Strike : Tension mounts in campuses as ASUU meets today

As the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, meets in Lagos this weekend, tension has been heightened on campuses across the country over the possiblity of the lecturers going on strike once again.

Checks by Sunday Vanguard showed that a number of universities already preparing for semester examinations are very apprehensive that the exercises may be affected.

For instance, the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, has slated the first semester examination for commencement by the last week of this month, but students and lecturers are now waiting for the outcome of the meeting of the National Executive Council, NEC, of ASUU to know what would be the next line of action.

A 300 level student of Geology in the school, who gave her name as Grace, said with the situation of things whether the exam would start ot not later this month is dependent on the outcome of the meeting.

“The timetable by the school management is that we would start our first semester exam in two weeks time and end by mid March. But if ASUU goes on strike that may no longer be possible. We all know that if the strike starts, the process of calling it off would take some time.

“Our appeal is that the two sides should consider our interest. We spent nearly a year at home because of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and if another strike starts now, that will add more weeks or even months to our stay in campus,” she said.

On its part, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, has said the looming strike is another attempt to return the students back to the streets.

It also added that it would be another distraction to education in Nigeria.

In a statement on Saturday, signed by the South-West Coordinator, Comrade Stephen Tegbe and the Zonal Public Relations Officer, Comrade Emmanuel Esiegbe, it also faulted the government for neglecting to do the its duties as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

“Education in Nigeria in recent times owing to the negligence on the part of the government has the opposite of the educational objectives enshrined in chapter two(2) section eighteen (18) of the Nigerian constitution.

“It is no longer news that the Academic Staff Union of Universities is currently planning to embark on a fresh strike owing to the inability of the Federal Government to fulfill the promise made to the union on the payment of members’ arrears. The union, despite the plea from parents, insisted on speaking to the Federal Government in the language they understand best and the last line of action (strike), an attempt that will send our colleagues in universities back home, enlogate their stay in their respective institutions and keep their age at disadvantage.

“The Zone D Leadership of NANS under the leadership of Tegbe Stephen Fiyinfoluwa in the interest of Nigerian students across the nation is hereby pleading with our kecturers to kindly bear with us as we move on to ensure that we join them to consult and consolidate actions to fast track the process of the payment. By extension, we want the Union to consider the fact that we will not only be losing out for staying home, but incessant industrial actions will keep bringing down the value of our education and the quality of the graduates we will be producing.

“In a similar vein, we are sending a strong warning to the Federal Government against toying with our future by keeping us out of school because nothing changes the fact that if the government officials in Abuja are getting their salaries, nothing should stop our lecturers from getting paid as at when due.

“Specifically, we demand the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency convene a meeting with the leadership of ASUU and discuss the best way to go about the payment. We hope the government responds as demanded to avoid demonstration from countless Nigerian students and may we remind the Federal Government that the popular#EndSARS protest has ASUU strike as one of the remote causes.

“As we progress to ensure our universities remain open and the academic calendar keeps running, we are urging Nigerian students across campuses to join us in all actions because collectivism is the key and resisting this is in tandem with the goals of keeping the future generation safe from such menace,” the statement read.

Also speaking, the National President of the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigena, NAPTAN, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, called on the lecturers and the government to consider the plight of students in their actions and inactions.

Danjuma, who spoke in a telephone chat, said in the event of a strike by the union, the parents and students would be at the receiving end.

“If they go on strike, students would stay longer than necessary on campus and parents who are eager that their wards finish school on time would also wait further. ASUU should give more room for the government to negotiate with them. We know that what they are asking for is in the interest of all, but caution is still the word.

“President Muhammadu Buhari should do everything possible to let our children remain in school and get the best of education,” he stated.

Meanwhile, there are fears that the National University Games, NUGA, slated to hold next month at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, may be affected if the lecturers go on strike.

If the strike option is chosen by the union, campuses would be shut down and to get students mobilised for preparations may be difficult.

Also, some of the lecturers are also expected to train the students for various sporting events to be competed for during the games.

Recall that the union is demanding the renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement signed by the two parties, the replacement of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, IPPIS, with the University Transparency and Accountability System, UTAS, the payment of promotion and salary arrears, an end to the proliferation of universities by state and federal governments without adequate funding among others.

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