Students of Kaduna State University (KASU) could not escape the ASUU strike, which commenced just as they were about to resume from vacation.
Desmond Mgboh (Kano), Magnus Eze, Raphael Ede (Enugu), Timothy Olanrewaju (Maiduguri), Stanley Uzoaru (Owerri), Mohammed Munirat Nasir (Gusau), Bamigbola Gbolagunte (Akure), Clement Adeyi (Osogbo), Layi Olanrewaju (Ilorin), Femi Folaranmi (Yenagoa), Paul Osuyi (Asaba), Sylvanus Viashima (Jalingo), Tony John (Port Harcourt), Rose Ejembi (Makurdi), Emmanuel Adeyemi (Lokoja) and Sola Ojo (Kaduna)
The strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is taking a big toll on students as it has disrupted the academic calendar and affected the call up of graduating students for the Batch C orientation programme of the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
READ ALSO: ASUU strike and the 2019 polls
More heartbreaking was the death of 11 students of the University of Maiduguri, who perished when the inter-city commuter bus they boarded in Maiduguri to return home in Gombe was involved in a ghastly crash while several of their mates sustained severe injuries.
A Sunday Sun report from across the country showed gloom in the various federal and state universities occasioned by the effects of the ongoing strike.
A visit to the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) revealed that most of the students had already vacated the school premises as a result of the ASUU strike, although few of them were still seen at their various hostels outside the school compound.
Offices of the lecturers of the institution were locked, but the non-academic staffers were engaged in their normal administrative work.
The Public Relations Officer of the institution, Mrs Nwelue, told Sunday Sun that besides the ASUU strike disrupting the school calendar, the university authorities were missing the students.
She pleaded with the Federal Government to reopen negotiation with ASUU in a bid to ending the strike, adding that the students were eager to come back to their classrooms.
Also the Chairman of ASUU-FUTO, Christopher Echereobia, disclosed that the local body decided to join in the strike after the Federal Government reneged on the 2012/2013 agreement on the revitalization of public universities based on the memorandum of understanding signed with ASUU.
He noted that the union advocated for reconstitution of the current government team with a leader and chairman who has the interest of the nation and its people at heart.
He disclosed that another major reason for embarking on the strike was that they wanted the payment of all arrears of shortfall in salaries to all universities that have met the verification requirements of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA).
Echereobia stressed that “the strike will be a no-teaching, no-examination and no-attendance to statutory meetings of any kind.”
Meanwhile, the students of the institution have appealed to the Federal Government and ASUU to go back to the roundtable and reach a favourable compromise.
One of the students, Onyinyechi Eze, noted that she has become bored by staying at home and expressed strong desire to go back to school to resume lectures.
“Whatever the two parties are doing, they should know that we are the ones suffering it. It would be difficult to cover up the semester’s lessons. Besides, staying at home has not been easy for me,” Miss Eze said.
Another student, Basil Egejuru said: “Of what use is the strike, at the end of the day, the Federal Government will still renege on its promises. Students like me are the ones suffering the effect of the strike.”
The Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Federal University Gusau (FUGUS), Zamfara State, Dr Nasiru Garba Anka, has thrown the chapter’s weight behind the ongoing nationwide strike by ASUU despite the non participation of FUGUS.
Anka said the ongoing nationwide strike is for the development of tertiary education in the country. He said that as a newly established university, FUGUS could only be an observer and not allowed to fully participate in ASUU activities yet until it gets full recognition.
“We had wanted to join, but due to the fact that we are yet to get full membership status to participate in ASUU activities as a new university, but though we are not participating physically in the strike, we are 100 percent in support spiritually because the strike is for the good of the universities,” he said.
Also Yusuf Sadiq, an agricultural engineering student of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria said that the strike had affected his examination as the industrial action began when students were writing the semester examination.
Sadiq who is from Katsina State, but resident in Zamfara State, bemoaned the disruption to the academic calendar of most institutions.
Academic activities in the Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Abakaliki, have remained paralysed since the local chapter of ASUU joined the national action called by the leadership of the body.
When Sunday Sun visited the Ishieke campus of the university, only a few students, mainly those in the final year, were seen loitering in the school while some others huddled in clusters, lamenting their plight.
Many other students had travelled out of the campus to join their families in other states.
The branch Chairman of ASUU, Dr Ikechukwu Igwenyi, confirmed that compliance was total in the institution as he disclosed that a monitoring and enforcement committee was set up to sustain compliance.
Igwenyi said the action became inevitable because of government’s insensitivity to the “plight of common Nigerians who find it difficult to have three square meals, not to talk of funding the basic education of their children.”
He named their local issues to include non-payment of earned academic allowance, no promotion and appraisal, no conversion, and non-payment of 11 months CONUASS arrears since 2010.
Others are non-availability of pension scheme for workers, making them casual workers without benefits, zero welfare scheme and so on.
At the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), the ASUU Chapter Chairman, Dr Chinedu Aguba, described the strike as total, saying that no academic activity of any sort (inaugural lecture, promotion interviews, etc) had taken place since the industrial action commenced.
He said: “We have many internal issues, but the governor has instituted an investigative panel that is ongoing. But we signed a Memorandum of Understanding that all the issues would be addressed once the committee report is made public. The agreement is that all outstanding arrears will be paid after the release of the findings.”
He listed their issues to include earned academic allowances of over N4 billion, four years promotion arrears, arrears of pensions and gratuities, as well as monetisation arrears, among others.
Aguba observed that the problem with state universities was that it usually takes another round struggle to get their demands actualised by the state governments; so participating in the national strike was just one leg of the struggles.
He noted that ASUU was determined to pursue its rights to a conclusive end even as he agreed that the negative effects could be collateral.
At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Sunday Sun learnt from the chairman of the ASUU chapter, Dr Ifeanyi Abada, that the strike had recorded 90 percent compliance.
He said that the strike would continue to linger up to 2019 if the Federal Government refused to implement the agreement it had with the body.
“How can we continue to negotiate on already signed agreement? The issue is that government is a continuum and if assets and liabilities were handed over to the government, government should know how to tackle it; it is not enough to say you want to re-negotiate agreement; start implementing and if there is an area they feel, we can discuss.”
He recalled that the union had in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013 embarked on series of strikes before it reached agreement with the previous administration, adding that regrettably, when the current administration came onboard in 2017 they signed an MoU with the union.
However, the government, he said, has continued to renege in the implementation of that agreement and that forced the current strike.
“Government should also consider the plight of the students because even the lecturers have their children in the universities. What we are fighting for is not even easy for us, talking of funding the university because in some universities now some students will seat under the mango tree because of inadequate infrastructure; in some universities students are studying Chemistry without practical facilities. In such circumstances what kind of graduates are such students going to be, we are only fooling ourselves.
“The issue is not altering the academic session, it is about the quality of graduates we are producing. We are talking about quality because our children are involved, we cannot continue to ignore and we are now training half-baked graduates. If a senator can be receiving allowance of N39 million, why can’t government fund the universities? They want to destroy public universities because they are sending their children to private and foreign institutions,” he said.
A 400L Law student of UNN, Chris Okoye, appealed to the Federal Government to honour the agreement it had with ASUU and save the students from the burden of spending extra years in the universities with the attendant cost.
The Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Ondo State has not been spared in the ongoing strike.
Academic activities have been paralysed as lecturers boycotted classes and their offices locked since the strike commenced.
The chairman, FUTA branch of ASUU, Dr Bola Oluya, said that lecturers in the university complied fully with the strike, adding that the lecturers will not resume until they receive directive from the national leadership of the union.
At the main campus of the Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Osogbo, and other campuses across the state, the strike has not had much effect because the university is on vacation while most lecturers are on leave.
The only major activity going on in the school is the 2017 convocation. However, the ASUU Chairman, Dr Femi Abanikannda, told Sunday Sun that though the school had been on vacation, the members had been participating in the industrial action.
The Vice Chancellor, Labode Popola, also told Sunday Sun that the ongoing strike did not have any effect on the academic calendar because the school had been on vacation and students had not been in school.
At Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, the academic staff belong to two factions: Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Congress of University Academics (CONUA).
While the ASUU members are participating fully in the industrial action, having boycotted lectures, their CONUA counterparts have continued with academic activities.
The CONUA Chairman, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, said members of the union would continue with normal academic activities and would not join the industrial action.
He added that no individual or union had any right to force any of the lecturers to join the strike against their will.
But the ASUU Chairman, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, told Sunday Sun that the members had since joined the strike in totality.
He insisted that they would not compromise the call by the national body of the union to embark on the strike to press home their demands, adding that there was no going back.
The Public Relations Officer, Biodun Olarewaju, who spoke on behalf of the school management told Sunday Sun that the industrial action did not have much effect on the academic activities because it was not all the academic staff that embarked on the strike.
The Registrar, Mrs Margaret Omosule, said the university’s academic calendar for the 2017/2018 academic session has not been disrupted in any way.
A Computer Engineering student, Adeola Bisi, confirmed that academic activities were ongoing, stressing that she had just attended a lecture, but added that some lecturers refused to attend their classes.
As the strike embarked upon by ASUU is raging in other institutions, both the University of Ilorin and other universities, both state and federal, in Kwara State are not taking part in the strike. Sunday Sun investigation at the University of Ilorin discovered that staff and students were seen going about their lectures unhindered.
The Director, Corporate Affairs of the university, said that the institution had a tradition of unbroken academic calendar in the last 20 years.
He said that ASUU chapter in the school has been cooperating with the university authorities to avoid unnecessary shutdown of the school since the local chapter was suspended by the national ASUU.
He said that this paid off and both staff and students enjoyed it. “This is the reason many JAMB candidates list the university as first choice, because of the stable academic calendar.” Similarly, the Vice Chancellor of Kwara State University, Prof AbdulRasheed Na’Allah said that the institution would never go on strike despite not getting subvention from the state government.
But he urged ASUU and other stakeholders in the university system to let the interest of students and their parents be paramount as they are the ones bearing the brunt of the strike.
Academic activities at the state-owned Niger Delta University (NDU), Wilberforce Island, Amassoma and the Federal University of Otuoke (FUO) have come to a halt.
At the NDU, the situation of the students is pathetic because they had just resumed after the institution was forced to shut down by flood disaster that swept through the state, only for ASUU industrial action to send the students back home again.
“Our situation is pathetic because we had just resumed school after the flood disaster and now we are going home again. Even though, the strike by ASUU is understandable, but they should consider students at a period like this. There should be an alternative other than complete industrial action,” said Doubra Macmanuel, a 200 level student of Philosophy in the school. Jenkins Edure, a 300-level student of Political Science, told Sunday Sun that though staying at home could be frustrating, the industrial action should be supported to salvage university education in the country.
Toinbra Michael, a 200-level Management student told Sunday Sun that the ASUU industrial action is exposing many of the students that would have been in school concentrating on studies to temptations. She said many of the students have been caught in the web of crime due to the industrial action. Dr Stanley Ogoun in an interview said: “There is full compliance in NDU. What we are doing is in the best interest of the parents and the students. We also have our children in public universities so there is no need to say ASUU should be considerate. NDU is a typical example of what we are talking about. The state government is saying we should fund university education through tuition and we say no. How many of the parents can afford the tuition fee if it is implemented?
“In NDU, we have about 15,000 students, only about 7,000 were able to pay, the rest cannot afford it. So, for this industrial action, the parents should endure. They should not make us do another mistake that we did in 2016 when we called off industrial action because of pleading. They should endure. It is our inability to endure that has led us where we are in this country. Any parent that cannot endure should withdraw his or her children and go and pay in a private university.”
At the Federal University Otuoke (FUO), Sunday Sun observed that the school was deserted because the school was already on break before the commencement of the ASUU industrial action. But the ASUU leader who also doubles as the Dean of Student Affairs, Dr Umoru, said: “There is full compliance. There is complete industrial action. No lecturer is at work. When you say school is on break, academic staffers don’t go on break ordinarily. There won’t be any resumption. I am not just the ASUU chairman, I am also the Dean of Student Affairs. No statutory meeting will hold in FUO. The strike monitoring committee went around yesterday. We are not joking at all, it is about implementation.”
Academic activities at the University of Maiduguri have been paralyzed and the campus deserted. This has severely affected operators of computer centres that provide services to students as their daily earnings have fallen steeply.
“Few students are on campus because of the lecturers’ strike. By now (about midday on the day of the chat), I would have made between N2,000 to N3,000 from photocopying and printing outs from students, but they aren’t coming since there are no lectures. Only new students are coming to photocopy their documents. Business is very bad,” Musa Ibrahim, a computer centre operator, told Sunday Sun.
Mark Donatus, a Part 1 English student explained how he struggled to raise money for his registration, hoping to progress in academic activities only for lecturers to suspend teachings. “I’m not happy at all. I stay with my uncle in town and I have spent all my money without fulfilling the purpose of my coming to UNIMAID,” he lamented.
He said he was yet to complete his registration before the strike started. One of the fallouts of the ASUU strike is the death of 11 undergraduates of UNIMAID who were said to have died in a motor accident on their way to Gombe on Tuesday to wait at home for the strike to be called off.
The commercial bus they boarded from Maiduguri had an accident along Maiduguri-Damaturu road. Ahmed Yakubu, a computer science student told Sunday Sun that seven people were also injured in the accident.
“It would have been avoided and our colleagues would have been alive if there was no strike and academic activities were running,” Ahmed said.
UNIMAID Deputy Director Information, Ahmed Tanko, said that the student hostels were open for students who wished to stay on campus even as the strike continues.
He said that the university authorities allow this so as not to create difficulty for the students, expressing hope that ASUU and the government would resolve the labour dispute soon. ASUU the chairman, UNIMAID chapter, Dr Dani Mamman said that the chapter would continue to abide by the decision of the national leaders of the union after the meeting with the government delegation.
Academic activities are in full swing in the various campuses of Delta State University (DELSU) as the \ leadership of ASUU in the institution did not join the ongoing strike called by the national leadership of the union.
The Prof Abel Diakparome-led ASUU leadership of DELSU told Sunday Sun that lecturers at the university are satisfied with the working environment as provided by the state government and the institution’s governing council.
Secretary of ASUU in the university, Dr Emma Biri said that the union does not have conflict with the state government and the governing council, who are their employers, to warrant a strike.
Academic activities in the three universities in Kano State have been paralyzed in the wake of the ongoing industrial action by ASUU. Checks conducted by Sunday Sun at Bayero University, Kano, and at two state-owned universities, namely, Yusuf Maitama University, Kano and Kano State University of Science and Technology, Wudil, indicated that the lecturers have suspended academic activities in their various campuses while many of the students have vacated the premises of their campuses for home.
At Bayero University, Kano and at Yusuf Maitama University, Kano, on Thursday, the respective leadership of the Academic Union were billed to hold congresses with their members to review the strike so far and agreed on fresh strategies. A few scholars were sighted on these campuses largely to attend these meetings.
Speaking to Sunday Sun at the City Campus of Yusuf Maitama University, Kano, the chairman of the local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr Abdulrazaq Ibrahim, rated the compliance level of the lecturers in the university as 100 percent.
Giving local perspective to their areas of need, he stated that they aligned themselves with all the demands of their national headquarters, adding that they are also appealing to their state government to pay attention to the demands of ASUU in view of the need to quickly and immediately domesticate the outcomes of the engagement.
The Chairman of the ASUU chapter at Taraba State University, Jalingo, Mr Samuel Shiikaa, has blamed government apathy at all levels for the strike, even as students expressed frustration over the continued disruption of the academic calendar.
Commenting on the strike, Shiikaa, said: “Here at Taraba State University, the compliance is 100 percent. None of us wants this strike, but it is inevitable. We are fighting a just cause and so we have to pay the price. Governments at all levels are showing continued apathy to education in the country and it is wrong. We must correct this now.
“At TSU, we also have our issues with the state government with regards to funding of the school. We signed an MOU and MOA with the state government since March and as we speak, nothing has been done over it. The state government has failed to keep its word. Apart from that, the NEC of ASUU has constituted a visiting team to meet with the governor to further discuss the issues. The state government is evading that meeting.
“It is sad, but we just have to do this for the ultimate good. How can you be working at this level and there is no pension plan for you? That is the plight of our lecturers. So long as government decides to keep playing around the issues, we are bound to experience some of these challenges. The academic calendar is bound to suffer. This is the beginning of an academic year and you have students who are coming in as fresh undergraduates. Some of them were barely done with their registration before the strike started. It is most unfortunate.”
Expressing his feeling over the strike, Mr Kwapsoni Kaigama, a final year student, said: “This is very frustrating. So far I have had to contend with so many strike in the course of my journey through this school that it is becoming almost unbearable. Most of the people who are in position to make things work well in the public schools have all their children studying abroad and in prestigious private schools where the ordinary person has no place. And so they are less concerned with what goes on. How do you expect someone to spend five to six years for a programme that should only last for four years? The truth is that we cannot blame the ASUU because their demands are really very good. The government just needs to show some level of seriousness and concern for the plight of students in the public schools.”
Students have deserted the two campuses of the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport) , which is now as quiet as a graveyard. There has been 100 percent compliance, a lecturer told Sunday Sun on the phone. A visit by our reporter confirmed what the lecturer said. Meanwhile, at the Rivers State University (RSU), Nkpolu, Port Harcourt, some students were seen loitering, but there were no lectures. It was gathered that since the strike commenced, academic activities in the school had been paralysed.
Students of Kaduna State University (KASU) could not escape the ASUU strike, which commenced just as they were about to resume from vacation. The ASUU chapter locked up all the classrooms in support of the national body and also to resolve issues with the Kaduna State government.
A 400 level Political Science student, Ahmad lamented: “I have been looking forward to June/July next year to be out of here. But with this development, that is no longer tenable except something miraculous happens.”
Benue State University and Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM) both located in Makurdi, the state capital are like ghost towns as the students have deserted the schools because of the ASUU strike.
Helen Wantu, a 300-Level student of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM), studying Business Administration, who spoke to Sunday Sun expressed frustration over the strike.
She said: “The strike is affecting me badly because it is delaying me from graduating at the appropriate time. I am supposed to graduate by next year, but as it is now, if the strike unnecessarily prolongs, I may not be able to graduate until the other year.
“I am, therefore, appealing to the Federal Government and ASUU to call off the strike as soon as possible.”
For Mark Memga, a 200-Level Biology student of the Benue State University, the strike is making a lot of students to waste away at home when they should be investing in their future.
On the level of compliance, ASUU Chairman of BSU, Dr. David Ikonni, said there was total compliance in his own chapter as academic activities were completely grounded.
“As you can see, lecturers are not going to school and those in school are busy with their research works. The strike is total and comprehensive in BSU. In fact, the university’s management last week released a circular, directing all students to vacate the hostels and return home as a result of the strike. The level of compliance in BSU is 100 percent,” Ikonni said. On his part, Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Prof. Richard Kimbir said that the strike is taking a very hard toll on the institution as it had caused a setback in the school’s calendar for one year.
“If ASUU is on strike, there is no teaching and you may have to close down the school because you can’t take in students when they are not receiving lectures. That can be dangerous. We are supposed to be in 2018/2019 session, but we are still in 2017/2018 session. So, we have lost a lot,” he said.
The first fallout of the ASUU strike was the indefinite postponement of the 5th convocation of the Federal University, Lokoja, which should have started yesterday.
Some graduating students who were in high spirits to attend the epoch-making event with members of their families were disappointed when the school authorities announced that the ceremony could not hold.
Similarly, the strike also affected the mobilization of some of the graduating students to the Batch C National Youths Service Corps orientation programme.