As it becomes clearer by the day that another nationwide strike by university lecturers seems inevitable, students under the umbrella body of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) are making frantic efforts to appeal to both the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to review their stands and avoid the standoff, which will definitely bode ill for the sector.
Chairmen of state chapters of ASUU are currently in Abuja, with the national leadership, collating and reviewing the results of the referendum they conducted in their separate chapters.
The chairmen are expected to decide today (Sunday, August 13) whether or not to proceed on a nationwide strike, and for how long.
The National Executive Council (NEC) of the union met at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, on the 22nd and 23rd July, 2017, and deliberated extensively on issues arising from the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement, the 2013 MoU and other related issues and decided to conduct a referendum at the branch congresses on the next line of action.
According to a letter signed by the National President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, the issues at stake include payment of fractions/non-payment of salaries; non-payment of earned academic allowances, non-release of operational licence of NUPENCO, retired professors and their salaries, university staff schools, and funds for the revitalisation of public universities.
However the National President of NANS, Mr Haruna Kadiri, says these issues are long-standing and that strikes called in the past had never really brought desired results.
In a telephone interview on Saturday, Mr Kadiri said, “We are trying to meet with stakeholders to meet with ASUU to put the issues on the table, to see which ones we can plead with ASUU and the ones we can engage the federal government on.
“As much as we are not in support of strike, we are not telling ASUU outright that it is wrong (you don’t flog a man and tell him not to cry), we are also pleading with the federal government to be responsible enough to meet the demands that they have reached over time (since 2009).
“Agreed, it is not this present government that reached that agreement, but government is a continuum; so it is expected that government should have sat down with ASUU to review the agreement and agree on certain things…not for us to start hearing that ASUU wants to go on strike again. It’s unfortunate.
“We’re planning to engage them on Monday. Let us sit down collectively and find a way out.
“Honestly, I am not blaming ASUU; neither am I saying ‘kudos, go on strike’, but I think we should meet, review the issues and further talk about the issues. That is the only solution to it.”
Kadiri however ASUU needs to explore other more effective means of achieving its goals, other than strikes, which he believes has never been helpful.
“I once engaged ASUU and I said before I was born, ASUU had been going on strike, and if you ask me: has strike ever brought about the desired result?
“Our institutions are research centres. Why is it that ASUU hasn’t gone on research to find a permanent solution to all of these their agitations? Because it looks like strike has never brought the desired results.
“If ASUU cannot go on research to get a desired result on how to curb all of these issues, then we are in trouble in this country,” he added.
All efforts to get comments from the Director of Press at the Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja, Mrs Chinenye Ihuoma, failed as persistent calls sent to her phone were not answered; neither did she reply a text message sent to her.