The umbrella body for Nigeria’s university lecturers, the Academic Staff Union of Universities – ASUU, has explained that it called off its eight-month-old strike due to the order of the Court of Appeal and various appeals by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and other well-meaning Nigerians.
To this effect, the lecturers’ union at a meeting that started on Thursday night and lasted into the early hours of Friday, October 14, directed its members to immediately resume work at their various duty posts with effect from 12 am on Friday, October 14, 2022.
The president of the union, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, in a statement noted that “While appreciating the commendable efforts of the leadership of the House of Representatives and other patriotic Nigerians who waded into the matter, National Executive Council-NEC of the union noted with regrets that the issues in dispute are yet to be satisfactorily addressed,”
“However, as a law-abiding Union and in deference to appeals by the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, and in recognition of the efforts of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and other well-meaning Nigerians, ASUU NEC resolved to suspend the strike action embarked upon on 14th February 2022” the statement read.
The union embarked on a warning strike on February 14, 2022, to press home their demands for the release of the revitalisation funds for tertiary institutions in the country, the payment of earned academic allowances to its members, and the release of whitepapers from the reports of the presidential visitation panels. It also demanded the usage of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a payment platform for university workers as against the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
Following the inability of the union and the Nigerian government to reach a deal to address the issues, the union kept extending the industrial action before making it indefinite in August 2022.
In the wake of the tussle, the Federal Government registered two factional unions – the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
But ASUU had said it was not bothered about the government’s move, describing it as “illegal”.
Meanwhile, reacting to the end of the eight-month-long strike, the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said all hands must be on deck to ensure academic strikes in universities become a thing of the past.
While thanking the Federal Government and the ASUU leadership for finding a way to end the strike, Gbajabiamila said it is time to “admit certain harsh truths and take radical action.”, regretting that the strike lasted for eight months and noted that it should never have happened in the first place.
“Our public universities should be citadels of learning and innovation, where young people discover themselves and reach for the stars,” he said.
N470bn Revitalisation Promise
Gbajabiamila’s intervention, along with other Nigerian lawmakers, was key in ending the eight-month-old strike which was at a stalemate after the Federal Government dragged ASUU to court.
After meeting with President Buhari twice last week, the Gbajabiamila committee was able to broker a truce between both parties. While all of ASUU’s demands have not been met, the Federal Government has made concessions.
In his budget presentation speech last week, President Muhammadu Buhari said a total of N470 billion has been earmarked in the 2023 budget for revitalisation and salary enhancements in the nation’s tertiary institutions, addressing some of ASUU’s main demands.
But the President also noted that the government alone cannot continue to provide the resources required for funding tertiary education.
“In most countries, the cost of education is jointly shared between the government and the people, especially at the tertiary level,” the President said. “It is imperative therefore that we introduce a more sustainable model of funding tertiary education.” adding that his administration is committed to implementing agreements reached with staff unions within the available resources.
Edited with some texts from Channels Television and Vanguard Newspaper