Seven months after the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, went on strike, the end is not in sight.
The industrial action, which the union usually reviewed monthly, is now open-ended, with both sides not ready to move ground.
DAILY POST reports that the development has thrown confusion into the education system with a set of students whose admission processes were completed last year unable to resume, while another set of students will sit the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, this year, 2022. laid off. .
With the development, two sets of new students, 2021 and 2022 are now waiting for the resumption of their academic journey in some of the universities.
According to a university worker, “as it stands, we have two sets of students ready to resume academic session. Those admitted in 2021 were supposed to resume early this year, 2022, after the second semester exams, but their dreams were cut short by the strike.
“Now another set of students for the UTME this year, 2022, are sitting and waiting for admission processes.
“You know universities have been trying hard to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown, during which schools were closed, and now we have this prolonged ASUU strike. I really don’t know how it will be handled.”
ASUU has been on strike since February 2022 over the Federal Government’s inability to honor a 2009 agreement reached with the union.
In the agreement, ASUU asks, among other things, for funds for the revival of universities, and the payment of arrears of salaries.
Since the strike, representatives of the government and the academic body have met separately to negotiate the impasse, but such meetings have ended in deadlock.
Amid the breakdown of negotiations, the federal government invoked the no-work-no-pay rule against ASUU members, which now appears to be the biggest cog in the wheel of dialogue between both parties.
Reacting to the development, a lecturer at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction of Calabar, UNICAL, said ASUU may not engage the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government in negotiations until the next dispensation.
The lecturer, Okey Samson, narrated how his colleagues suffered and some died due to the economic hardship caused by the ongoing strike.
Speaking to DAILY POST, he said: “ASUU members will not negotiate with any government representative again until a new government comes in. When a new government comes into place, ASUU will now start engaging the government.
“In my last branch congress, our chairman said that those who can travel to the village should go to farming. My head of department is now engaged in fishing in Calabar. To be honest with you, the hardships lecturers face is something else; my interest in this work waned. You see a professor move, you cannot knock on a professor and demand N500,000 but that is what people take to clubs here in Abuja.
“There should be hope in this system; now look at the value of naira. It is so high. For anything meaningful to be achieved, there must be a sacrifice. ASUU should be applauded. It is only the earned academic grants that are statutory and increments that have a direct impact on members; every other thing does not. If you are talking about revival funds, it is in the interest of students.
“I teach some faculty courses, and I pity students about where to sit, no public address system; you will have to shout. ASUU is not unreasonable; it fights for the students.
“ASUU is ready to consider, the body negotiated a 180 percent increase but the federal government was at one point ready to pay 100 percent but things have changed. They will give ASUU the accumulated earned allowance after the meeting pay, by earmarking the meeting of 100 percent increment, pay arrears of salaries, pay at least 50 percent of earned academic arrears and money sunk in revival, from which no member would benefit, but we don’t know what has not changed The government is no longer interested.
“For the middle ground they must pay that salary which they refused to pay; the government cited international labor law, but what about human rights, which are fundamental?
“No refinery in Nigeria is working but their workers have received heavy salaries; their pay package is better than what they pay ASUU. The government should pay the salaries owed to ASUU members, implement the new salary scale of at least 100 percent increase, pay 50 percent of the old earned academic arrears, and do the revival as they can before universities open. If the government refuses, universities will not open, lecturers are dead, and others will also die.”
The lecturer insisted that the Federal Government is not interested in meeting the demands of ASUU.
He emphasized that the impasse would be resolved if the government was interested in meeting the demands of ASUU.
“The government is not interested in ASUU’s claim because it has no direct influence on them. When the aviation union went on strike, they solved their problems because they don’t travel by road. When electricity workers shut down the power grid for a day, they solve the problem because it affects them directly.
“Tell me one public office holder whose son or daughter is in a federal or state university in Nigeria, those in Nigeria are in private universities. This government appears insensitive; they don’t care.
“Hold the president accountable, Ngige, Adamu Adamu everyone is accountable to him. During the birthday of Bishop Kukah, ex-president Goodluck Jonathan shared an experience where he set up a committee and it appears that things are not working and he stepped in and invited the minister of finance and others, the strike which then for four lasted months, was resolved that night. But I don’t know if Buhari is reasoning well even though ASUU is saying that they are not ready to meet with anybody; let the president step in as father and resolve the issue. My colleagues have no food; they don’t have Garri to sip.”
Speaking on the issue, ASUU branch chairman in UNICAL, Edor Edor, said the body was open to negotiation with the federal government.
Edor said that the academic body will strike when the government is ready to implement the report of Professor Briggs.
“We are open to negotiations with the Federal Government of Nigeria, and whenever the government sees fit to invite ASUU for negotiation, we will attend the meeting and see how to resolve the lingering issues.
“It will be suspended once the government implements the Professor Briggs report,” he said.
The branch chairman also stressed that the Buhari-led government should be held responsible for the ongoing strike.
“The President, Minister of Labor and Employment and the Minister of Education are all government officials representing the Nigerian people. The president was voted in by the Nigerian people and holds the mandate of the Nigerian people.
“He has appointed the ministers of labor and employment and education to assist in the discharge of the responsibility of governance, so we are holding the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria accountable, we are not personalizing this action.
“We cannot hold Ngige, Adamu Adamu responsible, but we hold the Federal Government under the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari responsible,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government said it had agreed to a 23 percent increase in the salary of the university workers, a condition rejected by ASUU.
As a way to reopen discussion, the government, at a meeting with pro-chancellors and vice-chancellors of universities on Tuesday, set up a 14-member committee to, among other things, review its decision not to suspend the striking lecturers for the period they were at home and other controversial issues.
It remains to be seen what would come out of the committee.