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15 Aug 2017

NLC backs ASUU as university teachers begin indefinite strike

 Niyi Odebode and Fidelis Soriwei

The Academic Staff Union of Universities has commenced a nationwide indefinite strike to protest against the failure of the Federal Government to implement the terms of the agreement reached between the union and the government in 2009.

The President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, during a press conference in Abuja on Monday, said the strike would be comprehensive as lecturers would withdraw all services including teaching and attendance of meetings in all the universities in the country.

Ogunyemi said the decision to embark on the strike was taken at an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee of ASUU on August 12, 2017.

The ASUU president explained that the union decided to opt for a strike after the Federal Government failed to implement the 2009 agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding it signed with ASUU in 2013, among others.

He listed the areas in dispute in the current industrial action to include funding for the revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances, the registration of the Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company and pension matters, fractionalisation and non-payment of salaries and the issue of universities staff schools.

He said, “On November 16, 2016, our union embarked on a week warning strike to sensitise stakeholders to the issues in dispute. What initially appeared like efforts to address the issues soon fizzled out immediately the action was suspended on November 22, 2016. ASUU did its best to get the Federal Government in particular to fulfil its promises through a series of letters and consultation meetings. However, all was to no avail.

“Meanwhile, our members across the country were getting increasingly frustrated and disenchanted. It became evident that their patience had been tasked beyond reasonable limit, while government’s insensitivity imposed severe burden on the leadership of the union.

“Consequently, based on a nationwide consultation with our members, an emergency meeting of the National Executive Council of ASUU rose on Saturday, August 12, 2017, with a resolution to embark on an indefinite strike action starting from Sunday, August 13, 2017.

“The nationwide 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.’’

He recalled that the failure of the government to implement the 2009 agreement resulted in an indefinite strike in 2011, 2012 and later 2013.

He said the strike compelled the government to sign a MoU with the union on December 11, 2013.

According to him, the MOU was meant to reinforce implementation of the agreement reached with the government.

Ogunyemi said the government agreed to commit N1.3tn in six years to the revitalisation of the university system with a planned annual release of N229bn, starting with N200bn in 2013.

He added that the government agreed to open a dedicated revitalisation account with the Central Bank of Nigeria and establish a central committee to monitor the implementation of the revitalisation of the universities.

The government was also said to have agreed to pay the outstanding balance of earned academic allowances after verifying the level of payment from an initial of N30bn provided for the purpose and others.

The ASUU President lamented that the Federal Government dashed the expectations of the union as it reneged on fulfilling the agreement for the annual release of the N200bn for the revitalisation of the university system.

He said the government had failed to release N825bn of the funds it signed in the MoU for the university system.

He lamented that the situation in the state universities was more pathetic as some state governments had chosen to establish new universities instead of funding the existing ones.

He said the issue of the earned academic allowances, which was a major aspect of the 2009 agreement and the 2013 MoU, had been abandoned by the government.

Govt cuts lecturers salaries

The ASUU President said the union was also irked by the decision of the federal and state governments to cut the salaries of lecturers in many of the universities by between 20 and 40 per cent each month.

He observed that the same government had not tampered with the salaries of public office holders in the country.

He added that the situation in the state universities was worse as many of the state governments had stopped the release of statutory subventions to their institutions.

Ogunyemi lamented that the political class in the country was only paying lip service to addressing the rot in the university system.

He said that unless steps were taken to address the decadence in the system the fate which befell the public primary and secondary schools would befall the universities, which would take quality university education away from the reach of the ordinary Nigerian.

FG still negotiating with ASUU –Ministry

The Federal Government, however, said it was still negotiating with ASUU before it declared a nationwide strike on Monday.

The Director of Information, Ministry of Education, Mrs. Chinyere Ihuoma, stated that the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement was ongoing.

“The FGN/ASUU renegotiation of 2009 agreement is ongoing with the government team under the leadership of Dr Babalakin, SAN,” she said via SMS.

Ihuoma did not respond to further questions on the slow pace of the negotiation.

‘Nigerians must force govt to do the right thing’

The Nigeria Labour Congress has declared support for ASUU’s decision to embark on the indefinite strike.

The General Secretary of the NLC, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said all employers, including the government, had a responsibility to honour agreements reached with workers.

Ozo-Eson, a former Chief Economist of the NLC, who was part of the team that negotiated the 2009 agreement on the side of ASUU, said the government had refused to implement the agreement because children of the political class school abroad.

He called on Nigerians to demand uninterrupted academic calendar for their children in Nigerian universities.

He said the organs of the NLC would take a decision on what support to render to ASUU if the ongoing strike became prolonged.

He said, “When an employer enters into a collective bargaining agreement, it is expected that both parties will honour the terms of the agreement. The 2009 agreement was entered into.  Incidentally, I was a member of the negotiating team.

“I negotiated that agreement on the ASUU side and it took a long time for a decision to be reached. Initially, government backed away, then it reconstituted and gave authority to the Onosode committee and at the end, the agreement was signed, but government has failed to fully implement it.

“In 2013, when there was a problem, the NLC had to broker the condition that led to the signing of the MoU. Government again has reneged on its own side of the bargain. So when we say ASUU has gone on strike so many times, we need to put it in perspective to say government has consistently failed to honour its own side of the bargain.

“They (government) do this so brazenly and so easily because most of their children do not attend universities here. They are abroad. And that is where the citizens come in. Citizens must be able to hold these people accountable by insisting that their own children have a right to uninterrupted education too and therefore force government to do what is correct so that education can be without interruption.”

UI PG students’ exams stalled

The strike forced the University of Ibadan to stop the examination of postgraduate students in various faculties in the school.

One of our correspondents learnt that students in the Department of Psychology were sent out, while papers scheduled to be written in the Faculty of the Social Sciences were cancelled.

ASUU members in the school voted to support the strike at its referendum last week.

In a message sent to the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, by the Chairman of ASUU in the school, Dr Deji Omole, the union said, “We write to inform you that the observance of the strike action will include no teaching, no examination, no supervision, no attendance of the statutory meetings of any kind and other academic matters. Our members will henceforth withdraw their services till the end of the strike.”

UNILAG, LASU to comply

Academic activities at the University of Lagos unfolded normally on Monday. However, the UNILAG branch chairman of ASUU, Mr. Adelaja Odukoya, said the university would comply with the directive of the national ASUU from Wednesday.

He said, “We have to call a congress of our members and brief them on the directive. We are having a congress tomorrow (Tuesday). But we do not have a choice in the matter. We were part of the decision to call the strike.’’

A senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos, who did not want to be identified, said there was no lecture in the department on Monday.

He said, “It is not just in the department but throughout the university. The strike is effective.”

At the Lagos State University, our correspondent observed that many offices and lecture halls were locked at the Ojo campus; only a few students were seen.

Although the development was attributed to the one-week lecture-free directive of the management of the university, the LASU ASUU Chairman, Dr Isaac Oyewumi, however, said the chapter would “comply fully with the directive.”

He said, “It is going to be total. I can assure you that we are going to comply.’’

Exams continue in OAU

The Chairman of ASUU at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr Niyi Sumonu, said on Monday that it was difficult to say that the union had joined the nationwide strike.

He said, “It will be difficult for me to say that the ASUU has joined the national strike because examinations are still ongoing on the campus.”

 UNIOSUN suspends exams

The Osun State University has joined the nationwide strike.

The strike coincided with the commencement of the second semester examination at the university, but the lecturers joined the strike after agreeing to do so at the congress of the union.

The chairman of ASUU at the university, Dr. Seye Abiona, could not be reached, but two lecturers confirmed to our correspondent that the union had joined the strike.

Strike paralyses Ondo varsities

ASUU members in some varsities in Ondo State on Monday declared their willingness to join the strike declared by the national body of the union.

Academic activities were consequently paralysed in the Federal University of Technology, Akure; and the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Akoko, Ondo State.

The ASUU chairman of the AAUA, Dr Sola Fayose, said the chapter would still call a congress.

He said, “It is the tradition of the union for strike to be declared at the branch level; we have yet to declare our own. We will call a congress tomorrow (Tuesday).

Similarly, the ASUU chairman of FUTA, Dr Bola Oniya, said, “We can’t go against the directive of our national secretariat, we will comply here.”

UNICAL, CRUTECH join action

ASUU members in the University of Calabar and the Cross River University of Technology on Monday joined the nationwide strike.

Some students, however, claimed not to be aware of the strike.

In UNICAL, some students said they had lectures early in the day before academic activities were disrupted.

A 400-level student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, UNICAL, Mary Akpan, urged the Federal Government to address the union’s demands once and for all.

Another 100-level student of CRUTECH, Felix Udu, said, “We are already preparing for our second semester examination before this sudden stop in academic activities. Nobody knows when the strike will be called off,” he said.

FUT Minna lecturers shun classrooms

The Chairman of ASUU in the Federal University of Technology Minna, Dr Ndanisa Mohammed, said lecturers had complied totally.

Mohammed said that the university had set up 14 monitoring teams to ensure compliance.

He said, “We not making any demand from the Federal Government; rather, we  want them to implement an agreement signed since 2009 and the Memorandum of Understanding we had with them since 2013.’’

UMYU joins ASUU strike

ASUU members in the Umaru Musa Ya’Adua University (UMYU), Katsina, on Monday joined the nationwide indefinite strike.

UMYU ASUU branch Chairman, Mahmud Abdulsalam, confirmed the development to The PUNCH.

He said, “We at UMYU have decided to obey the directive of our national executive. The strike will be total.”

The spokesperson for the university, Fati Sanda, said she was not aware of the strike.

UNIBEN, AAU to join strike Wednesday

Lecturers at the University of Benin and the Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, in Edo State, on Monday said they would join the strike on Wednesday.

At the UNIBEN, the chapter Chairman of the union, Prof. Julius Iyasele, said the industrial action would be implemented on Wednesday.

“By Wednesday, we will declare the strike here. We will start our compliance on Wednesday,” Iyasele added.

At AAU, it was gathered many students of the institution had their lectures cancelled on Monday.

But the chairman of ASUU in the university, Prof. Monday Igbafen, said, “We are part of the strike.”

UNIABUJA moves strike till Wednesday

Academic activities are still going on at the University of Abuja despite the nationwide strike declared by the ASUU.

It was gathered that the UNIABUJA branch of ASUU would meet to ratify the decision of the national executive council of the union before joining the strike.

The Uniabuja Chairman of ASUU, Dr Ben Ugheoke, said the academic staff would comply with the strike.

Ebonyi varsity congress to decide

Normal Academic Activities were in progress on Monday at the Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Abakaliki.

At the campuses of the institution in Presco, Isieke, CASS and the permanent site, students were seen receiving lectures.

The Chairman of ASUU EBSU, Dr Uche Onwe, said ASUU EBSU would hold a congress on Wednesday on the strike.

ASUU P’Harcourt zone to comply

The Coordinator, Port Harcourt Zone, ASUU, Prof. Beke Sese, said the zone was in full agreement with the nationwide strike called by the national body.

The zone comprises Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, the Niger Delta University, Amassoma, the Federal University, Otuoke, and the University of Port Harcourt.

Speaking on the telephone, Sese said there would be no academic activity until the government met the union’s demands.”

But the Chairman, ASUU NDU, Dr Stanley Ogoun, said the chapter ‘‘will meet on Wednesday to declare it formally at the floor of the congress slated for that day.’’

It was learnt that ASUU in FUO would meet on Tuesday to formally join the strike.

EKSU joins ASUU strike

The Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, on Monday joined the ASUU strike.

The second semester examination, which ought to have commenced two weeks ago was again put on hold.

Efforts to speak with the ASUU Chairman, Prof. Olu Olu, proved abortive.

Strike total in UNIUYO

Many lecturers in the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, have complied with the ASUU strike.

A lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Dr Frank Okon, said they voted to support the strike on Friday.

 A student in the Department of Philosophy told our correspondent that since the school was on vacation, the impact of the strike might not be felt so much.

Mixed compliance from Sokoto

Students of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, sat for examinations on Monday despite the ASUU strike.

However, a source told one of our correspondents that ASUU UDUS would come out with a decision on Wednesday.

At the Sokoto State University, there was total compliance as all academic activities had stopped.

Dr Attahiru Sifawa, the Chairman of the Sokoto State University ASUU, said, “Our chapter members are in agreement with the directives from the ASUU national headquarters.”

At the Federal University Gusau, Zamfara State, and the Federal University Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State respectively, the directive was of no effect as academic activities were not interrupted.

It was gathered that ASUU in the two “baby universities” had yet to be fully integrated into the national body of ASUU.

The ASUU Chairman at Federal University, Gusau, Dr Nasiru Anka, told The PUNCH that lecturers at the university had yet to register and be recognised by the national ASUU.

The Head, Information and Public Relations Unit, Federal University Birnin Kebbi, Jamilu Magaji, said, “The university is new and our staff have yet to join any association of that nature.”

Kwara shuns ASUU strike

Academic activities continued on Monday in the University of Ilorin and Kwara State University.

The factional Chairman, ASUU, UNILORIN,  Dr Usman Raheem, whose faction is recognised by the UNILORIN management, said the branch did not join the strike as it had not been part of the national ASUU since 2001.

He, however, said the branch was in support of the reason for the strike and urged the Federal Government to honour the agreement it reached with the national body of ASUU since 2009.

Another factional Chairman, ASUU, Dr Kunle Afolayan, whose faction is recognised by the national ASUU, said the executive of the branch would meet on Tuesday (today) on the srike.

Afolayan said, “The strike has just been announced so we are yet to set up the apparatus to enforce it. It is from tomorrow (Tuesday) that branches will meet on the strike.”

Also at KWASU,  It was observed that not all the students were on campus as the school resumed academic activities on Monday.

The factional Chairman of ASUU, KWASU, Dr Adesola Dauda, whose faction is recognised by the national body of ASSU, said the branch did not join the strike as it was still in observer status.

He said, “ASUU national is on strike but KWASU is not on strike because we have just joined ASUU and by the constitution we have to observe.”

The factional Chairman of ASUU, KWASU, Dr. Issa Abdulraheem, who is recognised by KWASU management, said the strike was not  being observed and would not hold in the institution.

Abdulraheem said, “On Wednesday we are going to have a congress. One of the things we are going to discuss is the issue that led to the national ASUU strike. We will tell members why we are not joining.”

ASUU BUK paralyses activities

The strike on Monday paralysed academic activities at the Bayero University, Kano, as all the lecture halls were padlocked.

A 400-level student of Accounting Department, Samuel Abah, said he attended a lecture from 8am to 10am, adding that shortly after the lecture, the ASUU strike commenced.

According to him, it was shortly followed by locking of the lecture halls by union officials.

NANS gives FG ultimatum

The National Association of Nigerian Students has given the Federal Government a 21-day ultimatum to meet the demands of ASUU.

NANS, in a statement on Monday by its President, Chinonso Obasi, said it would mobilise against children of politicians in private institutions.

The association said that the strike was caused by the Federal Government’s indifference to the plight of the lecturers.

According to the group, the breakdown in the negotiations between the government and the lecturers shows that political leaders do not care about university teachers.

It stated, “The demands of ASUU are reasonable and touch on the integrity of government.

“We hereby give the Federal Government 21 days to resolve all outstanding issues with ASUU.”

Contributions: Olufemi Atoyebi, Femi Makinde, Adelani Adepegba, Folashade Adebayo, Mudiaga Affe, Simon Utebor, Success Nwogu, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Samson Folarin, Etim Ekpimah, Alexander Okere, Enyioha Opara, Peter Dada, Olaide Oyelude, Clement Nnachi, Adeniji Olugbemi, Ted Odogwu and Friday Amobi

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