Gabriel Dike, Bianca Iboma-Emefu, Felix Ikem (Nsukka), Obinna Odogwu (Awka), Tony John (Port Harcourt) and Paul Orude (Bauchi)
With the industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) entering the seventh month, students have made passionate appeal to the Federal Government to resolve the issues in contention.
The students also wanted the union to consider their plight and suspend the strike. They are worried about the slow pace of negotiations between the Federal Government and ASUU.
Lecturers in public universities in March 2020, before COVID-19, embarked on an indefinite strike to press home the implementation of their demands. The Federal Government had directed tertiary institutions to reopen for academic activities on Monday, October 12, but ASUU vowed that its members would not comply until their demands were met.
Its National President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, asked students and parents to be patient with the union as the current “strike is meant to improve the university education.” He asked the Federal Government to explain to Nigerians how it expected lecturers that have not been paid for three to eight months to return to the classrooms.
Demands of the union included the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), re-negotiation of 2009 FG/ASUU agreement, 2019 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), outstanding Earned Academic Allowance (EAA), revitalisation funds for state and federal universities, visitation panels to federal universities and proliferation of state universities.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in August mobilised students nationwide to stage a protest at the Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja, on the continued closure of tertiary institutions and the unresolved ASUU strike.
Students seeks president’s intervention
Many of the university students said they are not happy staying at home for seven months and begged President Buhari to take the necessarily steps to resolve the ASUU strike, so that the universities will be opened for academic activities.
Ngwu Bonaventure, final year student, Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), said staying at home has been very horrible, unimaginable and undeserved punishment from the Federal Government and ASUU. He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to meet all ASUU demands without further delay, even as he appealed to the union to suspend the strike, return to the classroom and give government time to gradually implement their demands.
Ani Chinemerem, a 100 level student of Medical Radiography and Radiological Sciences, UNN, said: “Staying at home all this while has been with mixed feelings, even though I used the opportunity to learn how to bake, but I would prefer to have an uninterrupted academic calendar.”
Julieth Ozioko, final year student, Public Administration, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Enugu, said: “It has been both a challenge and an opportunity in the last seven months. My graduation date has been delayed, however I have been able to acquire new skills, started a business that I have been passionate about but haven’t had time to start because of school.
“The Federal Government and ASUU should work out a lasting and a sustainable solution for the interest of students. It is about time they stopped using us as pawns in their political games. Our welfare and education should be priority and not letting us the grass suffer when they, the elephants are fighting.”
Chinasa Okpala, final year Law student, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, said: “Staying at home for seven months hasn’t been an easy one, I must confess. I would really love President Buhari to look into the demands of ASUU.
“Students have been at home for so long, he should at least have a little bit of sympathy and try and meet up with the union’s demands no matter how difficult it may seem. I think that ASUU should also be considerate with their demands. I would want they allow students go back to school and maybe reach an agreement with the Federal Government for the good of Nigerian students.”
Victor Osadolor, 400 level student of University of Lagos, Akoka said he and his colleagues are not happy about the prolonged ASUU strike. He pleaded with Buhari to take over discussion with ASUU and other sister unions in the university system and address their demands to save their education. He also appealed to ASUU to concede some ground and allow universities to resume academic activities.
Bunmi Oludare, 300 level student, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, wanted Buhari to act fast by resolving some of the contentious issues to save students from losing an academic session: “Our only hope is a presidential intervention. ASUU and government officials are foot dragging. I plead with our president to invite ASUU leadership and resolve the issues so that we can go back to school soonest.”
Miracle Madumere, final year student, Abia State University, Uturu, Department of Optometry, said: “It has been demoralizing and depressing that having in mind that I ought to have graduated by now and knowing that I am still an undergraduate, makes me feel I am not making progress.
“We have not done any wrong to be in this trap. For how long can we continue? If their children were schooling in Nigeria, they would have resolved this strike. ASUU and the government should resolve issues preventing reopening of the universities. What they are doing is that they are playing with the lives of younger ones. They should do something.”
Friday Joseph, 300 level student of Linguistics and Communications, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said: “The strike has really affected me in several ways. My brain has become dull because my attention has really moved from serious studies. I am away from studies.
“Those who are in final year and had plans on what to do next cannot go. A lot of students are now working and pushing their mind-sets away from school. Our focus has gone away from students to workers, which is not supposed to be. I wonder how students will cope when this strike is suspended. I want the government and ASUU to resolve this quickly.’’
Ibrahim Oladipupo, 300 level student of Mathematics, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, said: ‘’I think the Federal Government and ASUU need to go back to the negotiating table over IPPIS and other demands. The strike is detrimental to the education of students. ASUU should try and make government see reasons to accept their terms and conditions.’’
A final year student of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Rex Emmanuel, said: ‘’I now run a business, I operate a POS outfit to keep boredom away from me and also eke a living. I am not too comfortable with the strike, as it has extended the academic calendar of students.’’
He, however, said failure by the government to embark on mutual dialogue would result in the disruption of academic activities: “There is the need for the government and the union to come to a peaceful resolution based on the willingness to reach a compromise.”
Paul Bako, 300 level student, Department of Business Administration, Bauchi State University, Gadau, said: ‘’I would have been in my final year now but because of this ASUU strike, it prolonged my stay in the university for additional year. I am appealing to ASUU to suspend the strike so that we can go back because students are the leaders of tomorrow.
“They are the future of this country and if we are unable to graduate at the right time it means our future is being truncated. The youth of the country are stranded and that created room for EndSARS protests and looting in some parts of the country. If the students are in school something like this will not happen.”
Esther Lumi, 400 level student of English Department, Bauchi State University, said: ‘’I am supposed to graduate in October but due to the strike it has not been possible. The industrial action prevented me from graduating. My advice to Buhari is that he should listen to ASUU and meet their demands because they need the money.
“Mr President should do something about it. Once the money is paid the strike will be over. The union should cooperate with government despite the fact that government is not doing what they ought to do. ASUU should also consider the situation the country is in right now and be patient with the government.”