ASUU strike and implications on the Nigeria economy (I)
Almost every year for the past decade, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been embarking on strike, demanding one thing or the other.
In 1999, ASUU went on strike for five months. In 2001, they did another three-month strike. In 2002, it was just two weeks. In 2003, the strike lasted for six months. In 2005, 2006, and 2007, the strike was for two weeks, three days, and three months, respectively.
The year 2008 did not go scot-free without the one-week strike. In May 2008, ASUU held two one-week “warning strikes” to press a range of demands.
ASUU ordered its members in federal and state universities nationwide to proceed on an indefinite strike over disagreements with the Federal Government on an agreement it reached with the union about two and a half years earlier.
This includes an improved salary scheme and reinstatement of 49 lecturers dismissed in June 2009. After three months of strikes, in October 2009, the union and other staff unions signed a memorandum of understanding with the government and called off the industrial action.
Likewise, in 2010, 2011, and 2013, ASUU embarked on strike for five months, 59 days, and five months, respectively. ASUU began a new strike on July 1, 2013, that lasted five months and 15 days before being called off on December 16, 2013. The union’s allegations about the strike are mostly about funding and revival of Nigerian public universities and a specified earned allowance that it said was N92 billion in arrears.
The union called for a ‘comprehensive and thorough strike action’ in August 2017 in response to the non-release of funding for university revitalisation. The lecturers also cited non-payment of earned allowances as one of the reasons for declaring the action. This strike lasted for five weeks, with the union calling it off in September 2017.
Another three-month strike action took place in 2018. The academic staff accused the government of failing to keep its commitments to funding institutions and earned allowances, among other things. The action began in November 2018 and ended in February 2019.
To cap it all, ASUU went on a nine-month strike in 2020, which was the most prolonged in recent years.
ASUU’s newest strike comes one year and one month after completing a nine-month strike over financing and allowance issues.
For the past few months, precisely February 14, ASUU has been on strike, which seems to be unending, and has added an additional eight weeks to the ongoing strike in March.
While the Federal Government maintained that it had met all the union’s demands, Prof. Emmanuel Osodoke, the president of ASUU, said that the government failed to address all the issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action. This thus leads to the extension of the strike by another two months to give the government ample time to address all issues raised by ASUU satisfactorily.
Read also: Group appeals to ASUU to end strike
There is a saying that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. The elephants in this situation are the government and ASUU, while the students are the grass that bears its brunt.
Students are on the receiving end of ASUU strikes, which occur regularly. While the children of the rich attend private schools, and some even travel outside the countries to obtain their degrees, the commoners in Nigeria have no choice but to subject their children) to attend public institutions.
This implies that students will continue to stay off educational activity due to a lack of consensus between the government and the universities union. This will have a ripple effect on students, parents, and the economy.
As the strike lingers, students’ academic performance suffers. When learning is halted for an extended time, students’ reading abilities deteriorate. Some students even forget what they learned during their studies. Some students become certificate-seekers rather than knowledge-seekers due to this, thus, reducing productivity and leading to the generation of low-quality students.
In addition, following a long period of strike by university lecturers, the state and federal governments would lose billions of dollars in revenue from compensating academics for services not delivered after the strike and the expense of maintaining university-owned utilities such as vehicles and generators.
Aside from losing cash to universities, concerned education watchers have pointed out that the strike has a lowering effect on the quality of university graduates since time lost due to strikes that should have been used for delivering the quality learning is not gained after the strike. This accounts for the production of half-baked graduates in this situation.
Furthermore, some youths are losing faith in education due to the strikes and turn to harmful vices that may jeopardise their future. As a country, we are in grave danger due to this evolution.
Busayo Aderounmu is an economist and researcher.