There are strong indications that members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may have declared an indefinite strike following the federal government’s failure to meet their demands.
It was learnt that the lecturers made the resolution during their National Executive Council meeting, which began at about 12:15am on Monday and lasted for hours at their National Secretariat at the University of Abuja.
The communiqué of the meeting, which will give details of the decisions taken had not been released yet, but credible sources said the majority of the ASUU chapters across universities keyed into the decision to go on indefinite strike.
It was also learnt that beyond the indefinite strike, some lecturers had advised that the union should boycott further talks with the federal government until when another government is formed after the exit of President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2023. ASUU had declared the commencement of a strike on Monday, February 14, 2022, and has been lingering for over six months.
When our correspondent visited UniAbuja, on Sunday, an ASUU member said the meeting was not for coverage by the media.
However, a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the union, who spoke to Daily Trust in confidence because he was not authorised to speak, said with the declaration of indefinite strike, “There would be no more negotiations with the federal government.”
When asked to explain what he meant by that, the NEC member declined further comments.
He had earlier told our correspondent that there was a shouting match among ASUU members at the beginning of the meeting over some issues, including a comment credited to the ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke when he appeared on Arise Television where he reportedly called state universities “quacks”.
The official explained, ‘’Some people faulted him for saying that, while others backed him. The two camps shouted at each other but we later resolved everything. Let me tell you, no more negotiations until when our demands are met.”
‘Some members want negotiation stopped until Buhari leaves office’
A source close to the ASUU leadership at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria said that even though there was no resolution yet at the top level, some members of the union were of the opinion to stop negotiation with the federal government until when President Muhammadu Buhari leaves office in May 2023.
“I can assure you that this view is gathering momentum in many universities,” the lecturer said.
“Many lecturers believe that there is no need to keep dissipating energy talking to government officials because they are not ready to listen.
“I know that many lecturers here in ABU and others at BUK, Federal University, Dutse and in the South are of the opinion that ASUU should also foreclose talking to the government until after this government leaves.
“It is not that we don’t have empathy. We are all affected. I am also affected because I have children in the public university and they have been at home for over six months. I have also not been receiving my salary but the fact is that the government should do the right thing to save the universities from collapsing,” he said.
Another NEC member also said that ASUU members would ensure they mobilise against current public office holders during the 2023 general elections.
When contacted, the ASUU president told our correspondent yesterday that an official statement would be issued after the meeting but the statement had not been issued as at the time of filing this report.
It would be recalled that after one month following the February 14 strike, ASUU extended the strike by two months on March 15. When the 8 weeks rollover strike ended, the union added another 3 months.
ASUU President, Prof. Osodeke had explained that the action to roll over the strike became inevitable, given that the federal government’s “Failure to satisfactorily address all the issues raised in the 2020 FGN/ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA).”
Mix reactions trail extension
Parents and lecturers have expressed mixed reactions over the declaration of the indefinite strike by ASUU.
Hamisu Mohammed Musa, a lecturer in the French Department, ABU Zaria said the decision was apt and “In line with the feeling of the majority.”
According to him, “As far as this strike is concerned, we are not giving up despite all threats and intimidation.
“Government thinks it can threaten us with poverty by not paying us our salary, but do not know that the more they frustrated us that way, the more courageous we become.”
In her reaction, a unionist, Prof. Binta Abdulkarim also supported ASUU’s stance to continue with the strike.
She said, “The bone of the struggle is to liberate Nigerian universities for the benefit of the entire society and it is a legitimate course; therefore ASUU members will continue to resist all intimidation by the government.”
Mallam Isa Abdullahi, a parent and civil servant expressed displeasure on the recent extension of the strike, saying that the action was a move toward crippling the already stagnating education in the country.
“I blame both the government and ASUU for deliberately refusing to reach a truce,” he said.
In Kano, Yaqub Adamu said as a father, “I find it really saddening seeing my children at home while they are supposed to be in school.”
Dr Yusuf I. Garba of the Department of Environmental Sciences, BUK said that the position of the union was right.
“It is for the government to implement the agreement it has entered with the academics. This is 13 consecutive years of promises from the government. There should be concrete reasons for calling off the strike,” he said.
Speaking on the issue, a parent in Kwara State, Mr Abdulraheem Audu said it will be difficult to quantify the catastrophe this situation will cause Nigeria in the future.
“Already, there is a correlation of the strike with the high rate of crime in the country,” he said.
ASUU is heartless – NANS
The President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANs), Asefon Sunday, said the extension of the strike by ASUU because of their six months salary showed that they are wicked and heartless because 85 per cent of their demands have been acceded to.
He said: “We met with the executive secretary of the NUC and the minister of labour who told us that 85 per cent of their demands have been met and all efforts to meet with the ASUU leadership have been turned down by them.”
Sunday in a telephone interview with Daily Trust said: “I have messages I sent to him and he is not ready to meet with us. I remembered when I went to meet my vice chancellor to tell him we want to meet with the leadership of ASUU and he called him and spoke to him but nothing happened.”
“People will be thinking that what ASUU is asking for is for proper funding of education, yes, revitalisation is part of what they are demanding for, but 85 per cent of the demands are for the welfare of the members of ASUU,” he said.
It’s not ASUU’s responsibility to fight for infrastructure
The Spokesperson of Federal Ministry of Education, Bem Ben Goong, said it is not the responsibility of ASUU or any trade union to fight for infrastructural development.
He said the primary responsibility of ASUU or any other trade union is the welfare of its members but 95 per cent of what is contained in the 2009 agreement is about infrastructural development.
He condemned the claim that it is because of ASUU strikes that the universities are being developed.
“It is wrong for anyone to think the only way to grow a university is by going on strike that is retrogressive. You don’t need strike for government to invest in universities and it is not the responsibility of ASUU to pitch for infrastructural development,” he said.
Reacting to ASUU insistence of paying their salaries before they call off the strike, he said government cannot pay them for work they have not done. “Paying that money will be a huge fraud,” he said.
‘Lecturers resigning in droves at UNILAG’
The Chairman of ASUU, University of Lagos, Dr Dele Ashiru in a recent interview on a TV show said that more than 70 per cent of the brightest brains in academia had resigned their appointment, saying UNILAG is badly hit.
He said many young lecturers who were retained after undergoing mentorship in the university had all resigned.
He said, “The impact of the government’s insensitivity and deployment of the weapon of hunger might not be immediately known until after the strike.
“Those that are left are on the verge of leaving. No government in the history of Nigeria has been so insensitive, brash and disrespectful of the best brains in the country. This is unfortunate and a shame.”
A staff of the University of Lagos who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity also confirmed the development, saying most departments are losing lecturers every day because of the strike.
‘ASUU’s decisions not binding on state varsities’
State universities cannot be coerced by ASUU to implement an agreement reached between the federal government and lecturers in federal universities, the committee of pro-chancellors of state universities said on Monday.
The pro-chancellors also made a case for the democratisation of memberships of unions in universities.
In a statement by their Secretary, Marcus Awobifa, the pro – chancellors called for 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, where Nigeria borrowed the university system.
They took exception to the comments made by the President of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke who allegedly called some state universities who have pulled out of the ongoing strike, quacks.