Nigeria: 57-Day-Old Strike – Academic Union Urges Nigerians to Rescue Dying University System

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Benin Zone yesterday pleaded with Nigerians to join the union in rescuing the dying university system.

The Zonal Coordinator, ASUU-Benin Zone, Prof. Fred Esumeh, said this during a media briefing at the ASUU Secretariat, University of Benin, Edo State.

Also yesterday, the Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige, said the federal government was in support of renegotiation of the welfare package for university staff in line with current realities.

He, however, said that the government was not happy with the approach being used by the ASUU to pursue their demands.

Government’s position came as the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said it had scheduled to meet with the four university-based unions over the ongoing strike in the ivory towers.

Esumeh also called on all well-meaning Nigerians to wake-up and join the union in salvaging what remains of the country by repositioning the universities to be globally competitive and able to produce the manpower required to jump-start the re-emergence of a technological and economic power.

According to him: “We call on all well-meaning Nigerians, students, workers, Civil Society organisations to wake-up and join ASUU to salvage what remains of the country by repositioning the universities to be globally competitive and able to produce the manpower required to jump-start the re-emergence as a globally technological and economic power.

“On the 14th of February 2022, ASUU, after more than a calendar year of exploring all available and legitimate means in its effort to compel the federal government of Nigeria to honour the terms of the Memorandum of Action it signed with the Union on December 2020, was left with no option, other than to declare a four-week roll-over strike.

“At the expiration of the four weeks when the government created the impression that it required more time to address the issues at stake, ASUU rolled over the strike for another eight weeks to provide the federal government with more than sufficient time to comprehensively sort out the patriotic demand by the union.

“The representatives of government continue to toy with the future of our children, students and nation, such that 57 days after they were sent packing from the institutions, the resolution of the principal outstanding issues of the deployment of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and the signing and implementation and the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement remains at the level of mere proposals, fruitless and empty assurances.

“Yet these are issues that could have been adequately resolved in weeks by any well-meaning and serious-minded government,” Esumeh stated.

In a related development, ASUU yesterday denounced the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, over what it described as his reckless comment that the union was, “mean and wicked for shutting down universities.”

The Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter of the union, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, in a statement issued in Ibadan yesterday, said lecturers in the country had sacrificed their labour, sweat and health, “only for parasites in government to come and destroy common heritage and collective patrimony.”

Akinwole said the minister represents one of the deceptive and insincere characters of the Buhari’s administration.

According to him, it was a sign of acceptance of failure for a minister to admit, “that they have consistently been irresponsible by pleading with a union to bury the welfare of her members and not fight for infrastructure face-lift for the children of the masses and new salary for the welfare of her members.”

The ASUU boss who challenged the minister to make public his salaries and allowances also asked him to tell Nigerians how much he was being owed by the government since he became Minister.

Akinwole said lecturers have been considerate of the plight of the students and the society, saying that was why it took the union members to show understanding with the government owing her members 12 years of earned academic allowances and 13 years of old salary when likes of the Ministers and cabinet members in the administration of President Buhari are enjoying a periodic review of allowances and salaries.