The past three months have witnessed not just a disruption of academic activities, but a threat to the future of Nigerian students in what seems to be an unending ASUU-FG feud and compulsory sit-at-home order for frustrated students.
Striking lecturers, under the direction of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on February 14, embarked on a 4-week warning strike which was later extended by an additional 8 weeks over the failure of the Federal Government to meet ASUU’s demands.
In the weeks that followed, both parties were seen to be swinging to and fro in no direction, forcing ASUU on Friday the 12th of May to extend the industrial action by 3 months after a Tripartite meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President and representatives of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), a day earlier.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige who spoke to journalists after the meeting said that both parties have reached some agreements and he hopes that the strike will be called off soon.
“We have put some timelines for some aspects like the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement in terms of the condition of service and wage review. So, we are hopeful that by next weekend, the unions will see a conclusion in that area,” said Ngige.
Meanwhile, the ASUU President told the pressmen, “There was nothing on the ground for us to consider. We are not stopping the strike until something concrete is done.”
Fueled by anger after receiving the news, hopeless Nigerian students took to the streets again in their usual fashion.
National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS Southwest (ZONE D) immediately launched the “University of Street” protests, with hours of road blockades in major metropolitan cities in Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Lagos states.
Yesterday, Thursday the 19th of May, students of Ekiti State University (EKSU) and the neighbouring Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) joined the demonstration, with EKSU SUG President, Alade Kehinde Emmanuel taking the lead alongside the NANS National President, Asefon.
According to the organisers, the protest is the voice and power of students. More importantly, an opportunity for them to air their agitations because their future matters.
On Tuesday the 17th of May, the Ekiti State University Student Union body released a statement of a Joint Campus protest scheduled to hold on Thursday at Fajuyi Memorial Park, Ado-Ekiti where students of EKSU and FUOYE would converge. “There is no excuse for ignorance. Break the silence! Speak up!” one of the graphics read.
While Fajuyi and other connecting roads were blocked with vehicles and tyres, throngs of students were seen across barricades with placards and banners, chanting and singing Aluta songs during the peaceful protest which lasted more than 4 hours, thereby creating traffic congestion for motorists.
In an interview, the Public Relations Officer of Ekiti State University Student Union body, Bakare Taofeek, faulted the Federal Government for the prolonged strike.
“It is heartbreaking and saddening that both the FG and ASUU bodies have not been able to reach an agreement. Despite this, a series of political rallies have been held across states regarding forthcoming elections thereby neglecting students (youths) who are always proclaimed leaders of tomorrow. We are frustrated and our life plans are disrupted/delayed. Our future toyed with!” he cried out.
Speaking about the actions of ASUU, the PRO stated: “It is the only way lecturers can express their dissatisfaction to the government…but ASUU should be considerate as well. Our future should be of uppermost interest to them. We should be considered in their decisions. Lecturers sitting for over two months at home will be paid the salary for those months despite not taking a class. However, students, in the end, have to bear the brunt of the strike action,” he said.
Sharing his thoughts on reasons why some state universities have joined in the strike, Taofeek explains it as an act of solidarity, showing that an injustice to one, is an injustice to all. Nonetheless, it should be limited, noting that some State Universities have understood this fact and pulled out of the strike.
“I believe EKSU should do as well. Joining the strike is an act of Solidarity, but should be limited. Meanwhile, the SUG had made efforts to meet with ASUU-EKSU. This protest in conjunction with FUOYE students, we believe, shall produce the requested result; our resumption back to school.”
One of the protesters, Samuel Afolayan, blamed the strike on the Federal Government as an act of wickedness, which leaves ASUU with no option but to speak in the language that FG understands, that is, “STRIKE.”
However, Samuel supports the continuation of the strike action if matters remain unresolved. When asked if the industrial action is a solution, Samuel observes that the strike is a price we (all students) have to pay because of the coming generation.
“ASUU should fight this battle till the end. They should not collect half payment as they are always given…because if they are given part, trust by next year we are still going to witness another strike.
“I am comfortable with it, so far the outcome won’t warrant strike again in Nigeria,” he said.
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