ASUU strike resolution:President Buhari of Nigeria and President Osodeke of ASUU in ambivalent context

*ASUU strike resolution: President Buhari of Nigeria and President Osodeke of ASUU in ambivalent context.*

By Gbenga Olowoyo Fcia fipma JP

 

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”
-Desmond Tutu of South Africa

The memory of the eight (8) months of ASUU strike in Nigeria between February 14th – October 14th 2022 will continue to linger and reverberate in the mental picture of students, parents guardians and Lecturers because of various victims of the unfortunate scenario: “casualties are not only who were dead…”

It is no more news that various stakeholders were involved in the face saving resolution of the crisis, is it: pro Chancellors, seen and unseen individuals, House of Representatives leadership led by Femi Gbajabiamila, National industrial Court of Nigeria, Appeal Court among other stakeholders.

 

Honestly , it is disheartening that the crisis could be allowed to drag so long before the Leaders we entrusted the governance of this country could know the best way to resolve the crisis, differences, interests , feelings and agitations of Lecturers.

In a reasonable clime; in any organisation there are bound to be different opinions and agitations in one way or the other, these feelings are not normally taken as personal issues like the ASUU agitations but collective and joint matters that can best be resolved to better both the workers interest and advance the organizational goals for better service delivery and advancement of human capital development like the case of university education.

As the matter has been resolved, this should not be a phyric resolution , sincerity of purpose must be a guiding principle in the implementation of all agreed resolutions and terms.

However, the dimension the matter is drifting in recent past considering the public statements from both the Federal Government and ASUU are not encouraging, if anything funny should happen , it will not be tolerated by all Nigerians from all strata.

The promises and assurances from both parties ( Federal Government and ASUU) must be adhered to, in the areas of Budget provisions, payment of the unpaid eight months salaries , Earned academic Allowances , agreed position on UTAS/ IPPIS among others.

 

Federal Government must not see the Appeal Court judgement that ordered ASUU to suspend the strike as a potent weapon to abandon and jetision ASUU as irrelevant in the scheme of things in the university education management.

 

For instance, ASUU cried out that they could not have money to go to classes and teach while some of them are on drugs, many died during the strike action due to lack of funds, hence, it is desirous to avoid any backlash of insincerity on the side of Federal Government.

The entire country appreciated the timely intervention by the leadership of House of Representatives came to intermediate between Mr President Buhari of Nigeria and Mr President Osodeke of ASUU and its Leadership. It is highly commendable.

 

It is in that spirit and eventual comment of the speaker of House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila that whipped up iota of confidence , that the truce established will be sustained. According to him, he said , “all hands must be on deck to ensure academic strikes in universities become a thing of the past”

In the Gbajabiamila words “it is time to admit certain harsh truths and take radical action.”

He regretted that the strike lasted for eight months and noted that it should never have happened in the first place.

 

“Our public universities should be citadels of learning and innovation, where young people discover themselves and reach for the stars,” he said.

 

Mr Gbajabiamila further reiterated his called on the government, universities, unions, and citizens “to begin the critical conversation about the future of public tertiary education in the country.”

While all of ASUU’s demands were not met, the Federal Government made concessions which Mr President never pronounced as all Nigerians were expecting to make some pronouncements on the ASUU demands.

 

On the contrary, it was on the strength of the Mr President Buhari 2023 budget presentation where he said that a total of N470 billion has been earmarked in the 2023 budget for the revitalisation and salary enhancements in the nation’s tertiary institutions in order to address some of ASUU’s main demands that Nigerians heaved a sign of relief.

Nigerans will take it seriously the declaration and commitment made by President Mohammodu Buhari that his administration( Federal Government) was committed to implementing agreements reached with staff unions within the available resources: this should be done without any breach.

On the other hand, in the words of Chris Piwuna , the National Vice President of ASUU , he called for serious consideration when he said that despite strong appealed by Femi Gbajabiamila, the speaker of the House of Representatives, for the union’s withheld salaries to be paid, the lecturers have not been paid.

“The federal government had said it would apply the ‘no work, no pay’ rule for the period of the strike by the university lecturers. to say the least this is not the best way to solve the problem. Federal Government must have a rethink on this stand for permanent peace to return to our tertiary institutions.

Truly, l personally believed that Federal Government must reconsider its standpoint on this decision, moreso, information in the Public domain has indicated that most universities will make up the lost period with extral work as promised by the lecturers during the struggle , hence , Federal Government must be magnanimous in this regard and pay them their eight months outstanding salaries.

Also, that the union’s stance on IPPIS will not change.
“We are not accepting that IPPIS in any shape or form. ASUU will never accept IPPIS on our campuses,” he said.
“Autonomy of Nigerian university is our problem, not the peculiarities in IPPIS. The office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation has taken over the work of the university governing councils and vice-chancellors. We are asking that they take their hands off the universities.”

He added that ASUU would still explore legal options regarding the strike, which was recently called off following a judgment by the appeal court.

“Our lawyers will continue to argue our case in court and we believe that the continuation of the case in court is very important for the labour movement in this country,” he said.

“And in the response of our lawyers, they had to raise issues of agreement that have not been kept and all of that.

“We are interested in the court case. We are hoping that the judges will listen and they are watching the government and they can say ASUU is nothing other than a respectable union that has respect for the court,” he said.

Flowing from the above words of Comrade Chris Piwuna the National Vice President of ASUU; l want to plead with both parties that they must be sincere with themselves, the entire stakeholders are painstakingly watching the scenario that will work out which should not breed reactionary developments from the publics.

The commitment made by all chapters of ASUU in both Federal and State Universities across the Federation are very encouraging and it showed that they will cover all the lost grounds

For instance, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi (JOSTUM) shortly after the suspension of the strike action said that their offices are not safe for immediate habitation as reptiles have taken over them.

Chairman of ASUU JOSTUM, Prof. Ameh Ejembi, who spoke to journalists in Makurdi, noted that the congress met to review its NEC directive for the suspension of the eight-month-old strike embarked by the union and that they resolved to resume work immediately.

Ejembi, “I directed everybody to go to their offices except that the offices are not too healthy for us.

There are lots of reptiles in our private offices and laboratories because of the long abandonment and the flood as we are close to the river.

“We have already written to the Vice-Chancellor of the institution to please fumigate the environment as quickly as possible so that people can settle down and feel safe to work.

“Our strike is not like any other strike. For every assignment we ought to do, when we come back that will be the first point we will start with. We had finished exams for the first semester so I have directed our members to mark and submit their work on time.

 

“But, we are appealing that the government should understand that these people have been out of salary for eight months so for them to be able to come back to work effectively, we should be able to show some goodwill so that the people can be empowered.”

 

Similarly, the Chairman of ASUU in Benue State University (BSU), Dr Tarnongo Kwaghfan, said that the chapter after its congress suspended the strike.

 

“ASUU did not call off the strike, we suspend it because we are dealing with people who are not honourable and you always have a pinch of salt when dealing with them. What that means is that the university will resume and lecturers will go back to work.

 

“We are expecting that the government should do the needful so that we avoid these unnecessary breaks in the educational system at the tertiary level. Now, there would be no rest for lecturers and no rest for students. We need to catch up with issues we left behind,” Kwaghfan posited.

The same positions were expressed by all ASUU chapters across the country;e.g University of Ilorin, Federal University of Akure, Federal University of Oye Ekiti, Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba Akoko , Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife among others that had officially announced their resumption dates.

For the purpose of inference, in the press release issued suspending the strike action and duly signed by the National President of ASUU Professor Emmanuel Osodeke dated 13th October 2022 inter alia stated that ” while appreciating the commendable efforts of the leadership of House of Representatives and other patriotic Nigerians who waded into the matter, NEC noted with regret that issues in dispute are yet to be satisfactorily addressed” but as a law abiding Union and in deference to several appeals from President Buhari (“coupled with his integrity”) leadership of House of Representatives and other well meaning Nigerians the ASUU decided to suspend the strike action.

The issues in dispute between Federal Government and ASUU are:

*Funding for the revitalisation of Public Universities

*Earned Academic Allowances

*Proliferation of Public Universities

*Visitation panels/ release of white paper

*University transparency And accountability solution (UTAS) as a broadsheet spectrum software to stop illegality and provide alternative platform payment in the university system

*Renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement, which are still pending

 

 

Painfully, after the suspension of ASUU strike on October 14th ,2022 , ASUU again filed an appeal seeking the nullification of the judgment of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria of September 21st ,2022, which ruled that the lecturers must return to the classroom.

We will all recalled that Justice Hamman Polycarp of the National Industrial Court on September 21 ordered the striking lecturers to call off their strike and return to work.

ASUU had stated that the National Industrial Court lacks evidence to back its ruling that Nigerian students would lose several life-saving opportunities due to age increment caused by the current seven months’ strike action.

The union made this known in the court documents filed before the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling of the National Industrial Court which ordered them to end the lingering strike and resume classes.

“The point being made is that, even where the lost academic semesters/sessions are covered upon resumption, the increase in the age of these students who are being deprived of the opportunity to complete their studies as and when due cannot be reversed. Section 2 (2) of the National Youth Service Corps Act for example prohibits any person who is over the age of thirty (30) at the date of graduation from being enlisted into the Service Corps,” the National Industrial court said among other things while delivering its interlocutory judgement.

The court which also noted that it would not hear ASUU’s appeal should the union fail to obey the ruling of the lower court, on October 7, ordered the striking lecturers to resume work with immediate effect.

However, the counsel for ASUU, Femi Falana, SAN while speaking with some journalists in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, said that the fresh appeal was filed the same day the suspension of the prolonged industrial action was announced.

“The appeal was filed on October 14, 2022. However, no date for hearing yet,” he said.

Where are we going from hear? As patriotic Nigerians should the future of Nigerian youths and the country be played like chess game?

However, the remorseful ness of the Federal Government in the official press release issued by the Deputy Director of press in the Federal ministry of Labour and employment Mr Olajide Oshundun where he
apologized to Nigerian students and
parents over the prolonged strike
embarked upon by the Academic Staff
Union of Univetsities, ASUU is reassuring that Federal Government will be alive to its responsibilities in this regard.

 

The statement from the Federal
Ministry of Labour further
expressed gratitude to all Nigerians
who participated in various ways in
the negotiations leading to the calling
off of the strike.

 

The Federal ministry of Labour and employment further reinforced the assurance to Nigerians that with
the steps the federal government is
taking, Nigerian students will be saved from the unpalatable experience of intermittent,prolonged industrial
actions in future..

“We particularly recognize the
patriotic efforts of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar III, the former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Supo
Ayokunle, all members of Nigeria
Inter Religious Council (NIREC) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of
Nigeria whose wisdom and intervention raised a ray of hope while
the strike was at infancy but for
ASUU’s intransigence to negotiation.” The statement added

I am very sure that Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Labour and employment will be proactive enough in nearest future to prevent strike actions in the interest of humanity.

It is not over untill when it is over, l wish to submit as follows:
Federal Government should pay their eight (8) months outstanding salaries, see to issues raised; that neccessitated the strike action in quick dispatch, with particular reference to issues not attached to the 2023 budget provision so that the sincere heart of the Federal Government can be rekindled.

Nigerians can not afford to wait for another unnecessary and anti humanity strike actions in our tertiary institutions in Nigeria for the sake of Nigeria future
*This time shall past!!!*

Comrade Gbenga Olowoyo fcia fipma JP
Trade Unionist and industrial relations practitioner gbengaolowoyo3@gmail.com
08033570338