Students threaten showdown as ASUU extends strike by 3 months | Dailytrust

Students threaten showdown as ASUU extends strike by 3 months

The announcement by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on extension of its ongoing strike by three months has generated a lot of outburst from students, parents and stakeholders.

ASUU president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, who announced the extension, said the union resolved to give the government enough time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues.

“After extensive deliberations, noting government’s failure to live up to its responsibilities and speedily address all the issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoU) within the additional eight-week roll–over strike period declared on March 14, 2022, NEC resolved that the strike be rolled over for 12 weeks to give government more time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues.”

He said the roll-over strike is with effect from 12.01 a.m. on Monday, May 9th, 2022.

The ongoing ASUU strike started on February 14, 2022, with a four-week warning to the federal government to reach a common ground on the demands of the union, and following the expiration of the initial four weeks of the warning strike, the union had gone ahead to declare another eight weeks after the government failed to attend to its needs.

With another 12 weeks extension of the strike, which is three months, this will likely bring to 13 months of students being at home from 2020 to 2022.

In 2020, ASUU went on a 9-month strike. In February, they went for four weeks and two months between March and May and now to go for three more months starting on May 9, 2022.

Speaking at a press briefing on Monday in Abuja, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, said ASUU had breached some rules and guidelines in the labour laws.

Ngige said the lecturers are duty-bound to respect the principle of allowing his ministry as a conciliator for the dispute to be settled under a peaceful atmosphere, rather than the force of strikes.

“When they have issues with their employer in the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Education has an Industrial Dispute unit, and to even help them, we have what is called a Labour Advisory Desk in ministries of education, health and others.

“So, the Labour Desk there advises them on how to handle such issues. But when they fail, the unions will write here and inform us. The process is that whenever ASUU has a problem with the Federal Ministry of Education, which is their direct employer, the ministry will have to try to resolve it using its internal dispute resolution mechanisms.

“When there is a breakdown in negotiations and I apprehend the dispute on my table, and the workers refuse to go back to their work while discussions are ongoing, it is a breach of the labour law.

“Because I am an arbiter and I am a conciliator. I put the employers on the right side and the employees on the left side here. That is how we have been doing it,” he said.

Speaking on the implication of prolonged strike in the public universities, a professor at University of Abuja, Ben Ugwoke, said  it will impact on the time of graduation of students,  academic learning depth and quality of graduates and the world rating or ranking of Nigerian universities.

He added that the employability and age requirements by employers and scholarship funders of graduates will also be affected.

Many students have expressed anger on the extension, saying it is a threat to their future.

A 200-level student of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Catherine Cheta, said the decision to extend the strike is abnormal and crazy.

“I don’t know what joy they derive from extending the strike. I mean why would they keep us at home for six months. The federal government should settle them. Politicians are busy buying presidential forms worth N100 million like they’re buying biscuits. This thing could be settled but they chose to punish us, leaders of tomorrow.

“I’m deeply embarrassed and sad because the federal government doesn’t care about education anymore. I’m not doing anything at home; to learn a trade you’d have to pay and there’s no money. In fact I’m looking for another school.”

For Chibuzor Azubuike of UniAbuja, the news of the extended strike left him doleful, “as I was undoubtedly expecting a positive outcome, having read that the president has approved the disbursement of funds to the universities.

“It is safe to say the leaders of our great nation and professors in charge of our educational system have failed us. They have both been inefficacious in coming up with a remarkable solution to end this ever recurring problem that threatens the future of the youth and students of the nation.

“In all sincerity, I urge both parties to be reasonable, and to come into a productive agreement that will not just favour the parties involved, but also the Nigerian students whose fate and time are being played with,” he said.

As a parent, Jude Okafor who expressed his disappointment over the extension said: “This strike issue is preposterous. It’s a sad reality of how governance in Nigeria has degenerated.”

For Mrs Jude Samuel, this is an indication that our education is in jeopardy.

“The government and ASUU have failed to see that they are pushing our children to doom. A lot of parents have lost control of their wards’ movement because they have nothing to do,” she said.

Reacting, the President of NANS, Sunday Asefon, said the three months extension of the strike is totally condemned.

He said the failure of the government to reach agreement with ASUU underscores their lack of concern and empathy to the plight of the common people who couldn’t afford private tertiary institutions.

He said the leadership of NANS has declared National Action from tomorrow, May 10, tagged “Operation Test Run” to be held in all the 36 states of the federation.

He said: “Federal roads across the 36 states shall be occupied for a minimum of three hours. The Operation shall be a precursor to a total shutdown that will be decided during our Senate meeting/pre-convention on May 14, 2022.

“Our decision from the pre-convention shall be binding. The action shall be total as the extension of the ASUU strike is a direct declaration of war by the federal government against university students in Nigeria.

“Our proposal to congress on the 14th shall be total blockage of the airport roads across the country and total disruption of political party primaries, blockage of the National Assembly until they are committed to passing legislation banning public office holders from sending their children to universities abroad.’’

While warning divisive elements or paid agents of government to stay clear of “our actions as the consequences shall be severe. The students called on NLC, TUC and civil society organisations to join them to salvage the remaining crackers of public tertiary education in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, a retired permanent secretary at Federal Ministry of Education, Dr MacJohn Nwaobiala, described the incessant strike as unfortunate because of the impact it is having on the students.

“Our children are just roaming about doing nothing and this has dire implications in years to come, hence let’s prioritise these issues and tackle them one by one.

“It also has implications whereby a student that is supposed to do a 4-year course will spend 6 – 7 years. The educational system has been locked for many months. There is deterioration of equipment and in many cases, the lecturers get themselves involved in other things like consultancy and other kinds of contract, and when they make more money, teaching becomes unattractive to them,” he said.

He advised the committee that has been set up to strategically meet with ASUU and that the government should collapse all agreements into one. “How can you be talking about the agreement of 2009? Between 2009 and now, a lot of years have gone by. It’s an issue of give and take; the government should come out and be sincere.

“One problem we have is if ASUU calls off the strike now, there are things to be done but the government would go to sleep until when ASUU threatens again. There should be constant dialogue between the government and ASUU. Government should come out to ASUU to discuss what is possible. They are Nigerians, they are aware of the economy and they know how difficult things are,” he added.

The former permanent secretary, who also had to deal with the challenge of strike during his tenure, noted that the then Vice President Namadi Sambo intervened and after his intervention, “we convinced President Jonathan that there was a need for us and him to meet directly with ASUU.

“We had a 13-hour meeting in the villa and at the end of that meeting, an agreement was reached which resulted in the calling off of that strike.”

Nwaobiala  maintained that some kind of truce should be reached and ASUU should not continuously dig in and say they wouldn’t shift grounds, as there  would be areas that might be regarded as low hanging fruits, which could be harnessed and then maybe the issues could be prioritised and put in order of priority.

“I don’t see why the government and ASUU cannot reach an agreement about the payment system. Teaching in the university is a great sacrifice and it should not be toiled with, therefore the government and ASUU should be able to reach a truce.”

While noting that the National Assembly should also intervene seriously and the MoUs should be collapsed and then come up with a streamlined agreement, he said the government could reach out to retirees with great experience and resourcefulness, to involve them during negotiations.

He also urged the government to have a master plan to finance education in the country as it is very important.

By Chidimma C. Okeke , Daniel Dada & Idowu Isamotu

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