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ASUU STRIKE: The Plight and Experiences of Students on OAU Campus

Background: The Journey So Far

 

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was formed in 1978, serving as a successor to the Nigerian Association of University Teachers (NAUT) formed in 1965 covering some academic staff in all the federal and state Universities in the country. The NAUTs orientation was mainly for improvement in the condition of service, the socio-economic and political well-being of the country. To understand why NAUT became unsuitable for the development of the university system in Nigeria, it is useful to understand that the development of the university system was a function of the movement of the socio-political and economic direction of the country. ASUU’s orientation became radical, more concerned with broad national issues when the funding for education and so of universities became poorer and stood firmly against oppressive, undemocratic policies of the country.

The ASUU was active in struggles against the military regime as an assault on academic freedom was the subject of resistance. Throughout the military period, ASUU waged its struggles around:

  1. The survival of the university system: the conditions of service (salary and non-salary), funding and university autonomy/academic freedom, the defence of the right to education. 
  2. Broad national issues such as anti-military struggles, the struggles against military rule, the struggle against privatization, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), and the World Bank’s attempt to take over the universities. 

In 1988, the union organized a National Strike to obtain fair wages and university autonomy. As a result, the union was proscribed on the 7th of August, 1988 with all its property seized. It was allowed to resume in 1990, but after another strike was again banned on the 23rd of August, 1992. However, an agreement was reached on the 3rd of September, 1992, that met several of the union’s demands including the right of workers to collective bargaining. The ASUU organized further strikes in 1994 and 1996, protesting against the dismissal of staff by General Sani Abacha’s military regime. 

Since 1999, the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) and the Federal Government of Nigeria have always been in conflict over funding of the Nigerian Universities, better working conditions among other ASUU demands. The government’s refusal to meet the union’s demands since 1999 even after several meetings, dialogues and negotiations, has however been the basic reason for ASUU’s subsequent industrial action. Even after the end of the military era, when Nigerians embraced a new era of democracy and the government promised to have their interest at heart and people-oriented, it did not take long for the Nigerian students to experience another strike causing disruption in their academic pursuit. Ever since then, the FG has failed to meet up with the demands of the Union and this has led to consecutive strikes over the years.

Based on the data analysis provided by Premium Times in 2018 and updated in 2020, it shows that “Nigerian lecturers had gone on strike 15 times since 1999. The entire period they embarked on such a strike spanned about 50 months.” 

During the year 2020, after the broke out of covid-19, one of the demands by the Union was the tug of war against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) of which the federal government says lecturers must enrol on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) otherwise they would not be paid their salary beginning from October 2019. The government says, “No IPPIS, No Payment”. But the lecturers say the platform does not capture the academic community, so they would not register on the platform, warning that “no salary, no work”, and resulted in conflicts between the unionists and the government. Therefore, when lecturers were not paid the February salary, they began their two-week warning strike by shutting down the nation’s universities. But the major reason still stands that the Federal Government refused to honour their previous agreement. 

 

Update On the Current Strike and ASUU’s Stand

 

 In the late hours of Thursday, 3rd of March, 2022, a bulletin was released on the official Twitter page of the union from the national secretariat, the University of Abuja saying “ASUU, University of Abuja Chapter has voted for the strike to continue. The UNIABUJA chapter also faulted claims by the Labour Minister of paying over 90billion to ASUU. The Union said no such money was received by ASUU.  

This has shown that the union would soon embark on an indefinite strike to press home their demands after it suspended their nine-month-old strike in December 2020. Dr Lazarus Maigoro, Chairman of the University of Jos chapter of the Union, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday in Jos.

 

Students Reaction

 

“The strike has only taught me where I would be in the ‘outside world’. If I had graduated last year, I bet I would still be struggling with a job by now. Nothing really changed. Now, I’m still figuring out how to cope outside the four walls of university with that much burden on me. ASUU chairman once advised every University student to utilize this period by learning one hard skill. I will say we should learn more than one hard skill and leave this country. Don’t be surprised, we don’t owe Nigeria. We’re not citizens, we’re just ordinary members of the Nigerian state,” says a Part 4 student of OAU. 

This has shown that this particular student has lost all hope in his country and is following the advice of the ASUU chairman. Someone like this won’t have any cause to value education other than to go to school and get his certificate. 

“The inconsistency in Nigerian Universities’ calendar is consistent which has caused a lot of deterioration in terms of standard in the Educational world. ASUU or no ASUU, education now is not worth it. This fault is not from ASUU. The system is fucked up. ASUU is fighting for their rights”, says Adebisi Hameed, another Part 4 student of OAU. When asked his opinion in the resolution of the strike between ASUU and the government, he said: 

“ASUU should lose interest in this system if they want to be honest with themselves. In 2009 when Yaradua signed the dissension, it wasn’t obscure that it was more like a unilateral thing. Nigeria needs restructuring. Nigeria’s problem is beyond personnel changes. What we need is REVOLUTION! We all understand the system. The federal government can never pay the ASUU money. They should forget it just like other members of the state have lost hope. Our only hope is restructuring.

“Well, this is actually my first time experiencing an ASUU strike on campus so I’m inexperienced in this aspect. I’m just in part 1 and I’m new to the whole system, as I have to read on my own. Most of the lecturers have refused to release the course outline on the basis of the strike which makes reading on my own more difficult. I have learnt how to do research on my own, read extensively and also be brave to consult wider textbooks plus the students at a higher level. It also allows me time to extensively focus on my career also. Did I mention before that I want to be a renowned writer? I’m working towards achieving so now,” says Adeyinka peace, an OAU freshman.

Oluwabusayo, a part 4 Faculty of Pharmacy student, talks about how she had gone online to soft skills. “Since we are in the age of social media, I have been able to find a way out by learning digital skills on the internet and from the comfort of my home.”

“Subjectively, education in Nigeria is worth it because talking about Nigerians generally, education is not limited to only public universities, which are those who undergo different strikes due to one reason or the other. Talking about private universities and other colleges that virtually seldom undergo strikes, I will still say education in Nigeria is worth it but we only just don’t have the needed resources to make learning easy and motivating.”

“Maybe it’s worth it, maybe it’s not,” says Bello Bayo, 400L. 

“The strike has been a setback in the educational system as it has perpetually slowed down the already set academic calendar and has rendered students’ effort to reconcile with their desired grade futile. I will advise fellow Nigerian students to acquire requisite skills that will complement their course of study and not just sit to waste away their time,” said Ibrahim Sulaimon, 400L. 

“The ASUU strike has been recurrent in federal universities. There’s nothing encouraging about the educational system. Personally, I have lost all interest in schooling. I don’t like schooling but I love education and that goes beyond classrooms. What’s the essence of going to school when we know at the end, we won’t use our certificate? But because we want to learn and decide to go to school, the government is playing with our lives,” Fawole Wonder, 300L.

This opinion story has been published on Campus Reporter with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author. Campus Reporter does not bear any responsibility for the contents of this story, all views belong to the author.

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