ASUU Strike: ASUU bows to pressure, considers suspending strike soon
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, or ASUU, has informed Ejes Gist Newspaper that its current strike may be called off soon. The striking lecturers are considering suspending their three-month strike, according to a member of the union who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity.
He believes the suspension will be lifted after three months, and that talks with the federal government will continue during that time. He predicted that if the government did not meet ASUU’s demands within three months, the union would go on strike indefinitely. This comes just hours after President Muhammadu Buhari urged the union to consider the students’ suffering and end the strike. The union began a warning strike on February 14 in response to the federal government’s failure to meet its demands and implement previous agreements between the two parties. The strike was extended for another 12 weeks on Monday, May 9, and is expected to end on August 9.
The Federal Government expressed surprise yesterday at the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) plan to extend its two-month strike by another 12 weeks.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Ben Goong, Director of Press and Media Relations for the Federal Ministry of Education, accused ASUU of intimidation and bullying. Following an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the union’s secretariat in Abuja yesterday, ASUU announced its decision. Some of ASUU’s demands cannot be implemented, according to the director, who described a 2009 agreement between the union and the Federal Government as being reached “at gunpoint.
“When you stay on strike for so long that you won’t call it off until xyz is done,” he said, “it becomes an agreement at gunpoint, in the sense that the government went into signing that agreement in 2009 in an attempt to get kids back to school at all costs.” “This is clearly a gunpoint agreement, and ASUU is following suit.” I don’t believe that going on strike is the only way to solve problems. You may be able to get more than someone who is on strike without going on strike. “Our reaction is that the three-month extension is excessive. ASUU should call a halt to the strike so that we can negotiate in a calm environment, and whatever agreement we reach will be acceptable to all; not an agreement rammed down someone’s throat before quoting a series of agreements. “When this agreement was signed in 2009, no one realised the significance of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).” TETFund invests a minimum of N230 billion in universities every year. It is money, whether it comes from the budget or the TETFUND.” Meanwhile, as part of efforts to improve infrastructure in the country’s tertiary institutions, TETFund began disbursing direct intervention funds approved by the Presidency to public universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education in the country yesterday. For the year 2022, N642,848,138 was allocated to each university, N396,780,086 to polytechnics, and N447,758,804 to each college of education in the latest intervention, which is worth several billions of naira. Sunny Echono, the Fund’s Executive Secretary, presented the allocation papers to heads of beneficiary institutions at the National Universities Commission (NUC). According to Echono, the government’s investment in education stemmed from a desire to develop human capital to serve various sectors of the Nigerian economy. The Fund’s mission is to improve the quality of Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions by implementing a two percent (now 2.5 percent) Education Tax on assessable profit of all companies registered in the country. Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, has also declared the strike illegal. He said this in Abuja during a speech marking National Productivity Day, which President Buhari will host at the Presidential Villa on Thursday. “When issues are resolved and employees refuse to return to work, it is a violation of labour law,” he said. “University workers are not the only workers in Nigeria,” Ngige said, adding that the ministry has successfully resolved 1,683 cases since he took office. The issue of salary and emolument revision is not solely a concern of the workers. Other groups of workers are fighting for pay raises as well.” Workers who are agitating for a raise in pay have gone to work. Why will university employees differ from other employees?” A PARENT, Ayo Popoola, believes ASUU and the federal government can work out their differences without victimising students. “This would be the third time the strike has been extended,” he said. This is even a strike of caution. When it becomes indefinite, what do we do? ASUU and the government should not harm children and their parents.” “Some of our leaders kept saying there is no money in the country,” Femi Fatunbi, a student leader, said, “but the majority of those buying presidential forms are past and current political office holders.” They have no other occupation than politics. They are stealing money at will and enslaving Nigerians.” Segun Oladeji, the National Secretary of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Zone B, accused the Federal Government of insensitivity, questioning why a serious government would not prioritise education. DURING A PEACEFUL PROTEST in front of the University of Lagos, some students expressed their disappointment, urging the Federal Government to end the impasse. They sang songs of solidarity and held placards with various inscriptions calling for the strike to end. Femi Adeyeye, speaking on their behalf, said the extension demonstrates the government’s disregard for education. “We are here out of a genuine desire to tell the government that we are tired of staying at home,” said Emmanuel Ubechukwu, a 400-level Finance student. We were not supported by any interest group or politician. We’ve come here because we really want to get back into the classroom.” In a statement signed by Olayiwola Folahan Festus (President), Odewale Samuel Damilare (Secretary General), and Ogunperi Taofeek Olalekan, the leadership of the Great Ife Students Union of Obafemi Awolowo University reacted (Public Relations Officer). “We, for the umpteenth time, condemn unequivocally the failure of the Federal Government and its agencies in resolving the concerns of ASUU, such that the previously announced warning strike, which has taken over two months of academic activities away from us, Nigerian students, is on the verge of rebounding as a total and indefinite strike,” the statement reads. “We are, therefore, using this statement to alert the public, particularly Nigerian students, that if the government fails to resolve issues with ASUU in a serious and timely manner, we will be stepping up our efforts with the support of Great Ife students and other Nigerian students who have had enough of the nemesis that this strike has become.”
The strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities has been extended for another 12 weeks. This was to give the government ample time to satisfactorily resolve all outstanding issues, according to a statement issued by ASUU president Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke. It also stated that the strike would begin at 12:01 a.m. on May 8, 2021. ASUU claimed it made the decision during its National Executive Council meeting on Sunday night at the University of Abuja’s Comrade Festus Iyayi National Secretariat.
Sunday Asefon, President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), indicated on Thursday that the union is prepared to take to the streets in protest of the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ strike
Mr Asefon made the remark during a Sunrise Daily segment on Channels Television. According to Mr Asefon, the government appears uninterested in ending the strike as attention turns to the 2023 elections. He made reference to the protests organised by some university students in Benin-city.
“We are discussing education, we are discussing life,” he stated. “Our leaders, these leaders whom we elected, are no longer discussing our lives; rather, their focus is now on election. This election is being fought over their parochial and self-serving interests. “We are combat-ready; the most they can do is shoot us,” he explained. “If they shoot, they will request that their police shoot us; if we die, future generations will know we died fighting for them. They would also know that they shot us as part of their election preparations. However, we must act” President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Sunday Asefon, appeared on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on May 5, 2022. Mr. Asefon stated that the government must cease playing politics with the ASUU matter. “If you have a chance to meet with the ASUU and the federal government, the federal government will say that they inherited the problem from the PDP, and the ASUU will say that this negotiation has been ongoing since Jonathan was in office. However, as students, we believe that the government is continuous; they should be able to fine-tune and find a solution to this issue,” he said.
“We should not always be on the receiving end, and as such, they should stop using us as pawns in their political games.”
On February 14, ASUU began a four-week warning strike. The union extended the industrial action for an additional two months on March 14 to allow the government to meet all of its demands. Academics are seeking, among other things, improved welfare, the revitalization of public universities, and academic autonomy. The nonpayment of approximately N1.1 trillion in university revitalization funds is a source of contention among academics. However, the Federal Government has stated that it lacks the funds to pay such a sum, citing low oil prices during the administration of Muhammadu Buhari. According to reports, the agreement was reached in 2009. Another is the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) issue (IPPIS). The University Transparency and Accountability Solution is an alternative payroll system proposed by the academics (UTAS).