ASUU likely to declare indefinite strike next week

ASUU leaders at a meeting

By Nehru Odeh

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is likely to declare an indefinite strike over Federal Government’s failure to meet its demands.

There are signs the industrial action currently embarked upon by ASUU will be prolonged as none of its branches that have held their congresses voted for the suspension of the industrial action.

Others are expected to round off today, while a final decision on whether to call off the strike or extend it will be reached at NEC Meeting next week

An ASUU leader who wished to remain anonymous said a proposal for the indefinite strike would be ratified and adopted at the NEC meeting of ASUU scheduled for Sunday.

“None of the branches, including the University of Abuja, voted for anything other than an indefinite strike.

“All the branches of ASUU are expected to finish their congresses tomorrow (today) and pass their report to NEC.

“NEC will have to meet and review the decisions of all of the branches and decide on what to do,” he said

ASUU had on February 14, 2022, embarked on a 4-week total and comprehensive strike to press home their unresolved demands on the federal government.

The lecturers’ demands include funding for the revitalisation of public universities, which amounts to N1.1 trillion, payment of earned academic allowances, and adoption of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a preferred payment option, instead of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and payment of promotion arrears.

Others are the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement and the resolution of inconsistencies in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).

The Federal Government’s Briggs renegotiation committee, had since April 2022, been meeting with ASUU and other labour unions in the universities, who went on strike due to its dispute with the government and non-resolution of demands of the 2009 agreements signed with the federal government.

After further extensions of the industrial action, ASUU remained adamant in its resolve to press on with its demand as it once again on August 1 extended its ongoing strike by another 4 weeks to give the Federal Government more time to resolve outstanding issues in its dispute with it.

Minister of Education Adamu Adamu had said last week that the insistence of ASUU on the payment of the withheld salaries was stalling negotiations by the parties.

He added that the government had met all the demands of ASUU, except the payment of 6 months’ salary arrears which President Muhammadu Buhari rejected when a proposal to the effect was presented to him.

Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, the Ibadan zone of ASUU alleged that ‘Undertakers of privatisation’ are waiting in the wings to take over Federal Government–owned universities. The zone said the main goal of the “undertakers” was to deny children of the poor university education.

“What is unveiling before us is deceit, and readiness to bring university education to its kneel after which the undertakers of privatisation will take over,” the Zonal Coordinator of the union, Prof. Oyebamiji Oyegoke, said yesterday.

Oyegoke added in a statement that the “altruistic “strike by ASUU would make the government become responsible.

Arguing that the rising number of private universities and polytechnics was a part of the strategies to deny children of the poor good education, he called on the people to join in the union rescuing public universities.

He said: “Nigerians should join ASUU to ask the Federal Government of Nigeria to tow the path of honour by respecting the agreement it freely entered with our union.

“As a body of intellectuals, our Union demands: repositioning our universities for greater efficiency in national development and technological advancement; massive and sustained funding for our universities; a reversal of apparent decay in the university system; and, enhanced and competitive remuneration for overworked academic staff in Nigerian universities.

“It is a sad commentary that a government which was brought into power by a popular mandate of the teeming Nigerian masses has turned full cycle against a key agent of development like the education sector.

“We are pained as a union to observe this government, which is on its way out, keeps a date with history as it struggles to scribble a tragic epigram on our education sector. What a legacy to leave.

“The main issue, involved in the current ASUU travails is about living up to responsibility or the abdication of it. If the government is not a continuum, ASUU as a body of intellectuals would not have been insisting on re-negotiating and implementing an agreement reached and signed with it in 2009 by Federal Government.

“An agreement reached with the government whose re-negotiation ought to have commenced in 2012, did not take off until 2017 under Mr. Wale Babalakin (SAN) who was challenged majorly by ASUU for recommending that students in Nigerian Universities should pay up to a million naira per session as tuition fee.

“The recommendations of Munzali Jubril Committee of 2020 were equally rejected by the government. This committee was replaced lately by Nimi Briggs’s Committee in March 2022. For crying out loud, the government has its mind made up ab initio.

“All ASUU’s patriotic yearnings to repositioning public universities, whether federal or state to serve as agents of developmental transformation do not cut any ice with the government.”