On February 14, 2022, public tertiary institutions in the country suspended academic activities due to non- payment of salaries, and other financial benefits by the Federal Government (FG). Since that time, the students have remained at home because negotiations between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the representatives of FG have not yielded any result. With 136 days already lost in this year’s school calendar, owing to prolonged strike and closure of public schools, Nigerian students may likewise see this year, especially those in their final year as a wasted one if nothing is done to salvage the situation, academically.
The popular cliché that ” you can only know the day you entered any Nigerian university, but may not know the date you would complete your course of study is indeed, what has played out since the schools were shut down. This may be one of the reasons the country’s leaders, both at the state and national levels are stealing the country blind to send their children and wards abroad, where the system works uninterrupted even as the students graduate in record time. Functional education is the least anybody could wish away in the country at this point in time, where it appears everything has collapsed.
ASUU, among other issues, is demanding the funding of revitalisation of public universities, payment of Earned Academic Allowances, adoption of the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS), to change the IPPIS, a payment platform forced down the throats of university lecturers, which the union roundly rejected, and promotion arrears in their continued negotiations with the Federal government. Regrettably, President Muhammadu Buhari recently commented on the imbroglio that has stretched for five months. He appealed to all stake holders in the academia to be concerned for ASUU to reconsider its stand and call off the strike, for the sake of the Nigerian students, without their demands being met. This, in fact, is not the way to go. Expectations are that, any message coming from that quarter would be backed up with action, and not the usual rhetoric of “enough is enough” that lacks concrete steps in resolving the lingering issues.
The President’s Sallah message as it stands, may have pushed the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and other affiliate unions to embark on the proposed nationwide strike on sympathy grounds over the treatment meted out to ASUU. ASUU again has said that there would not be any collective bargaining with the Federal Government, and that the strike will continue until the recommendations of the Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs led committee is fully implemented. The emphasis here is that, the Federal Government has not shown any serious commitment to save public institutions from imminent collapse because if it had, this strike would have been called off earlier. More than one week since the President made the passionate appeal, there isn’t any sign that solutions to the problem is in sight, instead, other critical stakeholders of the economy are warming up to down tools and join ASUU as it were. This situation indeed is pitiable.
The Nigerian university system more than anything else has been subjected to ridicule. This should not be the case at all if indeed the Federal Government is walking the talks, especially in a country that is bedeviled with many challenges. Allowing the Nigerian youths to remain at home, doing nothing is the most insensitive thing anyone should contemplate about under any guise, whatsoever. A country that wants to compete favourably on the international scene does not toy with her educational system in which every strong society is built.
While we applaud the NLC for putting the Federal Government on its toes to meet ASUU’s demands without further delay, we want to caution that further industrial action from any other segment of the economy may not augur well for the country at this critical time. In all, government should evolve measures to put to rest the lingering ASUU strike and also ensure that NLC and its affiliate unions are listened to, to avoid total collapse of the economy whose indices are showing negatives in almost all fronts, coupled with the high costs of living Nigerians are going through. Nigeria cannot withstand another strike.