The Lingering ASUU Strike

AS the nationwide industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) enters its eleventh week, parents and their wards have continued to groan in the face of perpetual shut of the gates of campuses of Nigerian public universities.

MORE worrisome is the fact that there appears no glimmer of hope that the crisis would soon be resolved as the government and the union continue to engage in a blame game week in, week out arising from meetings that have yet to agree on any concrete decision that would end the strike.

IT is against this backdrop that The Hope takes a serious look at the issues in contention and urges the parties involved to consider the future of the innocent students and toe the path of peace and progress. This is because the incessant strikes in the education sector particularly the ivory towers is fast becoming a national tragedy that needs a fundamental address in the national interest.

ARISING from its meeting held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure on November 4, 2018, the National Executive Council of the union  unanimously expressed collective disappointment at government that no substantial progress was made on the issues of the implementation of 2009 FGN/ASUU agreements, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU; 2012 and 2013) and Memorandum of Action (MoA, 2017) and the truncation of the renegotiation of the union’s agreements necessitating the strike. The goal of the strike, according to the union, was to compel government to address the funding for revitalisation of public universities based on the FGN-ASUU MoU of 2012, 2013 and the MoA of 2017.

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 ASUU is also demanding the reconstitution of the current Government Team on the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement to allow for a leader and chairman who has the interest of the nation and its people at heart; release of the forensic audit report on Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), payments of all outstanding earned academic allowances and mainstreaming of same into salaries beginning with the 2018 budget; payment of all arrears of shortfall in salaries to all universities that have met the verification requirements of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA); and release of University Pension Fund operational license.

RECORDS show the 2013 MoU stipulated that government would pump the sum of N1.3trilion for a modest revitalisation of Nigerian public varsities. The fund was to be paid in tranches of N200billion (2013), N220billion (2014), N220billion (2015), N220billion (2016), N220billion (2017) and N220billion (2018)) in five years. Only the Goodluck Jonathan government released N200billion in 2013.

 ASUU opined that since that single intervention, nothing has come forth, claiming that the result is decay in infrastructure, inability to attract foreign scholars and poor products. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is therefore expected to bear the liabilities inherited from its predecessors.

SOME commentators have argued that legally, ASUU has a good ground to be aggrieved. But legalism alone should not be applied as the basis for social engineering and cohesion, no matter how compelling. This is because the financial status of government at present in terms of revenue is different from what it was when the agreement was reached with the union in 2013.

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HOWEVER, some progress has been made since the strike began howbeit too slow. First, both parties have continued to engage in dialogue as not less than six different meetings have been held over the matter. This shows that both the union and government have showed commitment towards a resolution of the crisis.

SECOND, ASUU has indicated willingness to shift grounds by not insisting on the full implementation of its demands. Third, government had made some offers in this regard which the union termed empty verbal promises that are yet to be made concrete. For instance, the union queried the refusal of the federal government to commit itself to a full tranche of the payment for revitalisation, which is N220 billion, and spread it for a period of five quarters in order to show commitment, saying the proposal of over N34 billion from government is too low to be accepted when compared to N1.1 trillion.

THE HOPE therefore calls on government to do the needful by going beyond promises to taking concrete steps it needs to show genuine commitment to the union as mere promises cannot fly at this point in time when there appears to be mutual suspicion between both parties.

WHATEVER government can afford must not only be put on paper alone but must be disbursed immediately to the various governing councils of the universities as a sign of walking the talk. We  also propose that a time-frame for payments must be attached to further agreements being made by the federal government with the union to give room for accurate measurement and evaluation of its dealings with the union.

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ON the part of the ASUU, The Hope joins millions of Nigerians to appeal to it to shift  grounds further as a matter of sacrifice, bearing in mind the current economic indices in order to pave the way for a quick resolution of the crisis in the short time while a framework for a lasting solution must be evolved by both parties for future purposes.

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