DR ABUBAKAR ALKALI
It is a fact that the greatest threat to the survival of university education in Nigeria today is not the federal government but the academic staff union of universities (ASUU). Indeed, if ASUU can remain unmoved while innocent students who ordinarily should be on their studies are sitting idly at home for 9 months, then something is wrong with ASUU’s strikes. Shutting down universities every now and then is the greatest threat to university education in Nigeria. Even much more than a threat compared to under-funding which could be improved over time.
If ASUU is not ready to make concessions, shift ground and offer a middle approach so that the children of ordinary Nigerians can go back to their studies while ASUU’s demands are being considered by the federal government, then we all should have a rethink about any sympathy for ASUU’s perpetual strikes.
If ASUU will resist the IPPIS accounting system which is used to check corruption and multiple payments, then we need to ask ASUU questions about their hitherto claim to be at the forefront of the fight against corruption.
Why is ASUU not considering the interest of students who are caught up in the ASUU-FG unending fight? Yes, funding for education in Nigeria is not great in the annual budgets but ASUU strikes is certainly not the best method to achieve it. The legal method is better as it protects students because it leaves the universities open. In tangible terms, in what manner has the 32- year old ASUU strikes improved the university system? If anything, any improvements in the ivory towers could have happened normally without ASUU strikes.
Clearly, the ASUU strike which has been lingering for 32 years now and counting, needs some long-lasting solutions not short-term contraptions. There is no problem with strikes if they include a trade-off and compromises taking into account the public good not only the good of the members.
The fact of the matter is that ASUU is fighting for better salary and allowances under the camouflage of ‘improved university funding’ FULL STOP
If ASUU should suspend its strike today, it is because salary arrears are coming in not because any laboratory has been upgraded. Otherwise, ASUU can continue its strike until contractors are sent in and have completed fixing all laboratories, lecture halls, student hostels etc in Nigerian universities.
The federal government is the employer so it should specify the terms and conditions under which it wants it’s employees (ASUU) to work, not the other way round. If you employ someone, you should dictate the tune based on the employee’s terms of contract which he/she has accepted through the acceptance letter they signed.
ASUU is saying that they are on strike to press the government to increase its funding on university education albeit many people no longer believe them.
The majority of Nigerians now think ASUU strikes are about improved salary package, not any university upgrade. This view holds some water when juxtaposed with the fact that ASUU only talks about a generalized slogan of ‘improving the university system’ without specifying any baselines or benchmarks. There is no irreducible minimums in ASUU’s demands for ‘improved university infrastructure’. If ASUU is fighting for increased university funding, where is the increased funding going to? Is it to the laboratories or arrears of salaries? These are posers that need looking at.
To find a lasting solution to the lingering ASUU strike, the following measures are recommended:
Serving lecturers should be given priority in the new recruitment exercise.
As this article is being prepared, news filtered out that the federal government has pledged N35 billion as a ‘revitalization fund’ to get ASUU back to the classrooms. Well, it is good that the federal government is shifting grounds, unlike ASUU. However, the federal government should remember that ASUU will always come back for more money. Voting N35 billion will only be a temporary respite, it will not solve the problem. It is like cutting the tree from the top and leaving out the roots.
By the way, the resumption of classes in the universities should be based on strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols. No classes should resume until the appropriate arrangements are made such as provisions for physical distancing, surplus hand sanitizers and face masks etc.
Based on the current scenario, one will be tempted to ask:
Initially, ASUU said they are on strike for what they called ‘revitalizing infrastructure’ in Nigerian universities. Little did anyone know that ASUU is actually fighting for ‘stomach infrastructure’ N.O.T university infrastructure. One can easily see the link between ASUU’s demands and stomach infrastructure when the ASUU zonal Coordinator Calabar zone Dr. Aniekan Brown said:
‘ASUU cannot go back to class on empty stomach’
Why didn’t he say ‘ASUU cannot go back to the classroom until the laboratories are fixed with the right equipment?
This time for ASUU, it is empty stomach N.O.T empty laboratories.
Most of the N35 billion released by the federal government to ASUU will go to payment of salary arrears, not any university revitalization.
ASUU parades itself in the history of the global labor movement as the only employee that tells its employer the terms of its employment including when and how it should be paid its salary and allowances.
Indeed ASUU deserves a place in the Guinness book of records as the only employee who issues orders to its employer.
What a lucky ASUU in a country with a short supply of patriotic and courageous leaders? Which employer will allow its employee to dictate the terms of employment after receiving their offer of employment and signing the acceptance of the offer?
ASUU said IPPIS is a fraud. This same system (IPPIS) is used by the federal government in salary payment for ALL its civil servants. Are we saying that the federal civil servants under IPPIS do not know what they are doing? ASUU has now brought what they called UTAS to replace IPPIS. What is wrong with IPPIS that checks multiple Jobs and repetitive salary payments?
ASUU can continue its endless strike to press for a better salary or even get a Professor to catch up with the jumbo salary of a Nigerian senator. The students will eventually win this fight.
Is ASUU really fighting for an improved university system or better salary and allowances for its members?
Why is ASUU mulling to call off its strike now after N35 billion has been injected? Has the infrastructure in the universities improved? Is there equipment in the laboratories? Are the lecture halls and student hostels fixed? OR is there going to be payment of salary arrears for ASUU?
Without a doubt, innocent students will eventually triumph after all the games.
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