The crisis between ASUU and the federal government has become one of the most constant events in the academic calendar of Nigerian universities since 1999. Sadly, this has impacted negatively on the lives of students and the higher educational system in the country.
ASUU has always been in conflict with the federal government over agreements revolving around the funding of Nigerian Universities, better working conditions, university autonomy, among others. The agreements, which go unfulfilled or partly fulfill constitute major reasons for the very frequent strike action by the Union over the years.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that since 1999 to 2021, Nigerian Universities have been on strike for a cumulative period of over four years. However, each time the two parties called for a meeting to settle their disagreements, it usually ended with the government promising the union that the demands would be met but failed to do so.
The government’s refusal to meet the union’s demands since 1999 has however been the basic reason ASUU goes on strike almost every year, which has created misery and pains to millions of students yearly.
Ending Ongoing ASUU Strike
Recently, ASUU canceled its planned strike over failure of government to adopt the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS) with concurrent discontinuance of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and distortion in salary payment including the release of accumulated promotion arrears; and the review and signing of the draft document on the Renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement.
Now the strike is cancelled, there is need for government to act fast to avoid any disaster as the leadership of the Union expressed worry by the spirited efforts of government agents to reduce the demands of ASUU to a regime of intermittent payment of watered-down revitalisation fund and release of distorted and grossly devalued Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
The Union had vowed to carry out consultation and come up with a decision in a few days.
ASUU Strike actions have often been an issue of major concern to students in higher institutions especially in schools where strike actions are prevalent.
Findings by LEADERSHIP further showed that millions of students are being affected by these industrial actions. For instance, between 2018 and 2020, over millions of the students studying in Universities are being affected by strikes on a yearly basis.
In 2018/2019 alone about 443,624 candidates who were admitted into universities were affected by the strike.
Available statistics showed that 1,662,762 candidates wrote UTME the same year. Also, of the 1, 157, 977 candidates who sat for UTME in 2019/2020, about 612, 557 were offered admission into various tertiary institutions, majority of them were in University, thus facing the consequences of the ASUI strike that lasted for over nine months.
In 2020 over 2.1 million candidates registered to sit for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and Direct Entry programmes.
Although the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Examination Board (JAMB) could not provide the exact number of students in private and public Universities in the years in question, LEADERSHIP can report that million’s of students are being affected by these strikes.
The strikes have been affecting the academic calendar system and this has negatively affected the smooth running and the administration of the university while the teaching and learning process is negatively affected.
Stakeholders have lamented what ASUU strike actions have done over the years and will continue to do if not curbed, stopped or at least reduced to the minimum is that it will continue to increase the time span students are supposed to spend in schools.
They expressed concern over the inability of the government to end the circles of university-based labour unions unrest that had been going on for more than 30 years.
In one of Such, the chairman of the committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU), Professor Samuel Edoumiekumo called for consistent academic calendar, saying that the Nigerian public Universities would not take their pride of place globally and regionally if the country cannot guarantee it academic schedules.
He said, “There is the need for the Federal and State governments to take the bull by the horn to break the unending circles of university-based labour unions unrest that had been going on for more than 30 years by thinking creative solutions and resolving politically to implement such solutions.”
He said some of the current challenges facing university education in Nigeria such as poor funding, issues of autonomy of universities amongst others need to be addressed.
“Our universities are faced with very poor funding such that a gap of 221 billion naira has been incurred yearly from 2018 to 2021; problems associated with the implementation of IPPIS in Federal Universities; Autonomy of Universities, and the presence of several conflicting laws; the current status of the FG/University-based unions’ agreements; the lingering problem with the unions on IPPIS; and the poor state of security on university campuses.”
Some students who spoke in an interview with our correspondent commended the leadership of ASUU for considering the students’ outcry by suspending their planned strike.
A 400 level student of University of Abuja, James Uzor thanked the Union for taking the decision to suspend its planned action and urging for a permanent end in order to save the students and the University system.
“They will forever remain grateful for the display of maturity by ASUU. This is true leadership. I’m in my final year and the suspension of the proposed strike meant a lot to me,” he said.
While expressing fear and the need to address the issues once and for all, Bem Benjamin, a 300 hundred level student of University of Keffi ASUU’s move is a good one. The government should not end at that but address some of the lingering issues to avoid further strike.
“ASUU has done the needs of the majority of the public, students and common masses. But my fear is that the Union concluded it will take necessary action in a few days if the federal government fails to fulfill her promise so they may embark on strike again,” he added.