- Advertisement -
FG’s mishandling of lingering ASUU strike
ALMOST five months into the strike by university lecturers, there is little hope in sight that studies will resume as the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities sing discordant tunes. A pronouncement by the Labour and Productivity Minister, Chris Ngige, that the strike would soon be called off following negotiations, was promptly countered by the union, while other reports claimed that the main sticking point now centres on the electronic payment platform that would be appropriate for academics. The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his ministers should do everything possible to ensure that federal universities reopen without further delay.
That the strike has lingered for so long, resulting in the loss of a semester and possibly an entire academic year, demonstrates the cavalier attitude of the Buhari regime towards education. This is patently unfair to the students and their parents and guardians. That a government, in this modern age, could allow its universities to remain shut, paralysing academic activities for so long, is manifestly indefensible. The Federal Government should purge itself of its callous indifference and return to the negotiation table with renewed vigour to end the strike immediately at whatever the cost.
The ASUU strike arises primarily from the failure of successive governments to honour agreements. Henceforth, the government must show fidelity to its agreements with ASUU and other unions. Government is a continuity, and agreements sealed by previous administrations are binding on its successors; at best, they can only be renegotiated. The FG-ASUU agreement/Memorandum of Understanding has gone beyond that. After so many strikes, pacts, and defaults since it was first signed in 2009 and renegotiated in 2013, implementation is the only viable option today.
- Advertisement -
As the government mismanages the dispute, the entire public tertiary education system is on the verge of collapse, with other major academic unions across the public tertiary education system also staging strikes and making threatening demands. After its 21-day ultimatum elapsed with no concrete action from the government, the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union days ago began a fresh four-week nationwide strike, while the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics only recently suspended its two-week strike. Though it said the government had met four of its nine demands, ASUP’s executives have scheduled a meeting in Dutse, Jigawa State, next week to decide whether to resume their strike. Non-academic staff unions are also flexing their muscles.The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, and Ngige have serially demonstrated their incompetence; Buhari should drop them. Ngige is abrasive, while Adamu, like Buhari, is aloof and detached from the ugly reality and damaging impact of a collapsing national tertiary education sector. Both men are round pegs in square holes, unsuitable for the challenges thrown up.
Criticised for so long, ASUU has now won support for its cause from students, parents/guardians, and the public. Its position has merit. The revitalisation of the universities and improved welfare for lecturers are legitimate and should be treated as such. But the reluctance to source the funds to pay the promised revitalisation fund of N200 billion per annum is wrong. The consequence is evident in the poorly equipped laboratories, dilapidated lecture halls lacking teaching aids and ramshackle hostels — mostly having no usable toilet facilities and functional bathrooms and often forcing students in school hostels to bathe outside. Had government been faithful to this pact, the burden would have long since been discharged.
The government should avail itself of the NEEDS Assessment in the Nigerian Education Sector report that formed the basis for the 2009 agreement to confront the level of decadence.
To meet the annual N200 billion pledge, there should be special legislative budgetary appropriation incorporated into the annual national budgets. It is a matter of priority: the government and the National Assembly regularly rush finance bills through for security spending. The controversial service-wide vote provision specifically for “unforeseen situations” that was averaging N500 billion each year poses no problem for them to authorise either. About N758 billion was budgeted for this in 2021 and a humongous N2.4 trillion in 2022. Part of this should be channelled to the education sector to salvage it.
Education is key to development, science and technology. The World Bank says, “Tertiary education is instrumental in fostering growth, reducing poverty, and boosting shared prosperity. A highly skilled workforce, with lifelong access to a solid post-secondary education, is a prerequisite for innovation and growth.” Education is the bedrock of success in today’s knowledge-driven global economy; therefore, everything should be done to revive it.
Similarly, ASUU’s demand for the earned allowances of its members is legitimate. Its insistence on using the University Transparency and Accountability Solution pay platform, and its identification of flaws and subsequent rejection of the government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, initially dismissed by many, including by this newspaper, has been found to have merit.
Cumulatively, since 1999, the public university system has lost about 1,400 days, or about three years and eight months, due to strikes. This corresponds roughly to the four-year duration of most undergraduate courses. This puts students in public universities at a disadvantage through no fault of theirs, while their mates in private universities complete their programmes on schedule. It is the children of average Nigerians and the underprivileged, who are unable to afford the fees in private universities that bear the brunt of these frequent strikes. All stakeholders should therefore unite to influence the immediate resumption of academic activities.
Nigerians should overcome their culture of silence and complacency. They should employ all available legal and peaceful means to demand accountability and good governance from public office holders and draw the attention to the government’s many egregious failings, including in the education sector.
The task of salvaging the public tertiary education sector is not for ASUU, ASUP or COEASU alone, the central labour unions should weigh in dispassionately. Beyond ASUU’s demand, there is an urgent need for increased funding for education by all tiers of government.To meet the yearly N200 billion promise, there ought to be unique administrative monetary assignment integrated into the yearly public spending plans. It involves need: the public authority and the National Assembly routinely rush money bills through for security spending. The disputable help wide vote arrangement explicitly for “unanticipated circumstances” that was averaging N500 billion every year represents no issue for them to approve by the same token. About N758 billion was planned for this in 2021 and a humongous N2.4 trillion out of 2022. A piece of this ought to be directed to the training area to rescue it.
Schooling is critical to advancement, science and innovation. According to the World Bank, “Tertiary schooling is instrumental in cultivating development, decreasing destitution, and helping shared thriving. An exceptionally gifted labor force, with long lasting admittance to strong post-optional training, is an essential for development and development.” Education is the bedrock of outcome in the present information driven worldwide economy; in this manner, everything ought to be finished to resuscitate it.
Also, ASUU’s interest for the acquired stipends of its individuals is genuine. Its emphasis on utilizing the University Transparency and Accountability Solution pay stage, and its recognizable proof of blemishes and resulting dismissal of the public authority’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, at first excused by a lot of people, including by this paper, has been found to have merit.
Aggregately, beginning around 1999, the state funded college framework has lost around 1,400 days, or around three years and eight months, because of strikes. This compares generally to the four-year span of most college classes. This places understudies in state funded colleges in a tough spot through no shortcoming of theirs, while their mates in confidential colleges complete their projects on time. It is the offspring of normal Nigerians and the oppressed, who can’t manage the cost of the expenses in confidential colleges that endure the worst part of these regular strikes. All partners ought to accordingly join to impact the quick resumption of scholarly exercises.
Nigerians ought to conquer their way of life of quietness and lack of concern. They ought to utilize all suitable legitimate and serene means to request responsibility and great administration from public office holders and cause the to notice the public authority’s numerous deplorable shortfalls, remembering for the training area.
The undertaking of rescuing the public tertiary training area isn’t for ASUU, ASUP or COEASU alone, the focal trade guilds ought to make an appearance impartially. Past ASUU’s interest, there is a pressing requirement for expanded subsidizing for schooling by all levels of government.
- Advertisement -