Just finished a two hours lecture in a sweaty, no air condition, poorly projected noisy lecture theater hall, tired and frustrated. As a means just to ease the frustration, I decided to put on my phone just for me to see the trending headline “ASUU IS ON STRIKE.”
ASUU on strike, again?? Burna’s line in Sungba just came to my head;
“Agatha oya dapada (Gbese Jo!)
Shey you dey whine me ni?”
Kept checking if it was whining then I realized it was not. We are going back home again, why are we even striking, what’s the point, so many questions gushing in my head.
That’s what an average student feels like, there comes the question, what exactly happened, and how did it all begin?
WHAT ASUU IS….
ASUU which is the Academic Staff Union of Universities is a Nigerian union of universities that was founded in 1978, a successor to the Nigerian Association of University Teachers formed in 1965, and covers academic staff in all of the Federal and State Universities in the country. This union emerged from government workers’ interactions to improve Nigeria’s educational system. The body came to succeed a union of similar philosophical mandate, which aimed to install a viable culture that would effectively transform the country.
The Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) and the Federal Government of Nigeria are always in conflict over funding of the Nigerian Universities, and better working conditions among other ASUU demands.
WHY THE STRUGGLE (Their Demands)
These are some of the demands, and reasons why ASUU is on strike.
1. Funding for the revitalization of tertiary institutions.
This dates back to the 2009 and 2013 agreements. The Federal Government agreed to inject a total of N1.3 trillion into public universities, both state and federal, in six tranches, starting in 2013, after the union decried the deplorable state of the institutions.
In 2013, the government was to release N200 billion, and for the five subsequent years, the government was to release N220 billion each year making the initial amount.
After releasing the first tranche, the government stopped releasing the funds. In 2017, the government released N20 billion. In 2020, it promised to release N25 billion.
ASUU rejected the offer, insisting on N110 billion, which is 50 percent of a tranche of N220 billion that it had demanded, but the government declined, citing paucity of funds.
2. Payment of outstanding Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
In 2009, the Federal Government agreed to pay lecturers EAA, but the issue has lingered for years over the failure to implement it.
The government finally agreed to pay the first tranche of the backlog of allowances in November 2019 and the second installment by August 2020.
But nothing was paid. The union also demanded mainstreaming payments of EAA into the annual budgets, beginning from the 2019 budget.
In 2020, the Federal Government agreed to pay N40 billion. The government recently said it had released N22.127 billion earned allowances of both academic and non-academic workers of universities to 38 universities.
3. Implementation of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
Since the introduction of the IPPIS, ASUU has been kicking against it for many reasons. It said the system would make university operations difficult and inefficient, adding that universities operate a flexible payroll system to ensure flexible recruitment of lectures, to attract scholars from across the world, among others.
To this end, it deployed its own ‘UTAS,’ which it said passed the integrity test by the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) but the Federal Government has rejected it, insisting that UTAS failed the integrity test.
4. Renegotiation of 2009 agreements.
The Federal Government agreed to renegotiate the 2009 agreement to review the university’s conditions of service, funding, university autonomy, and academic freedom.
The conditions of service included a separate salary structure for university lectures to be known as the ‘Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure’.
Thirteen years later, the government recently inaugurated a seven-man committee, but ASUU has since refused to recognize the committee, and this could be seen prolonging the strike action.
These are just a few of the demands of ASUU.
WHEN THE STRUGGLE BEGAN
The Union struggled against the military regime during the 1980s. In 1988 the union organized a National Strike to obtain fair wages and university autonomy.
As a result, the ASUU was outlawed on 7 August 1988 and all its property was withdrawn. It was allowed to resume in 1990, but after another strike was again banned on 23 August 1992.
However, an agreement was reached on 3 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 the Sani Abacha military regime.
Then The Democratic Shenanigans….
After the end of the military era in 1999, Nigerians welcomed democracy “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” but were they?.
If there’s anything that has been very constant in the academic calendar of the Nigerian Universities since 1999, it’s the reoccurring strike, and each time the two parties call for a meeting to settle their disagreements, it usually ends with the government promising the union that the demands would be met soon.
The government’s refusal to meet the union’s demands since 1999 has however been the basic reason ASUU goes on strike almost every year.
Statistically, ASUU has Spent 1 in Every 4 Days on Strike in the Last 6 Years, pretty crazy right?.
Here’s the timeline of the ASUU strike since 1999.
1. 1999 “Democratic era.”
After the end of the military era in 1999, it didn’t take long for Nigerian students to experience a disruption in their academic pursuits.
A few months after the Obasanjo-Atiku administration was sworn-in, ASUU embarked on a nationwide strike and it lasted for five months.
2. 2001 “Statement”
In 2001, ASUU declared another strike over the reinstatement of 49 lecturers sacked at the University of Ilorin.
The industrial action was aggravated when the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo described Nigerian university lecturers as “a bunch of lazy and ungrateful people” The strike was called off after three months.
3. 2002 “ASUU Democratic Downslide”
Having had an agreement with the Federal Government during the previous strike, the union was forced to embark on another industrial action on Sunday, December 29, 2002, after the Obasanjo administration failed to implement the agreement. The strike lasted for only two weeks.
4. 2003 “It just keeps getting worse”
In 2003, Nigerian university undergraduates had to stay at home again for six months as ASUU embarked on another industrial action due to the non-implementation of previous agreements, which covered poor university funding and disparity in salary and retirement age.
5. 2005 “Strike! it’s never stopping”
Nigerian university students again experienced another disruption in their academic calendars as university lecturers went on another industrial action. According to the Guardian, the lecturers went on strike for just two weeks.
6. 2006 “a week at least”
In April 2006 academic activities were paralyzed in all public universities across the country when ASUU declared a 3-day warning strike. It eventually lasted for one week.
7. 2007 “Same promise and fail system”
The 2006 industrial action was followed by another on March 26, 2007. The strike lasted for three months. The reasons for the strike were pretty much the same reasons for the previous strike.
8. 2008 “ Lazy lecturer? No! Lazy government yes”
In a bid to press home its demands, ASUU went on strike for one week in 2008. The demands included an improved salary scheme and reinstatement of 49 lecturers who were dismissed at the University of Ilorin. Remember the statement “bunch of lazy lecturers” made by Obasanjo, the Union was bidding for their reinstatement.
9. 2009 “Umaru Musa Yar’Adua good intentions”
In 2009, lecturers in public universities across the country embarked on an industrial action that lasted for four months.
The strike which started in June was called off in October. Before the strike was called off, the Federal Government and the union had an agreement.
The 2009 ASUU/FG agreement would later become the reason for subsequent industrial action.
10. 2010 “Goodluck spoils Good intentions”
The year 2010 also saw another setback for Nigerian university undergraduates in their academics as ASUU embarked on another indefinite strike that lasted for over five months.
The strike started on 22 July 2010 and was called off in January 2011.
11. 2011 “Strike into a new year”
Since the FG failed to honor its 2009 agreement to adequately fund universities in the country and implement the 70-year retirement age limit for ASUU members, the union again paralyzed academic activities nationwide in December 2011.
The strike lasted for 59 days and was called off in 2012.
12. 2013 “Wow, headlines not changing soon”
Again, the government’s failure to review the retirement age for professors from 65 to 70; approve funding to revitalize the university system; increase the budgetary allocations to the education sector by 26% among other demands led to another industrial action.
The strike was embarked upon on July 1, 2013, called off on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. It lasted for five months, 15 days.
13. 2017 “indefinite”
On August 17, 2017, ASUU again declared an indefinite strike over unresolved and contentious issues with the Federal Government. The strike was called off in September.
14. 2019 “Strike, seems endless”
The Academic Staff Union of Universities said late on Wednesday that its members should not be held responsible if there is any disruption in the university system.
This, the union said, was because the Federal Government had not shown commitment to carrying out the 2019 Memorandum of Action.
“Reaching agreement with the Federal Government has often been a frustrating journey for our union. It is often made by protests, and strikes and requires a conscious and focused engagement.
The 2001 agreement, which gave birth to the 2009 agreement, was not an exemption. The exception here is the personality leading the government negotiation team.”
15. 2021 “ COVID-19 strike”
ASUU on Monday, November 17th, 2021, announced its plan to embark on another strike in three weeks if the federal government continued to renege on the 2020 agreement with it.
The union had accused the federal government of failing to implement the agreement after it called off its nine-month-old strike in December 2020.
16. 2022 “Lovers Strike”
The union announced on Monday, February 14, 2022, going on two weeks warning strike of the Government’s failure to meet their demands, two weeks turns into months now and the union is obstinate in not changing its course till all demands are met.
After all these, I concluded,
“Watin FG do ASUU no good”
CITATION: Business day, Wikipedia, pulse.com, Vanguard, and other wonderful resources.