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Nigerian unions and their strike actions

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, incessant and avoidable but, deliberate industrial actions have crippled the already fragile education system. When shall we be back on track and…

Usman Abdullahi Koli

It is worrisome for a country like Nigeria, my fatherland, since independence up till today, there are more sectors lagging behind, than the ones growing. And even the growing ones are the only profit making sectors benefited by a small group of dignitaries who see Nigeria as their personal property.

Education is the backbone of every developed society; America and the likes are what they are today only because of how they are utilizing the knowledge they gain, to think on how to develop themselves.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, incessant and avoidable but, deliberate industrial actions have crippled the already fragile education system. When shall we be back on track and who shall care to fix it?

Whenever ASUU or ASUP, JUSUN, NARD or PASAN are on strike, it means the nation is put to a halt; it means children of the poor who do not have the financial means to attend private institution are put to standstill; poor patients who cannot be in any private clinic are in trouble. One wonders why is it that every common bureaucratic ideal thing or structural issue results in disagreement between unions of workers and its employer –government.

Remember a payment platform; the controversial IPPIS was once a source of strike, which led to the closure of all universities across the country for almost a complete session plus coronavirus lockdown.

Shortly after the Academic Staff Union of Universities had suspended their strike, the Non Academic Staff Union embarked on their own industrial action. And as we all know, the existence of the two unions is interwoven, thus, one cannot effectively exist without the other.

Like a protest turn by turn; months down the line, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) joined the trend; embarked on indefinite strike nationwide, closing all polytechnics across the country. It appears strike is the only language government of the day understands.

But while these unions fail to take into consideration the plight of the people concerned; it is equally so unfortunate, the government shows lackadaisical attitude towards addressing the issue on time.

The ASUP accused the government of not meeting its demands for a long time. In Bauchi, the state owned polytechnic claims to have been owed by the state government, payment of salary arrears, restoration of third party deductions, appropriate restoration of the implementation of their promotions and restoration of yearly increment of salary as stated by the ATAP ASUP Chairman, Comrade Dahiru Musa Abdulllahi.

This is in line with the grievances of their national body. Other grievances include nonpayment of the 10 months’ arrears of the new minimum wage owed by members in federal polytechnics, nonpayment by some state government (Bauchi State excluded) of arrears of the new minimum wage owed by state polytechnic lecturers, among others.

To teach on empty stomach, I know, is problematic, because the teachers may be having internal conflicts, which may get them confused and the students as well. In countries where education is valued, their system is “teacher first”. The welfare of teachers is the top priority of the government’s business; the best brains are best paid and that is the reason they are educationally advancing. But in Nigeria the reverse is the case; the worst brain are the best paid.

From the government part, the minister of education and the president have both failed to deliver what we thought of them. Remember, before he was appointed as minister, Adamu Adamu in his column had proffered solutions to every Nigerian educational crisis. Why not apply them now since he got the chance at his disposal? Buhari’s government had been criticizing past administrations over what they described as poor leadership qualities and mismanagement of public funds. For them, even the allocated funds in the yearly budget to education and health sectors were not enough, then, their own have not even reached the previous ones.

Based on life experience, we witnessed traumatic and violence experiences during the ASUU strike and lockdown; schools’ closure over government and its employees’ disagreements may not be the best option now. All the burden of this industrial action is always shouldered by students, which may likely affect them academically.

Unless this country begins to appreciate the value of education, we cannot make progress. And to achieve that, there is a need for financial prioritization from the part of the government. To the unions, strike is not the best solution. Why not attend lectures in the morning and mobilize students in the evening to demonstrate on the streets? This I think will be more effective. When two elephants fight, grasses are bound to suffer the most.

Usman Abdullahi Koli, writes from Bauchi State