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Total shutdown looms in nation’s federal universities as ASUU, NASU, others draw battle line

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Total shutdown looms in nation's federal universities as ASUU, NASU, others draw battle line

Again, federal universities are about to witness another round of crisis, as academic and non academic bodies and associations are already beating war drums in readiness for battle with the federal government over sundry issues ranging from the composition of governing councils, non-implementation of agreements and other matters. Only two weeks ago,

the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) expressed disappointment over the newly released constituted governing council members for the federal universities in the country, saying the composition in the list is worse than the previous one.

Recall that ASUU’s national president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, made the observation a fortnight ago in an exclusive interview with the media. He hinged his argument on the premise that most people on the list are “retired politicians” and not technocrats. Osodeke said it is obvious that the composition in the new list is worse than the previous one.

“Go and look at the list again, you will see that most of them are retired politicians. They are honorable this and honorable that. What does that tell us?

“That is how terrible the thing has become. And we can’t run our universities like this if we truly want genuine development to take place,” he said.

Meanwhile, ASUU’s original concern on the university governing councils was not even about the calibre of personalities in the old list that was released last month and later reviewed to pave way for the current list but that it was totally illegal for the Federal Government to constitute new councils when the old ones it dissolved over 10 months ago were yet to complete their tenures in line with the University Act upon which they were constituted in the first instance.
The union said the Federal Government should have recalled them to complete their tenures rather than constituting fresh councils, arguing that the university education is not something to play partisan politics with if Nigeria truly wants quality education that will bring real economic prosperity.

This is one of the reasons for the latest threat to go on indefinite strike, as ASUU is insisting on allowing the sacked governing councils to complete their terms. Already , ASUU has issued a three-week ultimatum to the Federal Government to respond to its demands to avoid industrial action.

The Federal University of Dutse (FUD) Branch of ASUU Chairman in Jigawa State, Comrade Salim Ahmed, gave the warning at an emergency press conference held in Dutse last Friday.

“The Members of the Expanded Executive Officers of the ASUU Federal University Dutse met today, Wednesday, 19th June 2024, to consider and take a look at the patriotic engagements of the Union with the Federal and State governments on how best to address all the lingering problems bedeviling Nigerian Public Universities,” he said.

Ahmed said ASUU observed that the present administration deliberately ignored the leadership of the Union since its inception on 29th May 2023.

“All efforts were put in place by the leadership of the Union to get the government to convene a meeting and listen to ASUU in order to iron out the contending issues, as contained in the International Labour Organisation, ILO’s principle of collective bargaining, have failed,” he said.

Similarly, the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) Ago Iwoye chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) last Wednesday staged a peaceful rally to create awareness over the impending nationwide strike by the union.

The rally led by the OOU branch Acting Chairman, Dr. Olooto Wasiu, took the lecturers around the university campus, where they briefed students, parents and motorists about the imminent strike, urging them to understand that the strike is meant to save the nation’s public Universities.

The protesting lecturers were armed with placards with various inscriptions, such as: “Nigerians, ASUU has sacrificed more than enough for the survival of the university system,” “FG stop playing politics with our educational system,” “Education is a right and not a privilege,” “Our negotiation should be completed and implemented,” among others.

At the garage and bus terminals, where rally had a stopover to address motorists about the looming strike action, ASUU–OOU said it was acting on the directive of the national body, stressing that the strike ought to have commenced but the union resolved to postpone it till a date in July to enable the lecturers prepare the minds of stakeholders ahead of the industrial action.

Addressing newsmen at the ASUU Secretariat after the rally, the Acting branch Chairman, Dr. Olooto said the federal government is disbanding of some Governing Council Boards of Federal Universities when their tenure had not yet ended and its refusal to recall them, owing members three and half months under the guise of ‘no work, no pay policy,’ as punishment for previous strike and quest for university autonomy, as some of the reasons for the looming nationwide strike.

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Olooto also made allusions to non- implementation of the 2009 ASUU/FG agreement in full, rejection of the UTAS payment system developed by the ASUU and the continued use of the IPPIS to pay members as other unresolved issues necessitating the impending nationwide strike by ASUU.

He said the strike is inevitable, hence the advance notice to Nigerians, particularly, stakeholders, so that nobody would be taken unaware.

“There are many things the government has not done. Our colleagues were owed eight months salary because of the previous strike. They adopted the policy of ‘no work no pay.’ They have paid for four and half months. It still remains three and half months unpaid. We are saying the remaining months owed our members should be paid.’

Meanwhile, The Joint Action Committee, JAC, of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, have given the federal government two weeks ultimatum to pay the four months withheld salaries or face indefinite strike action.

The JAC has also threatened to shutdown universities and inter- universities centres if the government failed to pay the withheld salaries at the expiration of the two weeks ultimatum.

The two non-teaching staff unions in a letter to the Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, accused the government of neglect and insincerity.

In the letter titled: “Re-Four (4) months Withheld Salaries: Demand for Immediate Payment,” which was signed by the NASU General Secretary, Prince Peters Adeyemi and SSANU President, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim, the two unions said that they can no longer guarantee industrial harmony in the universities.

The letter read: “The Honourable Minister would recall that the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU embarked on a one-week warning strike between March 18th, 2024 and March 24th 2024 to protest the denial of the arrears of four (4) months salaries withheld between May and August 24th, 2022.

“Following series of letters and the assurances of the payment, we write to remind the Honourable Minister of our various letters, engagements, assurances towards the payment of the four (4) months withheld salaries of SSANU and NASU.
“We wish to express our regrets and dismay that up till date, the withheld salaries have not been paid to our members.

“We view it as an act of insincerity and neglect on the part of government to the yearnings and aspirations of our members.”
Accusing the government of negating the spirit of collective bargaining, which has built distrust, the unions said, “The deafening silence of government and failure to pay the withheld salaries is creating high level of agitations and contentions among our members in the universities and inter-university centres, such that we can no longer guarantee industrial peace and harmony on university campuses.”

When Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, spoke with Business Hallmark on the matter, he said “To be honest with you, this government that we thought would be progressive and more understanding of the challenges of the university system is compounding it. It’s an irony given President Tinubu’s antecedents as a progressive. Now, the chicken has come home to roost, we now no better.

“On the issue of governing councils, there is a legal angle, here are governing councils that were yet to complete their terms and you sacked them, replacing them with politicians. This is aside, agreements not honoured. ”

On his part, Dr. Dotun Ayinde, an ex- ASUU vice chairman, told this medium that “We have exploited all means to make this administration see reason but to no avail. It’s unfortunate, we really didn’t expect this administration would turn out to be anti- intellectual. The strike is inevitable, if that will make them address our concerns.

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