It’s a welcome development – Students, parents
Indications have emerged that the nationwide indefinite strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on August 13, which has entered its third week, may be called off this week. Already, stakeholders are apprehensive over the continued strike, and are asking questions about when normalcy will return to the ivory towers, having lost two weeks already.
But, if the body language of the lecturers’ union is anything to go by, all hope seemed not to have been lost as to when the job boycott would be called off. ASUU had accused the Federal Government of failure to redeem the terms of agreement signed in 2009 and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) endorsed by both parties in 2013, towards addressing the numerous challenges in the university sub-sector, including the poor welfare conditions and gross underfunding.
Meanwhile, given some concessions made on the union’s demands by the Federal Government., ASUU may be set for resumption to work. According to the National President of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the union has mandated the branches of the union nationwide to deliberate on the offers made by the Federal Government and report back to the national body of the union this week. Ogunyemi, in an interview with New Telegraph, said the national leadership of the union is presently awaiting the outcome of the union’s congress meetings across the campuses, and that their decision would determine whether to continue with the strike or to suspend it.
He said: “You know before we declared the strike action, the union gave us mandate, and now we have asked them to review the proposals from government and get back to us on their conclusion. That is how ASUU operates. Decisions flow from the bottom to the top and not the other way round.” Given this development, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu had also expressed the hope that the strike would be suspended this week, even as the government had admitted failing to keep some of its promises to the university lecturers, the first time in the history of strikes in the country.
In the last weeks, the Minister had held series of meetings with the national leadership of the union, reiterating that the government had failed to fulfill its promises made to the striking workers. He said; “It is very sad that I am here and ASUU is on strike.
I must confess government has not fulfilled its part of the bargaining, even though we are unhappy that ASUU went on this strike without following due process and giving us good notice.” He had then presented to the union some offers including the payment of the outstanding N25 billion, with a pledge to fast track the approval of the licence of the union’s pension company.
Expectedly, following the Friday, August 25 meeting of the NEC ASUU and the congress of the local branches across campuses, it is instructive that the ongoing strike would be called off. But, another twist to the entire crisis is that one of the zonal coordinators of ASUU stated that the offer from the Federal Government was a far cry from members’ expectations. He said many of the members are not happy with the way government is handling their demands, saying it is up to NEC to take a position on the on-going strike, as members were prepared for a long strike, but which depends on the government.
The zonal coordinator described the likely outcome of NEC meeting as 50-50, insisting that what the union wants to see is tangible and concrete evidence that Federal Government was serious about meeting the demands this time around before the strike could be called off, if at all that would be possible this week as being orchestrated.
This was as he debunked a claim by the Minister that the union would call off the strike this week, saying: “We did not promise the minister anything. We told the government team that we are going to consult with our members on what government has offered.” Though, some branches of the union such as Obafemi Awolowo University is yet to join the nationwide strike as the first semester examinations are ongoing at the institution, which had lost several months to internal crisis that rocked the university.
However, the Federal Government has inaugurated two committees to re-negotiate the agreements it reached with the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUU) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), which apparently are warming up, including other university workers’ union such as Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), which are threatening and bracing up to down tools over non-fulfilling of agreements reached with the Federal Government. While expressing solidarity with ASUU in the struggle to restore sanity to the universities and the education sector, General Secretary of ASUP, Comrade Anderson Ezeibe, said the government should commence the implementation of agreements entered into with the unions to forestall an impending crisis in the polytechnic sector.
Following this, students and their parents, who described the assurance as a welcome development, are expectant that the strike would be called off this week. They, therefore, pleaded with ASUU and the Federal Government to reach a workable agreement with further delay with a view to ending the industrial disharmony and return the institutions to the path of reckoning.