By: IHEANACHO COLLINS
The Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU has been locked in a protracted battle with the Federal Government over the need to revamp the decay of higher education in Nigeria, caused by successive governments that paid no attention to the education sector. In May 2008, a warning strike to press a range of demands, including an improved salary scheme was staged while the foundation of the current controversy was also laid.
In June 2009, ASUU embarked on a nationwide strike over a disagreement with the Federal Government on an agreement it reached with the union about two years earlier. After three months of strike, in October, 2009, ASUU signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government and called off the strike.
Meanwhile, the 2009 agreement was a product of negotiation with successive administrations beginning from IBB’s in 1992 through Abdulsalami’s regime in 1999 and Obasanjo’s in 1999/2001, until it was signed in 2009 under the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration.
In January 2012, there was another agreement between the Federal Government and ASUU, that a N100 billion would be injected into university system to upgrade facilities. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed to this effect and by April of that year, a sum of money was supposed to have been paid.
There was an agreement that in 2013, N400 billion would be paid, N400 billion in 2014 and another N400 billion in 2015, to make up the N1.3 trillion to upgrade facilities in the nation’s universities.
The question asked by ASUU which the Federal Government is yet to answer now is that, if N100 billion that was supposed to have been released by 2012 is released in 2013, what happens in 2014 and 2015? To this end, they dug deeper into the trenches and insisted that government must transparently comply substantially with their agreement. In obvious frustration and anger, the federal government gave the lecturers a two-time ultimatum. First was that they must all resume on December 4. The date was further moved to December 9 in a supposed move to give the lecturers time to bury Professor Festus Iyayi, former ASUU president, who was killed while on a trip to a NEC meeting of ASUU about 10 weeks ago.. Alas! The lecturer. still called the bluff of the federal government…or so it seemed as they announced that they were yet to resume.
To most Nigerians’ surprise, the Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr, Doyin Okupe while providing evidence that the Federal Government has opened an account for public universities at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. Into which a disbursement of N200 billion to the universities within two weeks had been effected in line with the demands made by ASUU before they would call off the five months old strike was quoted as saying, ”Right now, the issue of ultimatum is not a matter for discussion anymore. There has been substantial compliance nationwide. If I say you must return to work on the 9th and 70% of the people that I am talking to have returned to work, that is substantial compliance.”
Hapless Nigerian students are however in a quandary as their schools remain closed and the official ASUU body language is “We no gree” daring the government to sack them rather than resume academic work.
- Is Dr, Doyin Okupe saying the truth about ‘Substantial compliance by the lecturers for them to resume?
- How many universities have truly resumed lectures?
- Has ASUU and FG treated Nigerian students fairly?