The lecturers accuse the government of violating an agreement.
Nigerian University lecturers, under the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), on Monday began a nationwide indefinite strike.
The ASUU National President, Isa Fagge, told journalists of the development at a news conference via telephone at the University of Lagos.
He said that the decision to have the strike was reached at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of ASUU held at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, on Monday.
Mr. Fagge told journalists that the strike, which takes immediate effect, will be comprehensive, total and indefinite’’. He said that the action was as a result of the inability of the Federal Government to implement some of the issues contained in a 2009 agreement it had with ASUU.
The unionist said that the government had also reneged on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it entered into with the union in December 2011.
“Before now, there has been this issue of the implementation of the key issues contained in the 2009 agreement we entered into with the Federal Government.
“We have had several meetings and deliberations to let government understand why these issues must be resolved but it is like the more we meet and deliberate, the messier the issue gets.
“One of the issues that needed to be addressed was basically that of the Academic earned allowance. This earned allowance, and other issues, had dragged on until government then agreed to write an MOU with the union.
“But as we speak, there has been nothing to show that government was committed to an MOU it also willingly wrote to better the university sector.
“It is in this regard that we are embarking on an indefinite strike,” he said.
Mr. Fagge said that having waited patiently for the government to swing into action to no avail, the NEC of the union decided to meet, deliberate and come up with the action.
Karo Oghenekaro, the Chairman of the University of Lagos chapter of the union, told journalists that government’s penchant for reneging on agreements was not acceptable.
He said that government entered into the MOU with ASUU after the union suspended its strike two and a half years ago.
Mr. Oghenekaro explained that the government had made essential laws on some of the burning issues such as the 70 years retirement age of lecturers as well as the pension commission.
According to him, government, however, is not forthcoming with other pressing demands such as the earned allowance.
He noted that the academic earned allowance was expected to take care of excess work load carried out by the lecturers such as examination officers, deans and supervision of post graduate, masters and other programmes.
“I want to say that not all lecturers are entitled to this allowance, but as we speak, not a single lecturer under the aforementioned categories has received any such allowance.
“What we are demanding as the earned allowance is not more than N12, 500 per person, yet government is saying it cannot afford such.
“Government was actually thinking of the cost implication of everything but after much deliberation, government agreed to sign the MoU and said it had set aside N100 billion to take care of all the burning issues.
“However, government came back to us and pleaded for a reduction and we decided to step the cost down to 80 per cent. That not enough, it also appealed for another reduction to 50 per cent.
“This 50 per cent, government said, will be a one off payment; that it was from that 50 per cent that we shall take care of everything, including the earned allowance.
“This did not go down well with us and so we decided to meet and take the decision we have just taken,” he said.
According to him, the Nigerian tertiary education sector is where it is because of inadequate funding. He said that one of the reasons why there were no foreign scholars in the system was because of the poor wages.
“When we agitate about earned allowance, we are also using it to as a means of attracting foreign scholars so it is not all about our personal interest.
“We are also using it to address the issue of brain drain in the system. As it were, our best brains are all drifting into industries and other sectors that will pay them better, rather than ploughing back into the academic sector.
“To us, it is all about looking at a bigger picture and putting things in the right place,’’ he said.
The union leader said that the decision to embark on the strike was painful but that there was no going back until government took a positive step to address their demands.
The ASUU strike occurs two months after polytechnic lecturers, ASUP, embarked on their own national strike, which is still ongoing.
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