In spite of mounting pressures from the government and the general public, Nasir Fagge, national president of ASUU, insists that the four-month old strike won’t be called off unless the union’s demands are fully met
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Oct. 21, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE end to the four-month industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is not yet in sight. The union has resisted all the pressures from the government and the general public to call off the strike, insisting that there is no going back unless the federal government fulfils its 2009 agreement with the union. Nasir Fagge, national president, ASUU, said the federal government was not telling Nigerians the truth about the demands of the union as per government’s statement that the union’s demand has been met. He said that ASUU had a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the federal government for it to spend more than N3 trillion to turn around the fortunes of all federal and state universities and also to better the lot of the educational sector in the country.
“The agreement is for the federal government to spend N800 billion yearly for the next four years, but what we have is government talking about N130 billion which is very insignificant. Our demands are genuine, and it is based on the mutual agreement entered into in 2009 by the government and ASUU. We urge the government to be responsible to that agreement. President Goodluck Jonathan said the strike is being politicised but the truth is that it is government that is playing politics with our demands. It is as if every problem in this country is now being politicised. I want to ask one basic question: Is it political to ask government to be responsible enough to implement an agreement it willingly entered into. It is important to state clearly that we are a union of intellectuals, and we cannot accept a situation where the tail will wag the dog. Whatever we do is for the betterment of the Nigerian university system,” he said.
ASUU’s position has won for it many sympathisers. The Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, has given a two-week ultimatum to the federal government to end the strike embarked upon by ASUU. Michael Olukoya, NUT President, said ASUU had been on strike since July 1, and the government was not doing anything to end the industrial action. He said members of the union would not hesitate to close down the nation’s schools, if the two parties failed to reach an agreement after two weeks.
He advised the federal government to set up a team that would comprise the president, Senate president, Speaker of the House of Representatives and former presidents like Olusegun Obasanjo and representatives of the vice chancellors to meet with ASUU and find a common ground to resolve the crisis. He warned that failure to do so would mean that the union would go ahead to shut down primary and secondary schools across the country in solidarity with their colleagues in the tertiary institutions.
“The National Executive Council of our great union met about nine days (10 days on Saturday) ago wherein the state of the nation was perused. We discovered that the way and manner education is going in this country is not good and something proactive should be done to change it. So, consequent upon that meeting, it was resolved that if in a fortnight the lingering problem between ASUU and the federal government is not resolved, we should not hesitate to unite with them to ensure that education is properly footed, fitted and transformed,” he said.
The Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, has also signified its intention to join ASUU if the federal government does not comply with the agreement it signed with the lecturers’ union. NUPENG accused the government of being insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. It noted that the way the government has been acting on the ASUU strike had portrayed it as unconcerned about the nation’s suffering.
Igwe Achese, NUPENG, national president, said that the nation’s foundation was shaking because the future leaders and their children were not attending local universities in the country. According to him, the federal government owed it as a duty to end the strike. He urged the government to respect the agreement it signed with the ASUU in 2009, adding that the government should see itself as an employer of labour. Achese attributed the incessant strikes in the country to the fact that the ministry of labour had not been performing its duties.
“It is particularly shocking that the government has carried on as if everything is normal, without bothering about the fate of the students who have been marooned at home since the strike started. Perhaps, this is because the children and wards of those at the helm of affairs are luxuriating in schools abroad, or because they are too comfortable to worry about their less-fortunate compatriots.”
In another development, the polytechnic lecturers under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, commenced a nationwide strike on Monday, October 7. Dosunmu Babatunde, South-West zonal coordinator, ASUP, said the technological and overall development of the country was only achievable through functional polytechnic education. He expressed regret that the federal and state governments were not paying any serious attention to polytechnic education. He said that the worrisome state of polytechnic education in the country, especially those owned by the states, was one of the reasons why the union members had to go on strike. He specifically mentioned the state-owned polytechnics in Kwara, Ondo and Ogun as some of those suffering from avoidable decay.
Among the grievances the polytechnic teachers are presenting are alleged government’s nonchalant attitude towards technical and technological education, as well as underfunding of the institutions. Other grievances, are the refusal of most state governments to implement the approved new salary scale for polytechnic lecturers and the 65 years’ retirement age, alleged imposition of professors from outside the polytechnic sector as rectors and the need for the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Polytechnics so as not to allow the sector to collapse totally.