Education

Mixed reactions as ASUU extends strike

By Faith Igbudu

It’s been mixed reactions from Nigerians since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) turned its six months old strike to an indefinite one.

Recall that on August 29, 2022, the union extended the ongoing strike action indefinitely as fresh disagreement ensued with the federal government over “no work, no pay.”

The union had in an official statement signed by its president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, announced that the indefinite industrial action will end when the government fulfils all its demands.

The memo which was titled; “ASUU strikes are to save public universities” stated that National Working Committee observed with regret that the union had experienced a lot of deceit of the highest level in the last five and half years as the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) engaged ASUU in fruitless and unending negotiation without a display of utmost fidelity.

The statement also saw the union querying the loyalty of some vice chancellors and chairpersons of governing councils of state universities of state universities, who the union said have evolved disingenuous underhand tactics to undermine the current ASUU struggle in their various universities but have benefitted immernsely fromTertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) which ASUU struggles of the 1980s and 1990s brought to life.

While empathizing with the students, their parents, as well as other stakeholders in the universities. ASUU reaffirmed its belief in the sanctity of a stable academic system saying “were it within our control, our universities would never have been shut for one day!”

ASUU in the memo cried out “we are all victims. We need the understanding, solidarity and sacrifices of all to ensure that every qualified Nigerian youth who cannot afford the cost of private university education or foreign studies has unhindered access to quality university education.

However, some Nigerians are of the school of thought that ASUU is being unreasonable, selfish and going overboard. They feel ASUU is not frustrating FG as it supposes but Nigerian students and parents.

According to Michael Benjamin, a businessman in Benue State, if ASUU is pressing for their six months salaries, who pays for wasted time of the students?

His words: “This government cannot solve all ASUU’s issues hence they should approach this their struggle with human face. After six months at home, what ASUU is now pressing for is their salaries, nobody is caring for the students.

“If federal government has met up to 70% of their demands, they should resume and negotiations can still continue. Now who will push for the students who have been at home?

“If the strike approach is no longer giving the desired results, the union should try something else. For instance, there are things that the federal government also demands of ASUU, like elections, they can boycott it. Yes, no ASUU staff should serve as a returning officer.

“We are not looking at students, since this strike, many students have taken into crime, many have gone into prostitution, many have died carelessly, many are frustrated, many are into banditory or have been kidnapped by bandits. Now the crux is the demand by ASUU for the payment of the backlog of the six months of strike, what then happens to the students? Mind you, the working age or service age is time bound, who pays for their time?”

In a comment on Facebook, Ekere Monday said, “ASUU can kill students academic morals, they can never be satisfied, even if you give them the entire educational budget for the year, they will still go on strike. My advice for undergraduates is that, use this time to learn something that will better your life.”

While others think the federal government has failed in supporting tertiary education in the country. They urged the federal government to meet all the demands of the union for there to be peaceful resolution of the crises. They accused the federal government of wanting to kill ASUU.

A barrister, Afeez Useni was of the opinion that the implications of the no work no pay policy is huge and will largely affect the Nigerian student. Meanwhile, billions are been spent and embezzled on a daily basis. “The federal government should give ASUU it’s due as this is a fight that FG will not win,” he added.

Another businessman and youth leader, Christopher Eche, expressing his opinion on the matter said “the federal government should not apply the no work no pay policy now.

According to him, these lecturers have families and relations who are dependent on them. That policy will frustrate them and by extension the Nigerian student, that will cause more chaos in the society.

However, another group feels that both the federal government and ASUU are to blame.

A computer expert, Sylvanus Chia, said “both the federal government and ASUU is to blame in the ongoing university strike. Government is a continuity, so this government would have gone ahead to honour the 2009 agreement entered into with ASUU. However, government doesn’t really have money as it should, at least that has been its excuse and expectedly, ASUU would have understood with them and sought other options.”

“Apart from that, this agreement with ASUU was signed long before this administration, why is ASUU making it look as if this is the government that signed the agreement? The whole thing is politics. ASUU members are the ones who act as returning officers during elections, why didn’t they express their grievance long before now. Elsewhere in developed countries, universities don’t rely on the government for funding,” he added.

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