ASUU strike: Conspiracy theory and generation wastage…by Gbenga Olowoyo

ASUU strike: Conspiracy theory and generation wastage- who is at the receiving end , who is benefitting and who do we blame?

By Gbenga Olowoyo fcia, fipma JP

The recurrent potent decima of strike is very synonymous with Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) since the Union was founded in1978 in Nigeria because of its effectiveness and the environment where the Union operates.

As a matter of history, ASUU strike started many years ago effectively in 1988 for five months which led to its proscription on 7th August 1988; because many sussesive governments have refused to bring up sustainable rolling plan development programme that can help our system to grow in many sectors of our economy including very sensitive Education sector and tertiary education sub sector, hence, the problem continues.

Comrade Olowoyo

The successive governments ineptitude have led to many other strikes; for instance, in 1999;5months , 2001; 5 months, 2002; 3 months, 2003; six months, 2006 ;one week, 2007; 3months, 2008; 2weeks, 2009 ;4months, 2010; 5 months, 2011; 3 months, 2013; 5 months, 2016;1week, 2017;1 month, 2018; 3 months, 2020 ;9 months, 2022; 2 months; still counting

The ongoing roll up strike by ASUU is not the best for the future of Nigerian students, Nigerian youths and Nigerian future because if its futuristic negative effects on the knowledge gap that the strike will permeate.

Honestly, conflict between ASUU and Federal Government over the years revolved around: condition and welfare of lecturers and State of tertiary institutions in Nigeria with over 4 solid years since 1999.

What are the demands of ASUU:

To compel the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to sign and implement the draft re-negotiated 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement submitted by the Professor Munzali committee in May 2021

Deploy for use the home grown payment and personnel solution called UTAS developed by ASUU as a replacement for the failed IPPIS

The Federal Government has ignored ASUU call for full implementation of that popular agreement and other memorandum of understanding signed with the Union.

The bone of contention now is that the re-negotiated 2009 agreement should be signed and implemented and as well deploy the use of UTAS.

It is ironical that after two months of warning strike by ASUU , the Minister of Labour Dr Chris Ngige said that he has little control over the current ASUU strike and the Federal Government; it is naked acceptance of total failure and incompetence on his part as member of Federal Executive Council whose ministry plays roles of a conciliator.

More frustrating is that as a conciliator “l have to make use of the labour instruments at my disposal. The bosses in the Federal ministry of Education, do not feel the strike, l am not the Minister of Education. I cannot go to the Minister and dictate to him how to run his place” above is an indication that our Ministers are not actually working in cohesion to move this country forward in the first place and not passionate to resolve this tractable strike action in order to return normalcy to the education sector.

The hydraheaded problems confronting Nigeria universities and tertiary institutions are very enormous hence, the joint Action committee of Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated institutions (NASU) and the Senior staff Association of Nigerian universities (SSANU) equally declared indefinite strike action in tertiary institutions in Nigeria this is an indication that the system has collapsed.

The demands from all these unions I e ASUU, NASU and SSANU are not humongous and they include the following;

The problem of inconsistent in payment with IPPIS

Non payment of earned allowances

Non payment of arrears of National minimum wage and it’s consequential adjustment

Poor funding of state universities

Delay in Renegotiation of the 2009 Agreements

Non release of white papers of visitation panels

Usurpation of headship of Non teaching unites in clear violation of condition of service establishment procedures non payment of retirement benefits to outgone members.

It is very disheartening to observe that all the stakeholders are not thinking about the victims of their actions; proverbially speaking when two elephants fight the grass( students , parents and guardians) stuffer.

Under this scenario of fight between FGN- ASUU; students and future of Nigeria are worst hit. Students in public universities have paid dearly for the insensitivity and bereft of ideas of our political leaders after wasting close to a semester which form part of their Academic calendar year.

Nigeria government should expect spontaneous reactions and protest from Nigerian students and youths in coming days if urgent intervention is not applied to see to the end of the elongated and unwarranted ASUU strike; if Federal Government has been reasonable, responsible and responsive it would have been nip in bud.

This envisaged protest by Nigerian students is already playing out from different angles and locations of the Geo political zones of Nigeria: North, West , South and East.

Government should be mindful of what may crop up in days to come because the patience of students, parents and guardians have been over stretched beyond reason.

The attitude of our political leaders , elites and ingratitude opportunists towards their irresponsible disposition to Education sector is a pointer that it is a deliberate action to whittle down and incapacitate Public tertiary education in Nigeria is no more hidden with high projection and opportunities given to private universities in Nigeria with the attendant widest gap in tuition fees.

The Nigeria Civil Service Union through press release issued by the General Secretary Comrade Bomoi Mohammed ibraheem actually captured the mindset and deliberate action of the elites which state inter alia that “the political class is deliberately developing a culture of social Apartheid wherefore the children of the poor are deliberately and strategically being denied tertiary education in order to make them perpetually subservient to the children of the rich”

It is a clear conspiracy and gang up against the children of the poor, vulnerable and less privileged citizens of this country who cannot afford to pay over 1million naira per session in private universities for their children.

It is not only moral decadence but also criminal for our political leaders to be able to purchase political expression for N100 million and within two weeks a political party have been able to raised over N4 billion just for the form whereas Only N1.5 Trillion will solve one hundred percent problems in Nigeria universities going by the outcome of assignment done by Professor Mamud Yakubu the current INEC chairman when he served in that committee sometimes ago.

It is only in Nigeria that Government will budget N4 billion naira for fuel subsidy in the 2022 only; whereas a single individual spent N4.1trillion to build refinery that can produce 650,000 barrels/day this is a clear indication of deeply rooted endemic corruption.

The widely circulated analogy by a Professor of Geography in the university of Maiduguri equally posited that who is actually loosing in the current ASUU strike action

He stated inter alia that “If 20,000 students make a trip to the campus by public transport with an average of N200 daily, that’s N4m .

If 20,000 students eat lunch at school at N200 daily, that’s another N4m.

If 20,000 students photocopy 20 pages of document at N10 each daily, that’s another N4m

By this, just 20,000 students inject N12m daily to the local economy.
During 3 months of strike, N1.08bn is lost by transporters, food vendors, business centres.etc. Link this to the actual number of students in the Universities in the country”.

It is pitiful that only political leaders and elites are the beneficiaries in the current ASUU/ Federal Government imbroglio because that was the period when the so-called political leaders can buy just expression of interest form for presidential seat with the whooping amount of N100 million without blinking an eye

Flowing from the above, it is very expedient that Federal Government should be serious with the education sector and other sensitive responsibilities on the National focus now that the Federal is willing to meet with ASUU on Thursday 12th May, 2022 with the Chief of Staff to President Mohammodu Buhari; Ambassador Afolabi Gambari , through a letter issued by Mr CC Dike Special Adviser on Technical the Minister of Labour Dr Chris Ngige, let us be optimistic that the end to the strike is now in sight . Enough is Enough!!!.

It beats the imagination of right thinking Nigerians that ! what were the government officials doing when they signed the 2009 agreement on behalf of government side; could it be knowledge-gap, mischief, ignorance or what?

Now that NLC, TUC, and other affiliated unions from both sides of the Labour centres have resolved to join forces with ASUU to fight the struggle to the end without shaking is highly commended

The time has come to track down tractable problems in both Federal and State Universities so that history will not fire back to the all stakeholders and our tormenors for their conspiracy ; this current no-nonsense generation of students will not take it lightly.

A word is enough for the wise

Comrade Gbenga Olowoyo
fcia ,fipma , JP
(Trade Unionist and lndustrial Relations Practitioner)