Some universities owned by state governments across the country are gradually asking their students to go back to classrooms after it became obvious that there is no end in sight to the protracted strike called by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
For months, students and parents have continued to lament as the industrial action by ASUU to press home their demands has paralysed almost all public universities in the country.
Academic activities have been suspended by the union for over 200 days over the alleged failure of the federal government to meet all its demands, which include a call on the government to conclude the process of renegotiating the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, deploy the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), pay outstanding arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), release agreed sum of money for the revitalisation of public universities (federal and states), address proliferation and governance issues in the state universities, settle promotion arrears, release withheld salaries of academics, and pay outstanding third-party deductions.
However, students in some state universities have been fortunate to receive lectures owing to the fact that the ASUU in their institutions either pulled out of the strike or didn’t join because of an internal crisis.
Auwal Ismail, a lecturer in one of the state universities in Kano, said he sees no reason to be on strike.
“Honestly state universities have no reason to go on strike because it is the responsibility of their governments to pay salaries, provide infrastructure and support research. The leadership of the universities could also use their influence to attract grants.
“I am not happy that we keep our students at home for months. State universities must appreciate the fact that anything that comes their way from the federal government or TETFUND is just a bonus.
“ASUU is only using our names to augment its numerical strength and that is all…I think this is the time for those of us teaching in state universities to have a re-think. Some lecturers are still collecting salary from the state government while on strike. This is double standard,” he said.
The Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam in Anambra State is in session as the ASUU is factionalised in the institution.
The chairman of the ASUU in the university, Professor Osita Chiaghanam, said the state-owned institution did not shut down because the students would be the greatest losers.
He said the union placed a high premium on studies and would not disappoint the students by joining the strike.
Chiaghanam said the Anambra State Government was adequately funding the university, with prompt payment of staff salaries, as well as providing infrastructure and the enabling environment for academic activities.
“We don’t receive our payments through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The revitalisation is a general matter. Our state government always pays our salaries. Arrears, pensions and promotions have been cleared. Our university is running smoothly. That is why we don’t have to join the strike. Go round the university community to confirm these. You can see students being attended to,” he added.
He also dismissed the allegation that a splinter group of the ASUU in the school embarked on strike, noting that the majority of the university staff were members of ASUU-Progressive, and as such, would not listen to few misguided individuals.
Lectures and educational activities have been going on smoothly at the Lagos State University (LASU), where the local branch of the ASUU was suspended by the national body owing to leadership crisis
The union did not join the strike from the onset.
The special adviser on education to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr Tokunbo Wahab, recently said the three universities in the state – LASU, Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUSTECH) and the Lagos State University of Education (LASUED) – were oversubscribed in the 2022 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) application following the prolonged industrial action by the ASUU.
He said the oversubscription was because the state-owned universities did not join the ASUU strike.
Emphasizing that the only alternative to industrial action is a constant dialogue, he advised that going forward, the government should regularly hold town hall meetings with stakeholders in the sector, with a view to discussing and finding solutions to challenges facing tertiary education in the country.
The chairman of ASUU in LASU, Professor Ibrahim Bakare, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the school had, in the past few years, had issues that bothered around leadership of the union with its national body. He, however, disclosed that the vice chancellor was trying to reconcile the parties involved, adding, “We are one united family here,” he said.
To sustain the universities in the state, Governor Sanwo-Olu, on Thursday, floated a funding mechanism, while the state is also planning to set up a Lagos State Tertiary Education Trust Fund, aimed at revolutionising the model for the funding of tertiary education in the country.
Sanwo-Olu affirmed that it was pertinent to create an independent funding channel for the state’s tertiary institutions, given the nature of disputes characterising the national university system, which had led to perennial strikes and closure of campuses across the country.
Students of the Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Science and Technology (BOUESTI), Ikere-Ekiti, are currently receiving lectures as the new university does not have a registered ASUU.
Sources in the school said there was no basis to go on strike because apart from not having ASUU, it is being funded by the state. “Everything in the school is being provided by the state government and unless you want us to join the national strike in solidarity, there is no need to close the school,” he said.
However, lecturers of the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti, have refused to resume despite the press release by the institution’s management – that all the newly admitted students for the 2021/2022 should resume on August 29 for screening, registration and orientation programme.
Kogi proscribes ASUU
Lecturers in the two state universities in Kogi State – Prince Abubakar Audu University (PAAU), Anyigba, and Confluence University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH), Osara – are not members of the ASUU and have continued with their academic activities.
Governor Yahaya Bello proscribed the union in the state-owned universities in a 2017 broadcast during a protracted crisis, which the then academic staff union in the Kogi State University, Anyigba had joined.
Since then, ASUU’s resolutions have not been binding on the two state universities; hence academic activities have been going on in the institutions uninterrupted.
When contacted, the authorities of the PAAU said the institution had no relationship with the ASUU; hence their programmes have been running without break.
In the same vein, Balogun Omeiza David, the head of the Public Relations Unit of CUSTECH, said ASUU strike had no effect on the institution’s academic exercise.
“We are almost finishing our second semester examinations. An advertisement for the intake of students for the 2022/2023 session is almost set,” he said.
Corroborating the above statement, the Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Evangelist Kinsley Fanwo, said Governor Bello pulled the state-owned universities from the ASUU because his administration would not toy with the future of the younger generation.
In Kaduna, the controversy between the state chapter of ASUU and the management of the Kaduna State University (KASU) has left students confused. The management of the university had in late July recalled students and immediately commenced examinations after a threat by Governor Nasir el-Rufai that he would sack lecturers who joined the strike action. However, the state chapter of the union had insisted that it would not supervise the exams and demanded its cancellation.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that with the recent outburst of the ASUU national president, Emmanuel Osodeke, describing some state-owned universities as quacks, the KASU took a swipe at the national body of the union, accusing it of enjoying monthly check-off dues from staff salaries, adding that the utterance of the national president should be a reason for every academic staff member to pull out from the union.
Since then, the ASUU chairman in the KASU, Dr Peter Adamu, has avoided comments, and several attempts by Daily Trust on Sunday to reach him were unsuccessful as he did not respond to calls by our correspondent.
However, the acting vice chancellor of the university, Professor Abdullahi Musa Ashafa, said ASUU members in KASU may think they were still on strike but the management had broken the action substantially as examinations had been written.
“In fact, most lecturers have resumed, their only problem is whether the government would pay them their outstanding funds or not. It is only the government that can say something about that, or at most, they should meet the Governing Council, which may intimate the government on whether or not it would pay.
“I am only calling on them to see a reason to resume and salvage the system, as well as save their jobs,” he said.
The ASUU in Akwa Ibom State University is not part of the ongoing indefinite strike declared by the national body of the union. Academic activities have been ongoing in the institution as manifested in the matriculation of new students last week.
However, when our correspondent spoke with one of the senior lecturers in the Department of Mass Communication on why the union was not part of the strike, he said the government was managing the situation.
The Akwa Ibom State University is reputed to have one of the best remunerations for lecturers among state universities in the country.
Also, the Ebonyi State University (EBSU) did not join the strike due to the factionalisation of the union in the institution, which is allegedly masterminded by the state government.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that institution did its matriculation in June and has been holding academic activities.
Situation dicey in Edo, Gombe, Kano, C/River, Benue
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the situation is dicey in Edo, Gombe, Kano and others.
While the management of some of the state-owned universities have called off the strike, the academic staff members have not yet resume work.
In Edo State for instance, there are no indications that the Ambrose Ali University (AAU), Ekpoma, is pulling out of the industrial strike.
The management of the AAU had earlier released a circular urging students and lecturers to resume academic session.
The state chapter of the union said they were still on strike and there was no circular from the union calling off the action.
The chairman of ASUU in the institution, Cyril Onogbosele, while speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday, said the union was still on strike and would not resume until there’s a circular to call it off.
In Gombe, it was learnt that the state university had asked lecturers to go back to work recently but it is not clear if the ASUU would agree.
Authorities at the University of Cross River (UNICROSS), formerly known as Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), said that life is gradually returning there as the non-academic staff are trickling into their offices.
However, academic activities are yet to resume as lecturers are in full compliance with the directive by the ASUU. It was learnt that ASUU members in the university met on Wednesday but declined the call to call off the strike.
Governor Samuel Ortom had during a recent interview with journalists in Makurdi, gave an ultimatum to lecturers at Benue State University (BSU) to return to the classroom or he would stop their salaries.
But the ASUU chapter in the school insists it is still on strike and will continue unless a contrary directive is issued from its national secretariat.
The chairman of the academic union in the university, Dr Tarnongu Kwaghfan, said they were determined to stay at home pending when all the issues that triggered the strike action are resolved with the federal government.
He, however, admitted that the state government was paying salaries of the striking lecturers in the state, up-to-date, but insisted that the union under his watch had no plan to pull out of the struggle.
In Kano, Daily Trust on Sunday observed that managerial activities are going on at both the Yusuf Maitama Sule University (YUMSUK) and the Kano University of Science and Technology (KUST), Wudil, but academic activities have been shut since ASUU strike commenced as the lecturers joined their counterparts in what they termed solidarity action.
The state government has, however, not reneged in the payment of their salaries despite the action of the lecturers.
The Kano zonal coordinator of the ASUU and an academic staff in KUST, who coordinates four state universities in Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa states, Abdulkadir Muhammad, said that so far, no university under his zone is planning or bold enough to return to academic activities.
“I am currently at the KUST, where management activities are going on but academic activities are not.
“A vice chancellor can decide to say that everybody should come back, but it doesn’t mean that academic activities will continue.
“They are all on ground going to their offices and doing their management activities, but there’s no academic activity going on. There’s no plan for that, pending a resolution from ASUU,” he said.
Contributions from Iniabasi Umo (Uyo), Raphael Ogbonnaiye (Ado-Ekiti), Usman A. Bello (Benin), Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri), Nabob Ogbonna (Abakiliki), Titus Eleweke (Awka), Eyo Charles (Calabar), Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos), Salim Umar Ibrahim (Kano), Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi), Tijani Labaran (Lokoja), Mohammed Yaba (Kaduna) & Umar Muhammed (Lafia)