UNLESS sanity prevails, the nation might be plunged into another round of strikes by university staff unions, the second this year.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, after waiting in vain for nine months for the Federal Government to fulfill its agreements with the Union, has served a three-week strike notice.
Also, the Joint Action Committee, JAC, of the Non-Academic Staff Unions of the Educational and Associated Unions, NASU, and Senior Staff Associations of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, are up in arms over the sharing formula of allowances released by the Federal Government. JAC’S grouse is that of the N22.12bn released for the allowances, ASUU was allegedly given 75 per cent, while other unions of NASU and SSANU got only 25 per cent. Theirs is a call for equity.
The series of ASUU strikes over the failure of the Federal Government to fulfill its part of the Memoranda of Understanding (and Action) dates back to more than ten years across three regimes.
The last strike, which was called in March 2020 lasted for nine months and was called off when the Federal Government agreed to allow ASUU members receive their salaries through their home-grown University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS, software instead of the Federal Government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS.
ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, while announcing the latest ultimatum, said government has again failed to honour the agreement it signed.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has, however, assured Nigerians that “the strike will not happen, funds are available”.
Apart from the call for payment of the earned allowances of its members, ASUU is holding government to its agreement to release agreed funds for the physical revitalisation of our tertiary institutions.
Our question for Ngige is: if the funds are indeed available, why delay the deployment of it? Why do the Federal and state governments relegate the importance of social services like education and health which are government’s direct obligations to the people, especially the common people?
Why has the Federal Government allowed the acrimony between ASUU and NASU/SSANU to fester? Can’t we copy what other more advanced countries are doing to maintain industrial harmony among all labour interest groups in our tertiary institutions?
The inability or unwillingness of the Federal Government to fulfil its signed MOUs must stop. Any serious and people-oriented government that gives education its pride of place will end strikes in the educational sector.
These public institutions are the avenues through which children of the masses acquire the capacity to escape illiteracy, poverty and destitution. It is wicked and unacceptable to tolerate the instability that the frequent strikes impose on our universities.
The ASUU, NASU and SSANU strikes must be nipped in the bud.