IT is certain that very little education would be going on in the universities for some time to come. Whenever the strike is off, the Academic Staff Union ofÂ Universities, ASUU, would return to conduct examinations on things its members did not teach, or which the students have forgotten.
Nobody really bothers about these things. In the past 20 years, education at that level has been more an issue of completing the years and not necessarily the curriculum. In many universities abroad, graduates from Nigerian schools (except the private ones that run without interruptions) are subjected to series of degrading tests to determine their suitability for the grades that they parade.
ASUU has tried various ways to impress it on Nigerians that their wages are miserable. They have finally decided to compare their wages with local government councillors, the lowest rung in the cadre of elected political officers. A councilor reportedly earns N1.29 million monthly, for the professor it is N321, 000. A senator earns N3 million monthly to a vice chancellorâ€™s N1.8 million.
Even ASUU would admit that this line of argument would not get it very far. We agree that the government should pay ASUU its dues. Politicians who have wriggled themselves into power award themselves pays they believe reflect their enterprise. Lecturing is almost risk free, if we discount the occasional activities of cultists. The wages could also be governmentâ€™s statement on the unimportance of education.
The Federal Government after walking out on the negotiations at the final stages has resorted to familiar subterfuge, including the ridiculous claim that it should not negotiate pay of universities, some of which belong to States.
Nigerians saw the same rigmarole with the primary school teachers last year. It took some nudging for government to grudgingly obey the Constitution. Labour is under the exclusive legislative list of the 1999 Constitution, meaning only the Federal Government can make laws on it.
Second Schedule, Legislative Powers, Part I, Item 34 states, â€œLabour, including trade unions, industrial relations; conditions, safety and welfare of labour; industrial disputes, prescribing a national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereof, and industrial arbitrationsâ€, areÂ under the imprimatur of the Federal Government.
Where does the Constitution give the authorities of the various universities the right to negotiate wages? Can States prescribe wages when the Federal Government has to set â€œa national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereofâ€? Has the Federal Government amended the Constitution to award other authorities powers to prescribe wages?
The important thing about this strike is that it has to end. The compromised standards of education are doing lots of damage to this society which government, if it cares about the people should tackle rather than resorting to lies, including ones that flagrantly fly in the face of constitutional provisions.
It is unlikely the young people whose future this strike suspends would be interested in who earns what and who has powers to do nothing.