The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has been on its latest strike since March 23, 2020. Prolonged strikes have been part of the unenviable traditions of the Union. They date back to the 1970s, and this has contributed in no little way in devaluing tertiary education in Nigeria, part of the very objectives that the frequent strikes are out to promote.
These strikes have frustrated the academic pursuits of Nigerian students, especially the children and wards of the middle and lower economic classes seeking education and knowledge as a means of escaping poverty and destitution. Students lose many years of their youthful lives staying idle at home. Many are forced to abandon education altogether.
Unfortunately, the children of the ruling classes and political officeholders who have misgoverned Nigeria since independence are largely unaffected by these Demoralising strikes because they have access to our public treasury and can educate their children in the best universities outside Nigeria. These ASUU strikes unwittingly wreak collateral damage on the masses.
There is no doubt that ASUU has very cogent reasons to withdraw their services. We have been saddled with irresponsible leadership and governments down the ages to date; people who have neither the capacity, will nor passion to give Nigerians good governance which would positively impact all sectors including education and health.
These people are only interested in lining their pockets with public funds rather than solving the knotty problems that the government is meant to solve. They neglect our schools and fail to honor agreements signed with the ASUU and other unions within the educational system aimed at improving the conditions of learning in our universities. These are the main drivers of these ASUU strikes.
We have always stood on the side of ASUU’s efforts to get governments to respect signed Memorandums of Understanding, MOUs, towards uplifting our universities. However, on the issue of integrating the Union into the Federal Government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, which ASUU’s rejection led to this strike, we fail to fault the Federal Government.
ASUU members, being a staff of the Federal Government, should be part of this successful payroll system which is capable of curbing corruption (especially the menace of ghost workers) at the source. Most sectors have already been captured into this system but the ASUU leadership insists on its home-grown University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS.
We commend the Federal Government for opting to test the workability of the UTAS and releasing N30bn Earned Allowance for payment to ASUU members. These may not be enough, but at least the government is showing some eagerness to meet ASUU halfway and get our universities reopened.
ASUU should shift ground, resume work, and continue the negotiations. Our children have suffered enough! ASUU should remain pro-people.