Timeline: How Nigerian university teachers, ASUU, embarked on strike for over three years since 1999

Biodun Ogunyemi
ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi

In the 19 years since Nigeria returned to civil rule under the Fourth Republic, university teachers in the country have embarked on strike 14 times that saw them stay away from work for about 40 months.

The latest strike by the teachers under the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) began in November and there is yet no end in sight, in spite of several rounds of meetings between leaders of the union and the federal government. In fact, the teachers have warned students and parents to be prepared for a very long strike this time around.

ASUU has been locked in a protracted dispute with the Nigerian government over issues connected to poor funding of public universities. Every time the dispute boiled over to strike by the teachers, negotiations between the two parties always produced agreements. However, the government’s failure to meet the teachers’ expectations within the context of the agreements have been a primary reason ASUU has been on strike almost every year since 1999.

Below is the timeline of ASUU strike since 1999.

1. 1999

At the end of military rule in 1999, Nigerians ushered in democracy and a government that promised to be people-oriented. However, it did not take long for Nigerian students to experience a disruption in their academic schedules. A few months after the Obasanjo-Atiku administration was sworn-in, ASUU embarked on a nationwide strike that lasted five months.

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2. 2001

In 2001, ASUU declared another strike over the sack of 49 lecturers by the University of Ilorin. The industrial action happened after the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, described Nigerian university lecturers as “a bunch of lazy and ungrateful people.” The strike lasted three months.

3. 2002

The 2001 strike ended after an agreement between the union and government. However, ASUU embarked on another strike on December 29, 2002 after the Obasanjo administration failed to implement the agreement. The strike lasted two weeks.

The issues in contention were the underfunding of universities and the need to reinstate the “unjustly” sacked 49 lecturers of the University of Ilorin.

4. 2003

In 2003, Nigerian university students were at home for six months as ASUU embarked on another industrial action over the non-implementation of previous agreements related to poor funding of universities and disparity in salary and retirement age of teachers.

The union alleged that despite revenue from fees, the ASUU-FG agreement on funding was not implemented. ASUU also accused the government of violation of laws.

5. 2005

University lecturers went on another industrial action which lasted two weeks.

6. 2006

All academic activities were on put hold in public universities across the country when ASUU declared a three-day warning strike in 2006. The strike eventually lasted one week.

7. 2007

The 2006 industrial action was followed by another one on March 26, 2007. The reasons for the strike which lasted three months were pretty much the same as for the previous strikes.

8. 2008

ASUU went on strike for one week in 2008 in demand of an improved salary scheme and reinstatement of the 49 lecturers dismissed in 2001 from the University of Ilorin. A court ruled that the University of Ilorin should reinstate the lecturers but the university ignored the ruling.

9. 2009

Lecturers in public universities across the country embarked on an industrial action that lasted four months over the implementation of the agreement government reached with ASUU about two and a half years earlier.

The strike which started in June was called off in October. Before the strike was called off, the federal government and the union entered into a new agreement. The 2009 ASUU/FG agreement later became the reason for subsequent industrial action.

10. 2010

ASUU embarked on another indefinite strike that lasted over five months. The strike started on July 22, 2010, and was not called off until January 2011.

11. 2011

Saying the FG had failed to honour the 2009 agreement to adequately fund universities and implement the 70-year retirement age for professors, ASUU again paralysed academic activities nationwide in December 2011. The strike lasted 59 days and was called off in 2012.

12. 2013

The government’s failure to review the retirement age for professors from 65 to 70 years; approve funding to revitalise the university system; increase the budgetary allocations to the education sector by 15 -20 per cent among other demands led to another industrial action.

The strike began on July 1, 2013, and was only called off on December 17, 2013. It lasted for five months, 15 days.

13. 2017

On August 17, 2017, ASUU again declared an indefinite strike over unresolved and contentious issues with the federal government. The strike was called off in September. Earlier in February of the year, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, constituted a committee “to engender sustainable peace, industrial harmony in tertiary institutions and resolve impending issues.”

14. 2018

ASUU declared an indefinite nationwide strike on November 4 after a meeting of its National Executive Council at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State.

The strike was over poor funding of Nigerian universities, an alleged plan by the federal government to increase students’ fees and introduce an education bank, as well as non-implementation of previous agreements.

Government set up a committee to interface with the university-based labour unions – the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) over the contents of the agreement the unions reached with government in 2009. But in August, ASUU described the chairman of the committee, Adewale Babalakin as “a stumbling block in the renegotiation process” and called for the suspension of the committee.

The 2018 ASUU strike is yet to be suspended.

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