Against its usual practice of extending its ongoing industrial action by a specific number of weeks or months, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Monday said the strike would now be indefinite.
The union said the government has not satisfactorily met any of its demands that prompted the commencement of the initial strike on 14 February.
ASUU’s decision, as contained in a statement signed by its President, Emmanuel Osodeke, was the outcome of an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting that was held at the union’s national headquarters at the University of Abuja between Sunday and Monday.
In the statement, the union noted that its ongoing strike is a measure to save the Nigerian public universities from complete collapse which it linked to neglect by successive Nigerian governments.
The lecturers’ union said it sympathises with Nigerian parents and students over the pains caused them by the ongoing industrial action.
The union noted that the strike was a hard decision it was forced to take to prevent the destruction of public universities and the system. It, therefore, solicited support and solidarity from Nigerians in its struggle.
The union said; “Were it within our control, our universities would never have been shut for one day.
“We are all victims. We need the understanding, solidarity and sacrifices of all to ensure that every qualified Nigerian youth who cannot afford the cost of private university education or foreign studies has unhindered access to quality university education. ASUU strikes are aimed at saving public education, and ensuring that governments (Federal and State) use our common patrimony to support quality public university education. This is our collective obligation.”
‘No demands met yet’
ASUU accused the government, particularly the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, of peddling misinformation by claiming that all issues with the union had been resolved except the payment of their salaries.
“All contentious issues between the government and ASUU had been settled except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of the strike to be paid, a demand that President Buhari has flatly rejected,” Mr Adamu had said in a recent media briefing.
However, contrary to claims, ASUU said the government has not met any of its demands as contained in the Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed to suspend its 9-month strike in 2020.
The union said: “For the avoidance of doubt, however, none of the issues that forced our Union to resume the suspended strike as listed in the December 2020 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) has been satisfactorily addressed by the Government to date.
“The draft renegotiated FGN-ASUU Agreement (second draft) remains unsigned; the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) has not been adopted and deployed to replace the discredited Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS); and the White Papers on Visitation Panels to Federal Universities, if ready as claimed by Government more than six months ago, are nowhere to be found.
“Similarly, Government has not delivered on the promised balance of one tranche of the Revitalisation Fund more than one year after, the outstanding two tranches of the Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) have not been released; and nothing has since happened on the promised support for amendment to the Law of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to stem the tide of proliferation of universities especially by the State Governments.”
Union accuses government of deceit
The lecturers’ union also accused the Nigerian government of deceiving ASUU for the past five and half years that it has been negotiating with them.
It said the government has only engaged them in “fruitless and unending negotiation without a display of utmost fidelity.”
ASUU noted that the government’s constitution of different committees to renegotiate the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement was a testament of the government’s lack of will to settle the recurring industrial disputes with the union as well as the funding of public universities.
It said: “In 2017, the Federal Government constituted a committee to renegotiate the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement under the chairmanship of Dr. Wale Babalakin. After three years of fruitless negotiation, Dr. Babalakin was replaced in December 2020 with Professor Emeritus Munzali Jibril. The Renegotiation Committee produced and submitted a draft agreement to the Federal Government in May, 2021.
“It is sad that, until 14th February, 2022 when the ongoing strike commenced, the Federal Government made no significant efforts to either sign the agreement or commence implementation. It was only after the commencement of this strike that the Federal Government reconstituted the committee with Professor Emeritus Nimi Briggs appointed Chairman to lead the Government Team.”
ASUU hails Briggs-led committee
Also, for the umpteenth time, ASUU dismissed statements by the Ministers of Labour and Employment and Minister of State, Chris Ngige and Festus Keyamo respectively, that government representatives were absent at the resumed negotiation of the 2009 agreement with the Nimi Briggs committee.
Both Mr Ngige and Mr Keyamo had also stated that the government would need to borrow N1.6 trillion to honour the agreement and that ASUU had increased its members salaries by up to 100 per cent.
But ASUU noted that the negotiations between its representatives and Mr Briggs’ committee were done in line with the principles of collective bargaining, which it said the government has failed to honour.
The union, therefore, condemned the “take-it or leave-it” offer of N30,000 and N60,000 presented by the government at its last meeting, saying it is “miserable and insulting”.
“This was obviously an attempt to abrogate the principle of collective bargaining which has guided ASUU engagements with Federal Government since 1981,” it said.
“Before meeting with our union, the Nimi Briggs Committee confirmed to ASUU in writing that it was consulting with all relevant stakeholders in order to aggregate Government’s position/offer.
“After intensive bargaining, ASUU came to a compromise with the Professor Briggs-led Team leading to the submission of the second Draft Agreement to the Federal Government in June, 2022 for consideration and approval for signing by the two parties within one week.”
On state universities
Meanwhile, ASUU has expressed displeasure over what it described as attempts to undermine ASUU’s struggle by vice-chancellors and governing councils of state universities who resumed academic activities despite the strike.
Several state-owned institutions have announced the resumption of academic activities following threats of ‘no work no pay’ by their state governors.
But ASUU said its struggles are to save all Nigerian public universities irrespective of ownership, whether Federal or State.
It said: “The Union views with all seriousness the fact that the sanctimonious behaviour of these university administrators and managers does not stop them from accessing yearly grants of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) which ASUU struggles of the 1980s and 1990s brought to life. Neither did their holier-than-thou attitude keep these invidious individuals from jumping into the next flight to come for project defence each time ASUU struggles had translated into some handsome funds for the revitalisation of their universities (hostels, laboratories, workshops, lecture theatres, etc.).”
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe
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