By Dayo Adesulu
In what appears to be a total shut-down of our tertiary education, some stakeholders are calling for a declaration of state of emergency in the sector as Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, are presently on strike and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, is warming up for a shut-down, after their three days warning protest elapsed yesterday (Wednesday).
Today makes it 46 days that university teachers in public universities have boycotted the classroom over Federal Government’s refusal to honour the agreement it reached with the union in 2009 and 2017.
Since November 4 when ASUU commenced the strike, the duo had held six different unsuccessful reconcillatory meetings. On Monday this week in Abuja, ASUU delegations apparently walked out on the Federal Government representatives when it was clear to them that government was not serious with their promises. As it stands, there is no fixed date for the next meeting. The present situation has left the fate of our teeming youths seeking admission and the undergraduates hanging in the balance.
Similarly, in the Polytechnics, ASUP, after several warning strikes, on December 12, embarked on an indefinite strike over Federal Government’s refusal to implement the agreement it had with the union.
Sad enough, in a meeting held on Monday between the Union and the Federal Government, no resolution was reached, as the meeting was postponed till January 10, 2019.
Speaking with Vanguard, ASUP President, Mr Usman Dutse said: “We are still having another meeting on January 10, the strike still continues.’’
He said: “We have the issue of NEEDS Assessment, we have the issue of CONTISS 15 arrears, we have the issue of the Scheme of Service, and the issue of non- payment of salaries in state- owned institutions, and then we have the issue of victimised members. So these are the major issues.
He said the union had no regrets embarking on strike the same time with their university counterparts, saying: “The issue of being the right time depends on the environment you find yourself.
“They have their issues and we have ours. And because ASUU is on strike doesn’t mean we can’t go on our own. These are two different things.
“If you are following the trend, you will see that we have had several engagements with the government and they have made several appeals and so now, we have decided to embark on strike. So, it depends on the environment.”
Meanwhile, SSANU President, Dr Samson Ugwoke who spoke to Vanguard said that the Union workers are not on strike as some people think.
He said: ‘’Workers are not on strike as some people think, we are only protesting for three days, Monday to Wednesday of this week in all the branches of the universities.
‘’We are protesting to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the outstanding issues in the agreement and the MoU it signed with the union.”
Pointing out some of the union’s grievances, Ugwoke said: ‘’We have our members in the staff schools who were disengaged for two to three years now. Some of them are being subjected to inhuman treatment of unbearable and unacceptable conditions of service as initial employees of the university.
‘’They were employed by the Council just like any other person, but now, their condition of service has been changed without recourse to the university law which is wrong.
‘’They chased them out of job overnight because of a mere circular, saying if you are not taking this salary, don’t work.
‘’The matter was taken to Industrial Court of Nigeria in Abuja by the Ministry of Labour, it was clearly stated that if it is the council that employs, it means the same thing as the government.
“The clear decision of that judgement which we got on 5th December 2016, has never been implemented by the Federal Government and these people remain outside their work place till now.
“The other reason for our protest is our earning allowances which is part of the 2009 agreement, the outstanding has been very commercial, Federal Government has been paying peanuts. The little N8 billion given to us has been disbursed and government is telling us to decide how to share it. Union does not employ or share money, it is the government that employs.
‘’The Federal Government has called for another meeting on Thursday at the National Universities Commission and we are meeting by 10:00am. When we hear them on Thursday, we will know the next line of action.’’