If there is anything unions in Nigeria have taught us, it is that the government is generally unreliable, and unwilling to compromise so withdrawing services forms the best way to get their attention.
The ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has lingered for five months yet no mutual understanding has been reached by both parties. Despite calls by the Federal government to reopen schools locked down since March due to the pandemic, universities will not be reopening. The fight for fair wages by the union first began in 1988 and has not come to an end.
Yesterday, the President of the union (ASUU), Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said universities will not reopen till the government takes a step to fulfilling its FGN-ASUU 2009 agreement. This was reached after two years of negotiation between the lecturers and a government team appointed by the former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili. In 2013, the union went on an indefinite strike to remind the government of its promises.
What is the 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement?
The ASUU-FGN agreement, a 51-paged document was signed by the former President of the Union, Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie, Dr. B. O Babalakin, Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of the Federal Universities, and Deacon Gamaliel O. Onosode, Chairman, FGN/ASUU Re-negotiation Committee. It was first introduced in 2006. The issues for negotiations were (a) Conditions of Service (b) Funding (c) University Autonomy and Academic Freedom (d) Other Matters.
Here are some highlights:
- It was agreed that there shall be a separate Salary Structure for University Academic staff to be known as Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure II (CONUASS II)
- It was agreed that each University shall procure the establishment of a Housing Loan Fund. The loan is payable within a period of time with an interest rate determined by the governing council of respective universities.
- The University Health Centres which qualify as Primary Health Care Providers shall be recognized as such, and NHIS Contributions of University staff registered with them shall be directly remitted to the University Health Centres. University Governing Councils shall ensure that their health centers are upgraded to meet the stipulated requirements for registration set by NHIS.
- Each State University will require N3,680,018 per student while Federal Universities require N1,518,331,545,304 for a period of 2009-2011
- The autonomy of universities and academic freedom should be enhanced and protected.
Despite the agreement, tertiary institutions in Nigeria are still suffering from nonpayment of lecturers to decaying infrastructure.
There is a deliberate attempt to kill university education in the country. Some universities use stoves in their laboratories instead of burners and buckets to fetch water to perform experiments; it’s as bad as that.
Check the social media; you will see them celebrating their children graduating from foreign universities. This is why they are not willing to fund public universities.
Prof. Biodun further said if their needs are not met they will ‘unfold their next strategy’ but this was not made known to the public.
I think it is better we wait. When we get to that bridge, we will cross it. I can’t open our strategy here; whatever you do is about strategy; let the government refuse to negotiate, we will unfold our strategy then.
Why this is important
Education is a very important tool for development. Nigeria is currently bearing the brunt of years of underinvestment in its educational sector and it is important that the government takes greater steps to bring this to an end. It can do that by doing a better job of reassuring those tasked with offering academic services to students and reducing the potential areas of conflict and tension.