The NLC said recently that the only language the federal government understands is strike. Yet if this is true, even ASUU has a case to answer. Could it be that the real problem with ASUU is that it has not gone strike enough?
One of the major reasons for the ongoing industrial actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities is the refusal of the government to fulfill the agreement made with the union in 2009. Likewise the MoU of 2013.
Issues contained in these agreements range from funding for the revitalization of public universities, earned academic allowances, university staff schools, registration of Nigerian universities pension management company and pension matters among others. These issues are not new; they are recurrent issues that have plagued university education in the country. They are in one way or the other the major subject of contention between the federal government and ASUU. One or more of these reasons is what ASUU has always put forward for their industrial actions.
The 2009 agreement was reached after more than two years of negotiation, before the federal government signed the agreement which is basically hinged on university autonomy and increased funding. In the 2009 agreement, it was agreed that “All regular Federal Universities shall require the sum of one trillion, five hundred and eighteen billion, three hundred and thirty-one million, five hundred and forty-five thousand, three hundred and four naira (N1,518,331,545,304) only for the period 2009-2011”.
The Union went on strike in 2011/2012 after a series of warning strike; this compelled the government to conduct a nationwide needs assessment of all public universities in the country. The result of the needs assessment which was released in July 2012 called for the immediate intervention and revitalization of the universities.
This is perhaps a waste of tax payers money, because this has already been addressed in the 2009 agreement, hence there was no need for that. Even at that, the needs assessment report was approved by the Federal government. After this, the government failed to implement the report. This led to the Union embarking on a six-month strike between July and December 2013. This strike was also suspended when the federal government signed an MoU with the Union.
According to the ASUU president “Of all the items contained in the MoU, only the N200bn out of a total of N1.3trn of the public universities revitalization (Needs Assessment) fund was released. ASUU also embarked on a one week warning strike in November 2016 to push for the implementation of the MoU which is yet to be implemented, thus necessitating the current industrial action.
Could it be that ASUU enjoys getting their demands in bits? How do we explain the fact that the union enjoy going on strike on a comprehensive list of understandable demands but give up by settling for peanuts with promises that are never fulfilled, the reason why we are still here.
The challenge with ASUU is that it has not gone on strike enough; it does not mean that every demands can be met in full, but a substantial part of the demands can be met thus leaving the fight for another day, and who says it is not possible to have all the demands met.
The problem with ASUU’s industrial action before now and now is that they are beginning to lose the trust of Nigerians making us wonder if strike is the only way out of this quagmire. Yet one thing is certain, both parties would have to do more than what they are doing now to address the decay in the educational sector.