In an attempt to end the Academic Staff Union of Institutions’ continuing strike, the Federal Government has called provosts, vice presidents, and chairs of governing councils of federal universities to a meeting in Abuja on September 6.
The National Universities Commission called the conference, during which attendees were expected to discuss the government’s response to the strike.
Chris Maiyaki, the NUC’s Deputy Executive Secretary for Administration, signed the letter inviting the presidents of the institutions to the meeting, which one of our journalists was able to secure on Tuesday.
This became apparent when the ASUU strike approached its 198th day and the university lecturers decided to announce a broad-based industrial action.
Parents in particular criticized ASUU and the government in many interviews with The MINIECHAT, complaining that their children’s futures were being played with.
One of our correspondents conducted an examination of an academic session and found that it is around nine months long, split into the first semester, also known as harmattan semester, and the second semester, also known as rain semester. On average, a session at a public university in Nigeria lasts nine months.
Due to what ASUU claimed as the government’s “failure” to accept its demands, the organization went on strike on February 14.
The requests include paying earned allowances, giving colleges funding for revitalization, setting up visiting panels, and using the University Transparency Accountability Solution to pay ivory tower employees rather than the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.
A committee led by Prof. Nimi Briggs was established by the government to examine the 2009 ASUU-FG agreement and the union’s demands.
ASUU leaders said that no offer was offered to them when they left a meeting with the government on August 16.
However, Adamu Adamu, the minister of education, said at a press conference that non-academic unions had consented to call off their strike.
The minister said that university teachers insisted on being paid during their off-duty time, a demand that the government was unable to accede to.
As a result of the government’s refusal to accede to ASUU’s demands, the union announced on Sunday and Monday that it had chosen to launch “a complete, entire, and indefinite strike.”
The NUC said in its letter of invitation that the meeting with pro-chancellors and vice-chancellors on September 6 will examine steps taken on the university union strikes in an effort to achieve a consensus.
As the provost, council chairs, and vice chancellors are well aware, university-based unions’ industrial action has resulted in the closure of the institutions since February 2022.
“You are also aware that the non-teaching unions have paused their industrial activities as of August 24, 2022, pending the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ final decision.
“In order to facilitate a well-coordinated examination of the situation, including developing agreement around next steps, it has become essential for the governing councils and managements of the universities to be told on the choices and measures taken thus far by the Federal Government.
As a result, on Tuesday, September 6, 2022, I’m going to invite the vice chancellors, chairmen of councils, and provosts of federal institutions to a special interactive meeting with the honorable Minister of Education.
The MINIECHAT learned that the meeting would address possibilities for supporting universities, including the N10,000 fee proposed by the Parent-Teacher Association, in light of the financial constraint and budget shortfall the government was facing. However, the letter did not include the meeting’s entire agenda.
We will talk about how to terminate the strike and improve university funding, a commission source said.
Victor Olumekun, a lecturer at Adekunle Ajashin University, criticized the government for the students’ losses in a conversation with one of our reporters in Abuja.
ASUU member Olumekun said, “As an ASUU guy, I can assure you that the government has not at all handled the problem appropriately. Although the administration claims to have reached a deal, neither we nor them are aware of the specifics.
In a separate interview with The MINIECHAT, Dr. Gbolahan Bolarin, a professor at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, stated, “The administration failed abjectly, and that is why we are where we are today. They squandered public money by creating a second committee to engage with the union rather than delivering the “award” in February to give the union time to reply correctly.
In an interview with The MINIECHAT, a father, Mr. Bolarinwa Ishola, said that his son, a student of electrical engineering who was meant to be on the 200 level, had been delayed starting from the COVID-19 pandemic period in 2020.
Ibrahim Ajayi, a different dad, who lives in Ota, Ogun State, said that his son attends a state institution in the South-West. According to him, public university students had missed a session due to the strike, he informed one of our journalists.
Mrs. Florence Adekogbe, a parent who claimed to have three children enrolled in federal colleges, said it was upsetting how the government handled the ASUU strike.
Two of Adekogbe’s children were shown to be in their final years at a federal institution, while the third was enrolled at the 200-level.
She attributed the delay and hardship experienced by students and their parents on the government.
However, Goodluck Opiah, the minister of state for education, said that the federal government has made significant contributions to the field of education, particularly with regard to universities.
The minister reportedly revealed this during his presentation to the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETfund, according to a statement made accessible to one of our reporters in Abuja.
The administration, according to him, has taken the required steps to allow ASUU to restart courses.
He said that the Federal Government simply established the uniform rule of “no work, no pay,” which university professors were supposed to adopt.
The government has given in to all of ASUU’s requests, he said. The government does not back “anyone who doesn’t work yet wants pay,” though.
University teachers should have received compensation for the time they were on strike, according to ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeke. He claims that even if the professors have not been lecturing for months, the other responsibilities of their employment are still being met.
Osodoke questioned why the Federal Government was bringing up the “no work, no pay” issue while postponing discussions with the striking academics for months in an interview with Channels television’s Politics Today show that was seen by one of our journalists on Tuesday.
He said that before implementing the “no work, no pay” threat, the problems that caused the strike should be resolved. “Has the reason we’re on strike been addressed? Why are they referencing “no job, no pay”? Osodoke enquired.
He said, “You delayed the negotiations on purpose. Our youngsters were forced to remain at home for six to eight months on purpose by the government. However, the students wouldn’t have stayed in their homes if they had come in to bargain with us in February. They wouldn’t be at home if they had arrived in March. If they had arrived in April, the procedure would not have been purposefully postponed. You will convene a panel, and they will provide you with a report, but they won’t make the results public for a year. They discuss “no job, no money” rather of dealing with the problem.
“Let’s now discuss the no-work, no-pay policy. The duties of a lecturer are listed in my letter of appointment as teaching, research, and community service. These three career paths represent a lecturer’s duties. Therefore, the one activity you do not do while on strike is teaching. If you visit universities, you will observe our colleagues working in offices, doing research as part of their jobs, and engaging in volunteer work.
Osinbajo calls for action
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, the vice president, said that the ASUU strike needed to be ended immediately.
His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, said in a statement on Tuesday that Osinbajo made the call when he welcomed governors of the All Progressives Congress who paid him a visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after a leg operation he had in July.
We must all move quickly to address the economy and the ASUU strike, Osinbajo told the visiting APC governors in the statement.
The Vice-President spoke briefly with the press after the meeting on important national problems, including the economy and the ongoing ASUU strike.
Abubakar Bagudu, the governor of Kebbi State and chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, told reporters immediately after the meeting that the county could no longer afford to keep pupils at home for extended periods of time.
Therefore, he made a request to ASUU to end the current dispute with the federal government.
“Recall that Mr. President made a plea to ASUU and said that ASUU should be concerned about the future of the next generation during a Sallah visit to the President in Daura. He refrained from assigning responsibility. He addressed us in the role of a father, and I believe he even went so far as to ask ASUU to kindly consider our future generations even if they had been insulted.
At the state’s education summit on Victoria Island, Lagos State Governor Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said that the APC governors met with President Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) on Tuesday to discuss the ASUU strike.
“Education is not simply a cornerstone in one of our THEMES agendas, it is one of the key benefits of democracy and one of the fundamental goals of every administration,” he said. We consider education to be one of the systems that can reduce poverty in our society and a problem that may be resolved for future generations.
The National Parent-Teachers Association will meet on Tuesday of the next week to discuss the walkout, The MINIECHAT has learned.
Dr. Ademola Ekundayo, the union’s public relations officer, corroborated this in a Tuesday chat with one of our journalists.
He said, “We will address all the concerns and the best course of action at our NEC meeting on Tuesday.
Ekundayo charged ASUU of being egotistical and said that the instructors would subject students and parents to pressure they may not be able to handle.
He added, “We have found ourselves in a bad position and under normal circumstances, parents should not provide such incentives and support that they (ASUU) refused. In reference to the N10,000 fee parents indicated they were willing to pay. However, we found that the dispute between the FG and ASUU affects us directly and negatively. They will exert pressure on parents and pupils that they won’t be able to stand, I’m telling you.
“Parents are currently powerless; the only thing we can do is put pressure on the Federal Government to take the appropriate action. ASUU has made the decision to not budge in response to any advice because they have nothing to lose. ASUU lacks sincerity and consideration. Do they not produce graduates who are unemployed? Perhaps two graduates out of ten are employable; aren’t they the ones who educate them? They shouldn’t try to force us into a wall.
Femi Falana, a senior lawyer in Nigeria, supported teachers at state colleges who were taking part in the strike in an interview with The MINIECHAT.
He said, “It is not unlawful for lecturers at public institutions to take part in a strike. State universities are fully represented in the current negotiations since they are taking part in the strike. The Governing Councils of the Federal and State Universities and the Academic Staff Union of Universities are now engaged in negotiations, as they have in the past.
But he urged the administration and ASUU to pick up their talks.
“Those advocating for ASUU in state universities to end the strike are either unaware of the mechanics of collective bargaining or do not wish ASUU as a body and its members in state universities well,” stated another SAN, Prof. Sam Erugo. That is an effort to weaken the union, and it goes without saying that state university ASUU members will live to regret weakening the union’s existing unity.
Prof. Ngozi Osarenren, a counseling psychologist at the University of Lagos’ Department of Educational Foundations, said that the government has complete disregard for education since officials’ children do not attend public colleges.
Also Prof Jacob Ayantayo of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, stated, ‘‘Federal Government did not handle it responsibly; it may sound negative and rude. The government is obligated to provide our citizens access to quality higher education. Instead than asking for pay increases, ASUU wants to revitalize our colleges.