goals which the government should give attention to.