By Gabriel Dike
Unless the Federal Government acts fast, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may soon embark on a nation-wide strike to protest the non-implementation of their demands, some from 2009.
Already, the union has started sensitising the public on the contentious issues while appealing to prominent Nigerians to prevail on the Federal Government to do the needful and avert any consequences thereafter.
The Coordinator of ASUU, Lagos zone, Prof Olusoji Sowande, while briefing newsmen in Lagos, urged the government to act fast to forestall the impending consequences that could lead to industrial dispute. Prof Sowande, who was flanked by branch Chairmen of University of Lagos, Dr. Adelaja Odukoya, Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Dr. Deji Agboola, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Dr. Bayo Akinsanya, representatives of Lagos State University (LASU), the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and other union leaders, warned that the only language government respects and listens is strike.
He said the briefing was to sensitise the public and well-meaning Nigerians on the union’s concern about the non-implementation and violations of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement as well as the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on funding of public universities, breaches of the conditions of service and renegotiation of the agreement.
According to him, the union has made concerted efforts at getting government to address these demands without satisfactory outcomes, warning the issues are threatening the well-being and industrial peace in the public universities at this critical period.
Sowande recalled that in an effort to cause the government to implement the 2009 agreement, the union embarked on strikes in 2012 and 2013, noting that till date, several aspects of the agreement and MoU were yet to be implemented which include Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company, non-release of NEED assessment intervention fund, funding of public universities, earned academic allowance and renegotiation of the agreement.
The Lagos zone coordinator explained that the 2009 agreement provides for periodic review after every three years, adding, “the review of the agreement should have been undertaken in 2012 and 2015. The implication is that our union has shown enough patriotism and understanding on this matter in the last four years.’’
He said: ‘’We are perplexed and disappointed that the federal and state governments are not responding to our consistent appeals for reason to bring about genuine transformation, driven by highly motivated human capital in the education sector.
“Embarking on strike has never been the favoured choice, given that our members feel and suffer the most during and after every strike. It is unfortunate that the only language government appears to respect and listens to is that of strike.
“In order to forestall this avoidable crisis, we appeal to all genuinely progressive individuals and groups to prevail on the Nigerian government to arrest a brewing and potentially combustible situation in the Nigerian university system before it degenerate into a serious conflagration. This is an ill-wind that portends negative effects for all,’’ he said.
On whether ASUU has expressed its concern to the government, Prof Sowande said national officers met with the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu on May 10 and tabled a 10-point demand. The minister, he noted, promised that the issues would be resolved within two weeks.