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ASUU begins indefinite strike


ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi

• NANS, others seek quick resolution of crisis
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has commenced an indefinite nationwide industrial action.

About 40 federal and 44 state universities in the country would be affected by the strike which began yesterday.

ASUU’s leadership declared the strike as total and indefinite, and has threatened to sanction any defaulting institution which holds lectures, examination or any nocturnal meeting while the action would last.

The strike followed the outcome of the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held by the leadership of ASUU and the state chairmen on Saturday in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), culminating in the official announcement of the industrial action at the headquarters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abuja yesterday.

Briefing journalists at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, said the action became necessary owing to an alleged breach of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the 2009 FG/ASUU Agreement on financing of state universities; breach of the conditions of service; refusing to honour the Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) and re-negotiation of the agreement.

Ogunyemi said the 2009 agreement revolved around conditions of service, funding, university autonomy and academic freedom, all of which the government has been reluctant to implement.

The Federal Government is believed to owe universities over N880 billion in intervention fund as a fallout of the NEEDS Assessment report.

Also, the union is irked by lack of funds for the revitilisation of public universities, non-release of NUPEMCO operational licence, non-payment of earned academic allowances, payment of fractions/non-payment of salaries.

In the 2013 MoU signed with ASUU, the Federal Government agreed to make money available for the revitalisation of the university system, amounting to N1.3trillion in six years, based on a yearly release of N220billion, starting with N200 billion in 2013.

There was also an agreement to open a dedicated revitalisation account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to warehouse the funds, including setting up a central monitoring committee to monitor the implementation of the revitalisation of the universities.

ASUU is also accusing the government of reneging on the payment of outstanding balance of the EAA after the verification of the payment made from the initial N30 billion, among others.

“Consequently, based on a nationwide consultation with our members, an emergency meeting of the NEC of ASUU rose on Saturday, August12, 2017 with a resolution to embark on an indefinite strike.

“The action is total and comprehensive. During the strike, there shall be no teaching, no examination and no attendance of statutory meetings of any kind in any of our branches,” the ASUU President declared.

But a faction of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) pleaded with ASUU to seek alternative avenues to resolve its dispute with the Federal Government.

The National Public Relations Officer of the faction, Comrade Bestman Okereafor, made the appeal in a statement issued in Enugu yesterday.

Okereafor said that the strike would “definitely portend ill for the education sector’’ and the country in general.

He said that NANS agreed that issues being agitated for by ASUU were long-standing but declared that previous strikes had never really brought the desired results.

Another faction of NANS issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to resolve outstanding issues with ASUU in the interest of Nigerian students.

Leader of the faction, Comrade Chinonso Obasi, who spoke to The Guardian yesterday in Abuja, described the breakdown in negotiations as a further proof that political leaders don’t care about their future.

“It is with deep pain and regret that NANS received the news of another indefinite strike by ASUU over Federal Government’s indifference to their plight.

“Consequently, we wish to call on the government to do all it can to get ASUU back to the classrooms.”

According to Obasi, the demands of ASUU are reasonable and touch on the integrity of government, especially in the light of the fight against corruption.

The Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Adetokunbo Mumuni, urged the government to urgently resolve the issue with ASUU so as to abort the strike. He noted that the economic implication of such a strike would be enormous.

“When such strikes are embarked on, those who do small scale businesses in the campuses such as photocopying and computer centers bear the brunt as their income dwindles. They, and their dependants, suffer the consequences,” he stated.

According to him, the students are always at the short end of the stick whenever strikes take place and they are becoming more too often.

Former dean, faculty of law, Kogi State University, Prof. Allswell Osini Muzan thinks differently. He believes that there are issues giving rise to the strike and that they must be addressed.

His words: “Is it once in a while ASUU strike that causes economic consequences in this country? National ASUU has not embarked on a strike for more than three years. They embarked on a warning strike about a year ago and nothing came out of it. Kogi State University is just trying to come out of ASUU strike after seven whole months and nobody said anything about that. Journalists should be making critical commentaries and analysis of these issues.”

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