Nigeria: After 199 Days of Industrial Action – ASUU Loses Ground As More State Varsities Pull Out of Strike

Even as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday stuck to its ground and indefinitely extended the already six-month industrial action, its position has been weakened by more state-owned universities pulling out of the strike and calling staff and students back to school.

More Varsities Opt Out Of ASUU Over Lingering Strike

A number of universities who had joined the ongoing strike embarked upon by ASUU are gradually pulling out.

Some of them include Kaduna State University (KASU), which broke out of Union through a memo released by the management of the institution.

Other state-owned universities in Nigeria where ASUU members have refused to join the nationwide strike include Kwara State University, Osun State University, Lagos State University, and Ambrose Alli University in Edo State, among others.

It is also gathered that the management of the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado Ekiti, has also reopened the institution for academic activities, in defiance of the ongoing strike ASUU.

The management had directed the students to resume academic activities yesterday.

The EKSU chapter of ASUU had joined the six-month-old strike following the demand by the union for the adequate funding of the universities and implementation of other reforms contained in an earlier agreement with the federal government.

In Kogi state, Governor Yahaya Bello had proscribed ASUU for its refusal to recognise his administration’s accepting to meet almost 90% of their demands.

Bello declared all activities of ASUU in the university illegal from 19th July, 2017.

Meanwhile, a lecturer at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, Prof Mohammed Aliyu-Paiko, has withdrawn his membership from ASUU.

In an open letter addressed to the ASUU national president, Prof. Emmanuel Osedoke, through its branch chairman, Mr Paiko said his decision followed an “irresponsible and inexcusable” tagging of state universities as quacks and irrelevant.

According to him, Prof Osedeke’s outburst is not only a negative point but the height of irresponsible leadership, as has been asserted by many others, publicly and privately.

He added that the reluctance of the president to retract his statement despite protest had made it obvious that the union no longer represents his interests.

He wrote: “To say that the ASUU President overreached himself by succumbing to pressure and engaging in professional misconduct by using vulgar language on other members is an understatement…

“Despite all the negative press that his uncouth outburst has generated, Prof. Osedeke chooses to shift the blame to the journalists who interviewed him, instead of taking responsibility and offering apologies, to regain the confidence of those members who felt slighted by his provocative insults.

“This demonstrates to me the failure of leadership and the peak of insensitivity by someone elected to pilot the affairs of our Great Union. I have thus lost confidence in his leadership.

“Sadly, and more pertinently, the IBBUL branch Chairman’s responses to the call for Osedeke to apologise has been greeted by equally irresponsible opinion, suggesting that he shares in Osedeke’s gaffes and does not see anything wrong with them. This is a clear breach of the popular ASUU mantra “an injury to one, is an injury to all.

“Therefore, having considered these events carefully, it has become obvious to me that ASUU as presently constructed, under the leadership of Prof Osedeke at the national and Mr Kudu Dangana at IBBUL no longer represent for me platform where my grievances may be pursued genuinely,” he added.

Meanwhile, some lecturers from state-owned universities are considering breaking away from ASUU to form a new union.

A lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), who disclosed this to LEADERSHIP on condition of anonymity yesterday, said the lecturers are considering forming the new union to restore stability to the Nigerian university system.

According to him, “There is no way we can have a standard education with the present scheme of things. We need a stable academic calendar. We need to be able to predict the academic session. The students too cannot do well under such learning conditions. Though we are still part of ASUU, we are considering forming another union.

“Of course, LASU is not on strike. We are not part of the ongoing strike. We will approach the matter of engagement with all stakeholders in an engaging manner to have a common ground for moving forward in this matter.”

However, the chairman of ASUU in Niger State-owned IBB University, Lapai, Dr Kudu Dagana said the branch will neither pull out of the national body nor the strike.

He said the national president gave satisfactory explanation about his statement on state universities to the extent that he was referring to those that pulled out of the strike.

On the lecturer of the university, Professor Paiko, who announced his withdrawal as member of the union, he said by the position of the lecturer who is the vice chancellor, Academic, of the university, he was not an active member of ASUU and his position did not represent the entire members of the union in the school.

The Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State-owned Universities (COPSUN) has criticised the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, for referring to some state-owned universities in the country as quacks.

The ASUU president, while speaking on a television programme on Arise on 26th August, had said that state universities are “irrelevant and quacks.”

But reacting in a press statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, the pro-chancellors said the statement is insulting, contemptuous and unbecoming for the president of ASUU to say that these revered individuals were presiding over quack and inconsequential universities.

The secretary of the committee, Marcus Awobifa, also pointed out that state universities cannot be forced to implement agreements reached between the federal government and her workers in the universities to which they are not parties.

The committee also condemned ASUU’s unpopular approach to the issue of funding of tertiary education in a modern globalised world, describing it as ‘archaic, antiquated and impracticable.’

The statement reads in parts, “It is our belief that the president of ASUU does not realise that his loquacious vituperation and obsolete stalinist, centralised, unpopular approach to the issue of funding of tertiary education in a modern globalised world is archaic, antiquated and impracticable anywhere in the world.

“COPSUN believes that this is an auspicious time for ASUU to creatively work with all stakeholders to tinker out a compromise that will bring back to the campuses the young men and women who have been insensitively thrown out of the universities for the last six months.

“COPSUN wishes to appeal to the president of ASUU to realise that the membership of ASUU is voluntary. Therefore, it is not his ill-informed approach and denigration of state universities that will lead to fashioning out creative approaches to avoid existential extinction that will solve the myriad of problems confronting the University system in Nigeria.

COPSUN held that the unions are not superior to the councils of the universities that are their employers.

It also called for the “immediate democratisation of the membership of unions in the universities to the extent of the freedom of any individual to belong to a union with options of not belonging.”

COPSUN also advocated the devolution of powers on the issues of labour, wages and salaries with freedom of the employers to negotiate with their employees, as it is practised in other parts of the world.

It added that state universities cannot be forced to implement agreements reached between the federal government and her workers in the universities to which they are not parties.

“It is time to respect the federal nature of our government in all matters and not selectively, especially on the issues of salaries and wages,” it said.

We’re Not Aware of New Association For State Varsity Lecturers’

Lecturers of the two Rivers State-owned universities, the Rivers State University and the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, have said they are not aware of the formation of a new association for lecturers of state universities.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP on the condition of anonymity, one of the lecturers said even if such an idea is in the offing, lecturers in the state were yet to be notified.

In Edo State, the state-owned ivory tower, Ambrose Alli University, AAU, Ekpoma , Edo State, an ASUU source, when contacted, dismissed as ‘rubbish and false’ reports that lecturers have pulled out from ASUU to form their own union.

“This is not true. It is absolute rubbish and false. It is still the same divide and rule tactics and it won’t work. Please ignore them. It is not true”.

We’ve Met Over 80% Of ASUU’s Demands, Says FG

Meanwhile, the federal government has condemned the decision of the ASUU to extend strike, saying it has met over 80% of the Union’s demands.

The extension of the strike by ASUU was confirmed yesterday.

Sources confirmed to LEADERSHIP that the lecturers have extended the strike after accusing the federal government of failure to live up to its terms in the renegotiated 2009 agreement it signed with it.

The action of ASUU came after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting which took place at its University of Abuja Secretariat.

As of the time of writing this report, a source told our correspondent that the Union will address the press through its president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke.

However, the director of Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, government, Bem Goong, said the government had met over 80% of ASUU’s demands.

He said, “If you bring some demands and almost 80% has been attended to, there is no need to drag the strike anymore.

“It is unreasonable for the strike to be lingering since the government has worked towards fulfilling most of the demands.”

Goong also said the federal government had deployed all measures to end the strike.

“As regards the next steps, the government has already inaugurated a committee to harmonise the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS, and the University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System,U3PS.

“This will ensure that the government will pay with only one payment platform that will harmonise all the technical peculiarities.”

Lawyer Demands Compensation For Students

As the ASUU-federal government impasse remains unresolved, Barr. Bello Galadi, a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Gusau Branch, has urged the federal government should consider compensating the students for their frustrations and disappointments by paying their registration fees for the next academic session.

Galadi, who expressed his disappointment that the strike was extended after ASUU NEC meeting held in Abuja yesterday, blamed the prolonged impasse on FG’s failure to implement the 2009 ASUU/FG Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, that triggered the strike action.

In an exclusive chat with LEADERSHIP, the lawyer said, “From 1999 to date, ASUU has embarked on strikes 16 times. That affected approximately 2, 000 academic days of the Nigerian students, disrupted 16 academic calendars and negatively affected the quality of our education.

“ASUU’s claims centred on infrastructural upgrade and improved condition of service. The federal government of Nigeria should initiate the process of the amendment of the Labour Act, Cap. 198, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria as well as the Trade Disputes Act to address ASUU’s incessant strikes and save the future of education in Nigeria.

“If ASUU is offended by the failure of the FG to implement the 2009 MoU, I think, instead of embarking on strike action, ASUU should have considered approaching the court of law to compel the government to respect the agreement.”

According to him, there are other options available to ASUU. Under Sections 38, 39 and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended), ASUU can hold peaceful protests to register their grievances and communicate to the government and international community.

“Another option for the ASUU is to renegotiate the MoU with the government,” he said.

ASUU Declares Indefinite Strike

ASUU has declared an indefinite strike after 199 days.

Its president, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, who made the announcement in a press statement released last night, said the decision was to save public universities in country.

He said the decision was taken by the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of ASUU, which ended earlier Monday morning.

The NEC meeting, which involved principal officers, zonal coordinators and branch chairmen, decided to declare a total, comprehensive and indefinite strike.

He said, “For the avoidance of doubt, however, none of the issues that forced our Union to resume the suspended strike as listed in the December 2020 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) has been satisfactorily addressed by the Government to date. The draft renegotiated FGN-ASUU Agreement (second draft) remains unsigned; the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) has not been adopted and deployed to replace the discredited Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS); and the White Papers on Visitation Panels to Federal Universities, if ready as claimed by Government more than six months ago, are nowhere to be found.

“Similarly, Government has not delivered on the promised balance of one tranche of the Revitalization Fund more than one year after, the outstanding two tranches of the Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) have not been released; and nothing has since happened on the promised support for amendment to the Law of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to stem the tide of proliferation of universities especially by the State Governments.

“After three years of fruitless negotiation, Dr. Babalakin was replaced in December 2020 with Professor Emeritus Munzali Jibril. The Renegotiation Committee produced and submitted a draft agreement to the Federal Government in May, 2021. It is sad that, until 14th February, 2022 when the ongoing strike commenced, the Federal Government made no significant efforts to either sign the agreement or commence implementation.

“ASUU NEC noted with pains, its concerns for Nigerian students who are also our wards and foster children and condemned Government’s seeming indifference to their plights. The Union empathizes with the students, their parents, as well as other stakeholders (including our colleagues who are undertaking their higher degrees) in the universities. ASUU reaffirms its belief in the sanctity of a stable academic system.

“Were it within our control, our universities would never have been shut for one day! However, ASUU was forced into taking this painful decision to prevent members of the Nigerian Children from the ruling class and their foreign collaborators from further destroying whatever is left of our public universities. We are all victims. We need the understanding, solidarity and sacrifices of all to ensure that every qualified Nigerian youth who cannot afford the cost of private university education or foreign studies has unhindered access to quality university education. “

. “ASUU strikes are aimed at saving public education, and ensuring that Governments (Federal and State) use our common patrimony to support quality public university education. This is our collective obligation.

“NEC acknowledged with appreciation past and current efforts by eminent Nigerians and groups to mediate in the lingering crisis. Our Union remains open to reasonable engagements as we have always done. However, ASUU remains focused on the full implementation of the 23rd December, 2020 Memorandum of Action for quick restoration of industrial harmony in Nigeria’s public universities.

“In view of the foregoing, and following extensive deliberations on Government’s response to the resolution of 14th February, 2022 so far, NEC concluded that the demands of the Union had not been satisfactorily addressed. Consequently, NEC resolved to transmute the roll-over strike to a comprehensive, total and indefinite strike action beginning from 12.01a.m. on Monday, 29th August, 2022,” the statement added

The Union also express disappointment in agents of Government, especially the Minister of Education, for the deliberate falsehood and misrepresentation of facts aimed at scoring cheap political gains.

“It is disheartening to imagine that a Minister whose responsibility it is to resolve the crisis can overnight turn round to lead in this ignoble enterprise of distorting facts and misleading Nigerians. The disdain with which the Minister of Education handled questions about the ongoing ASUU strike at his distasteful Press Conference on Thursday, 18th August, 2022 lends credence to the widespread suspicion that the current Government never believed in saving public universities from the misfortunes that have befallen Nigeria’s public primary and secondary schools.”

NEC further observed with displeasure that some mischievous Vice-Chancellors and Chairpersons of Governing Councils of State Universities have evolved disingenuous underhand tactics to undermine the current ASUU struggle in their various Universities. ASUU struggles are to save Nigerian public universities irrespective of ownership – Federal or State.

“The Union views with all seriousness the fact that the sanctimonious behaviour of these university administrators and managers does not stop them from accessing yearly grants of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) which ASUU struggles of the 1980s and 1990s brought to life. Neither did their holier-than-thou attitude keep these invidious individuals from jumping into the next flight to come for project defence each time ASUU struggles had translated into some handsome funds for the revitalization of their universities (hostels, laboratories, workshops, lecture theatres, etc.).

“ASUU shall use all legitimate means at its disposal to protect and defend the interests of our members in public universities who may be victimised on the account of the ongoing struggles,” the Union said.

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