ASUU Strike: FG Not Serious With Education – Stakeholders

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A cross-section of Nigerians has knocked the Federal Government over the prolonged strike of the Academic Staff of Universities.

This is as the citizens were taken aback by the action of Labour and Productivity Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, by taking the issue to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), which they feel has escalated the matter.

Several Nigerians were taken aback when Ngige recently took the ASUU to the NICN) when the issue bothering the prolonged lecturers’ strike is before President Muhammadu Buhari and the House of Representatives leadership.

Although the NICN a few days ago ordered the lecturers back to class, the dons have already appealed the ruling without obeying the court order, an indication that the ASUU strike is far from being resolved.

It would be recalled that the lecturers resorted to strike following the Federal Government’s failure to implement all the agreements it had been signing with the union since 2009 on improving university education in the country.

Some stakeholders who spoke on the issue carpeted the Federal Government for not doing enough to ensure that the lecturers returned to classes.

Chief Emeka Charles Kalu, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, and National Coordinator, Peoples Democratic Party Coalition (PDPCO), in his reaction to the development, said the Federal Government misfired in its action in taking the issue to court.

Chief Kalu, Director General, Global Initiative for Good Governance (GIGG), stressed: “When it comes to ASUU I will say we do not have governments. How can we be seeing our youths sitting at home and we say we have governments?

“President Buhari is even tired and wants to leave, and the Minister for Labour is on the other side making the matter worse by going to courts.

“One wonders why the Federal Government has so far failed to implement all the agreements reached with ASUU (since 2009).

“The Federal Government should listen to ASUU and give them what they want. The government’s attitude is worrisome.”

Comrade Kunle Wizeman Ajayi, former chairman, African Action Congress (AAC), Lagos State chapter, in his reaction, said the current All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government (FG) hates public education, hence, the ASUU strike still lingers on longer than expected.

“The Muhammadu Buhari government is doing everything to make sure that more Nigerians do not get educated so that the rulers can have more money to loot.

“Nigerian students, lecturers, and parents need to rise and force the Federal Government to pay ASUU and sponsor public education at all levels.”

Barrister Emeka Iheonu, a Lagos lawyer, said that both the Federal Government (FG) and the ASUU leadership have their blame concerning the prolonged strike.

Iheonu, a member of the African Bar Association (ABA), stressed: “The FG on one hand is wrong in refusing to adhere to the agreements reached with the previous Nigerian Government sometime in 2009.

“ASUU on the other hand is wrong to have refused the module for payment of salaries and allowances proposed by the FG and already being implemented among various institutions. ASUU is wrong in trying to have a separate module for lecturers.

“Almost every year or every other year, ASUU has been going on strike since the return of civilian rule. This has negatively impacted education and most Nigerian students, including their parents.

“As of today, however, the news is that ASUU has reached a new agreement with the FG. It is said that the leadership of the House of Representatives on Tuesday (last week) brokered the new agreement after four hours of meeting at the National Assembly in Abuja.

“However, the agreement is subject to the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is currently at the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the UN.

“The President of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke, led the union to the meeting, while the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Opiah, represented the FG.

“The ball is now in the President’s court. If he refuses to approve whatever has been agreed upon, the strike may continue despite the recent ruling by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) ordering ASUU to suspend the strike.

“The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, was recently reported to have said that the ongoing strike by ASUU would have dragged on for two years because of a lack of progress in negotiations.

“He said he would have failed in his duties if he did not refer the matter to the NICN in line with Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act 2004 after seven months of protracted discussions and negotiations with the union which failed.

“He had recalled that ASUU was at the stage of collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiation with their employers, the Federal Ministry of Education when they embarked on strike.

“I pray that whatever has been recently agreed by both sides, as reported, will be beneficial to both parties and other stakeholders, including students and their parents, subject to the president’s awaited approval.”

Comrade Aluh Moses Odeh, the National Leader, All Middle Belt Youth Forum (AMBYF), stated: “The All Progressive Congress APC-led Federal Government has not shown any sign of being interested in the future of this great country called Nigeria.

“APC is anti-education considering Federal Government budgetary allocation to education since 2015 when APC came to power till date and the complete silence over the ASUU strike.

“the PDP led Federal Government’s budgetary allocation to education in 2015 was 10.79%, which sharply dropped to 6% in 2016 under APC administration till date.

“From the drop in budgetary allocation to education, the answer to whether the APC-led Federal Government is doing right or wrong is deductible.

“The E9 Countries (Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico and Pakistan) or D8 (Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia) other than Nigeria, allocates less than 20% of their annual budget to education.

“Egypt allocated 22.8% of her annual budget to education in 2022; Malaysia is 16%, while India is 11.86%.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria has no value for education, hence our students have been kept at home for over six months and the time to call off the strike is not in sight.”

Rev. Dr. Francis Ujunwa Simeon, the International Secretary, Christian Association of Igbo Ministers Worldwide (CAIM), in his detailed response, stated: “The Federal Government/ASUU face-off started in 2009 when ASUU demanded improved funding for public universities in Nigeria and a review of salaries for lecturers including payment of accumulated earned allowances.

“It was said that ASUU’s monetary demands totalled about N1.3 trillion which the Federal Government agreed to pay in six installments starting from 2013.

“Since then, the government has not been able to implement the agreement on the excuse of the paucity of funds.

“ASUU reacted by advising the government to provide 26% national budgetary allocation to education, 50% of which should be devoted to university education funding. The government disagreed.

“A serious 21st-century government cannot allow problems affecting its ivory towers and eggheads to linger for thirteen years.

“Within this period, the public universities have closed for about 735 days cumulatively, to the detriment of the students. What a gargantuan waste of precious academic time and resources! What a shame!

“In a nation where politicians steal billions of dollars, funding the universities would not have been a problem if the government had prioritised education as a catalyst for human development.

“To resort to legal arm-twisting to compel the lecturers back to the classroom without meeting their demands is suggestive of a government that lacks administrative sagacity and has no value for education.

“For the sake of the students, the government should borrow money to settle the ASUU to the best of its ability so that the schools can resume without further delay.”

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