Latest on ASUU strike: From boardroom to the street

When two elephants fight, the grass suffers, they say! This is exactly the situation in the six months and still counting the impasse between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government.

ASUU had on February 14 this year declared a 30-day warning strike to allow the Federal Government the room to address the union’s demands. However, the Federal Government’s failure to address the raised issues made ASUU roll over the strike without an end in sight.

Among other things, ASUU is demanding better welfare packages, more funds to run the universities, a stop to the indiscriminate setting up of new universities, the discontinuation of the use of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), as the payment platform in the university system.

A series of meetings were conveyed by the Federal Government and a committee set up to find an end to the impasse but all to no avail.

Students in public federal universities have been at home due to this ugly development. The sublime effects of being idle are that these students have now engaged in various activities to while away the time.

Obviously, taking the protest to the street will trigger more strikes and/or protests. Many unions and organisations are always on the lookout to observe and know-how ASUU cases are settled per time

In its effort to resolve the impasse, the Federal Government inaugurated the Nimi Briggs committee on March 7, with a three-month time-line to renegotiate the 2009 agreement and disagreement on the salary payment platform, among others.

The Briggs’ committee recommended that a professor should earn N19.5 million per annum and when other allowances are added, will scale up to N23 million per annum, making it about N2 million monthly. This is about a 180 percent increase in the lecturers’ salary.

Unfortunately, with the Federal Government unable to accept Briggs’ recommendations, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) on Tuesday, July 26, embarked on a nationwide protest in solidarity with ASUU.

The protest, which lasted two days, serves as a warning to the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency resolve the impasse with the lecturers, or the labour union will down tools across the country to register their disapproval of the ways and manners the issues are being handled.

Protesters from various trade unions such as the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), and National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), students, and other concerned Nigerians joined the NLC in solidarity with the ASUU on July 26 in Lagos and other states of the federation with placards reading ‘End ASUU strike!,’ Revitalise our institutions, End ASUU strike totally!, etc.

On our part, it is saddening the ASUU strike getting out of the negotiating table (boardroom) to the street with a lot of negative implications. The various trade unions in solidarity with ASUU are also watching to see how the issues would be eventually resolved.

The lack of political will on the side of the government to nip the issue on the bud has dire consequences. We condemn in totality the inability of President Muhammadu Buhari to take the bull by the horns by inviting ASUU leaders for a meeting.

Read also: How ASUU strike slows graduates’ readiness for jobs

It is totally a sign of insensitivity for a leader to bury his head in the sand while a section of the domain is on fire. Just coming out of the blues to issue instructions that ASUU should call off the strike does not depict good leadership quality. Giving the minister of education two weeks to resolve the impasse without sticking out your neck on what should be the way forward amounts to efforts in futility.

Obviously, taking the protest to the street will trigger more strikes and/or protests. Many unions and organisations are always on the lookout to observe and know-how ASUU cases are settled per time.

The Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), and other key trade unions will definitely cash in on the outcome of the impasse to the detriment of the government.

It is on record how former President Goodluck Jonathan in November 2013 held a marathon meeting with the leaders of ASUU to end the strike then. Allowing the impasse to get to the street is a crass act of irresponsibility on the part of the government. Hence, we urge the Federal Government to as a matter of necessity do all it can to resolve this matter soonest.

To ASUU, we say, in every dialogue, there is always room to concede one’s right for peace to reign. You cannot always insist on having your way. It is high time the lecturers realised that their colleagues in state-owned universities are coping under the same payment system.

That is not to endorse the poor salary structure in the system but point out the need to tamper justice with mercy. The students are the ones at the receiving end. And if the lecturers really care as claimed, then, there is a great need to soft-paddle to allow students to continue with their lectures, while negotiations are ongoing.

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