The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is still on strike, particularly with the case now before the National Industrial Court, Abuja division.
According to our correspondent inquiries, universities will soon face a brain drain as some lecturers are already leaving the country.
Students and parents are the most affected by this impasse because of the excessive lengthening of academic sessions, which has a negative impact on the financial fortunes of parents and guardians.
Throughout past administrations, academic unions have gone on strike to show their dissatisfaction with the federal government’s indifference to the welfare of its members, as well as the infrastructure deficit that has plagued the country’s postsecondary institutions.
It is enough to say that no administration since 1999 has not witnessed an ASUU strike, but the most recent, which began on February 14, 2022 after the union issued a 14-month strike notice, has further crippled the educational system. Though the Federal government has attempted to break the deadlock at various times by engaging the striking union in meetings and negotiations, the strike has continued.
ASUU had made seven key demands of the federal government, including funding for tertiary institution revitalization, payment of outstanding Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), a review of the NUC 2004 Act to address university proliferation, and a 26 percent budgetary allocation to the education sector.
According to a source the federal government has accepted some of the requests, but ASUU refused to back out due to prior bad experiences with the FG, not implementing agreements.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, blamed the ongoing strike action on the union’s failure to reach a compromise, emphasizing that no government can meet every demand completely.
Adamu stated that the FG has given a 23.5 percent wage rise for all lecturers and a 35 percent salary increase for professors, calling the offer as the “best” the federal government could do, despite the fact that the raise will take effect in January 2023.
He added that the FG had resolved to release N200 billion in 2023 budget for revitalization of federal universities, to pay outstanding earned allowances, as well as ensure prompt payment of allowances as they arise to all deserving staff, adding that the FG would uphold the ‘no work, no pay policy’.
The Minister noted that the present administration would not be cajoled into endorsing unrealistic agreements with ASUU as done by the previous administration just to douse tension, saying that ASUU should come to terms with Nigeria’s present economic realities.
However, these conciliatory offers never moved ASUU, which is bent on getting 100% of its demands implemented. Though it is obvious that ASUU’s refusal is based on the minister’s stance on the government’s earlier resolve not to pay striking lecturers for the period they did not work, his silence on the timeline for the release of the outstanding N1.2 trillion arising from the 2009 and 2012 agreements is another issue.
Also, one of the bones of contention according to the Minister is the issue of the proposed payment platform, which is yet to be approved by President Muhammadu Buhari as the technical committee in-charge of the process has not submitted its report.
“The President is actually waiting for the report of the technical committee on the three payment platforms. I have seen one of the reports but I have not seen the final one. From what I have seen, the U3PS is probably the best followed by UTAS and IPPIS,” he said.
ASUU National Chairman, Emmanuel Osodeke, however, explained that what the union is demanding is not just for the welfare of lecturers but for the refurbishment of Nigerian universities to attract students from other parts of the world.
According to him, “We’re asking for that money for Nigerian students, and Nigerian parents. The money is for building infrastructure, upgrading libraries, hostels, and lecture theatres so that students will not be having lectures through windows; so that students will not be sitting on the floor during lectures, the salaries of lecturers should be competitive.”
The back and forth nature of the situation has put some students and their parents at a fix. Some lecturers who got offers to teach outside the country have already travelled out.
Dr Happiness Uduk, the Chairperson of ASUU’s Akwa Ibom State Chapter, stated that some lecturers and professors are leaving the nation and urged the federal government to act immediately to avert the looming disaster for Nigeria’s educational system.
Though she did not mention the number of lecturers and professors that have left University of Uyo, UniUyo, she noted that, ”actually, professors and other lecturers in UniUyo who had opportunities outside have left and more are leaving the country for greener pastures.”
Students interviewed by our reporter, on the other hand, expressed fears over the ongoing ASUU strike, encouraging the FG and the Union to reach an agreement so that academic activities may resume.
However, Dr Chris Ekpenyong, senator representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, expressed solidarity with the striking union and queried why the federal government could not implement ASUU demands entirely and once and for all.
The Senator, who described Nigeria’s educational system as faulty and its infrastructure as devastating, asked the federal government not to fold its arms and let the institutions slowly deteriorate.
“I sympathise with ASUU; it is a failing of the government in power,” he says.
But I’m still concerned because our last president was a PhD holder, highly educated, and yet there was an ASUU strike for months. I had hoped that he would be the one to solve the ASUU dilemma, but he couldn’t.”
I had hoped that he would be the one to solve the ASUU dilemma, but he couldn’t.”
“ASUU had complained about brain drain, our educational system is highly dysfunctional, and for government to close their eyes and refuse to adopt solutions proposed by ASUU for the growth and development of education, as well as manpower, is disastrous; so I’m not in favour of government folding their hands and telling ASUU to do whatever they want.” “ASUU and the federal government should reach an agreement,” Ekpenyong stated.