The announcement of industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) no longer shocks Nigerian, owing to the fact that it has become a recurring incident.
The present edition of the strike action began on November 14 and according to Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU president, it is “indefinite and comprehensive”.
According to data made available by the National University Commission (NUC), Nigeria has 43 federal universities, 47 state universities and 75 private universities.
The 2017 Universities’ Statistical Digest confirms that there are 1.9 million students in Nigerian universities.
Checks by TheCable CamPulse showed that the union has gone on strike not less than 15 times since 1999 when Nigeria moved to democratic rule and in total, the strike actions have lasted for 37 months, a little over three years.
Here is a timeline of the strikes since 1999:
- 1999 – 150 days
- 2001 – 90 days
- 2002 – 14 days.
- 2003 – 180 days (ended in 2004)
- 2005 -3 days
- 2006- 7 days
- 2007 – 90 days
- 2008 -7 days
- 2009- 120 days
- 2010- 157 days
- 2011—90 days, started in December and ended in 2012
- 2013- 150 days and seventeen days
- 2014- None
- 2016- 7 days
- 2017- 35 days
- 2018- 19 days and counting
What is the bone of contention?
To improve the state of education in the country, the federal government signed a memorandum of understanding with the union in 2009 and signed another in 2013.
The 2013 MoU stipulated that public varsities would need the sum of N1.3 trillion for a modest revitalisation.
The fund was to be paid in tranches of N20 billion in 2013 and N220 billion between 2014 and 2018. The five-year arrangement has not been implemented to date.
Some of the demands been made by ASUU are funding for revitalisation of public universities, the release of the forensic audit report on earned academic allowances (EAA), payments of all arrears of shortfall in salaries to all universities that have met the verification requirements of the presidential initiative on continuum audit (PICA) , release of university pension fund operational.
ASUU: If not for strikes, Nigerian educational sector would have collapsed
In an interview with TheCable CamPulse, Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU chairman, said the strike action has helped the educational sector.
He said: “You need to look so far over years what the strike has achieved for the Nigerian education sector and compare it to what is happening in other sub-sectors of the educational system. If not for ASUU, the public universities, in fact, public tertiary education would have collapsed totally beyond recovery.
“So you can best appreciate that when you compare and contrast what is happening as a result of ASUU struggle and what is not happening as a result of lack of struggle at the level of primary and secondary education of the country.”
According to Ogunyemi, Nigerians should be grateful for the strike actions because politicians have shown little concern for public education.
“They are not concerned with the plight of the poor. All you see now is how to fit their children into positions of advantage to the disadvantage of the children of the poor,” he said.
“The best way to do it is to ensure that their children receive the best of education while the children of the poor are subjected to substandard and low-quality education.
“NUT cannot do what ASUU is doing now because the government will seize their salary, they have underpaid them, they have not given them the right to ventilate their anger. And because of that, they have become disillusioned in places where they are working.
“You will even see primary school teachers who cannot see take their own children to the school they are teaching. I’m saying these just to illustrate the fact that public primary and public secondary education system have been collapsed. If not for ASUU the same would have happened.
“So Nigerians should actually be thanking ASUU, for the wake-up calls we always give the Nigerian government.
“And let me tell you as far back as 1992, each time we went for an action, we refer government to inject funds so that public universities will not go on the same place with primary and secondary schools. In 1992, it’s as a result of ASUU struggle that government introduced TETFUND.
“TETFUND today is the only source of providing infrastructural amenities in Nigerian Universities. So people who are ignorant are the ones saying we are destroying calendar.”
Additional reporting by Uthman Samad.
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