Predictably, last minute maneuvers have kept off the labour strike planned to have started last night. It would have been unusual for a government seeking re-election not to find a way of dodging a serious vote of No Confidence that a nationwide labour strike at this point would amount to. Fixing the meeting to late evening yesterday points to a last minute move to burst the strike diplomatically. But the last has not been heard yet.
In the absence of a more massive labour strike action, the 2-day old strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) is the big conflict story of the day. So far, reports from across Nigeria suggest that the industrial action the commenced last Sunday is very much on. Only the University of Ilorin is reported not to be observing the strike.
This strike is to force the government to reverse the progressive decline in the percentage of budgetary allocation to education as well as pre-empt introduction of tuition fees in federal universities. Reactions have been mixed. While government attitude to the state of education is an issue of concern to people generally, the frequency of ASUU strikes is another to some others.
In fact, an imaginative social media buff has gone into compiling the series of strike actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) since 1999. That means the compilation can be called strike actions during Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. Published in technext.ng, (05/11/18) under the title “ASUU Strike: 5 Digital Skills Students Could Learn During This Latest Industrial Action”, it goes as follows:
1999 – 5 months
2001 – 3 months
2002 – 2 wks
2003 – 6 months (ended 2004)
2005 – 3 days
2006 – 1 wk
2007 – 3 months
2008 – 2 (1 week) each
2009 – 3 months
2010 – 5 months, 1wk
2011 – 3 months (ended 2012)
2013 – 5 months, 15 day
2017 – 1 month, 6 days
Compiled by: Son of David@JeSuisNaija
Equally inviting is a dissident view circulating in the social media. Titled “7 Reasons Why Dean of Faculty of Law in Ambrose Alli University Refused to Join the Strike” it raises the question why an academic of the status of a Dean might feel so strongly about the strike as to issue a position against it? Perhaps nothing more than diversity within ASUU! So much that ASUU has within its ranks those who would be advocating tuition fees. The Dean’s position is worth a read. It runs as follows, almost unedited:
*“The strike is to protest the poor funding of Nigerian universities and alleged plan by the federal government to increase student’s fees and introduce an education bank.” There are a few reasons why I will not support the strike.
*Firstly, there is no sector in Nigeria with adequate funding. I am sorry to say that even in a corrupt place some people feel they don’t have enough to loot. In the area of funding, note that all institutions in Nigeria deserve better funding.
*However, with negotiations, the Federal Government of Nigeria is fully involved in developing all higher institutions in Nigeria including those owned by the States.
*For example, in a state university headed by one digital vice-chancellor, the federal government presence includes
*(a) Twin Lecture Halls Building (b) about 1000-Seat capacity NLT (c) ICT Centre Building (d) ENT Building (e) Library Building Rehabilitated (f) Faculty of Law Rehabilitated (g) Engineering Faculty Building (h) Faculty of Arts Building (i) Faculty of Life Sciences (j) Faculty of Social Sciences (k) Faculty of Physical Sciences (l) Faculty of Management Building about to start (m) Faculty of Education Building about to start (n) 1000-seat capacity University Main Auditorium (o) Law faculty Auditorium (p) Overseas scholarship for lecturers from which my friends have benefited and (q) many more I have lost count.
*And this is a state university, not federal. The Federal Government is trying although things always remain to be done even in rich countries. Note that the above things are being done by the FGN in state universities and state colleges of education and Polytechnics.
*Secondly, as for schools fees, I share the view that all Nigerian students deserve free education up to Ph.D. level. In federal universities where it is alleged that they want to increase school fees, depending on the university, students pay between N30,000 and N60,000 per annum.
*Why should I go on strike for such students when fresh students in Osun State University pay N253,000 and we are not going on strike for them.
*Many state Universities students pay between N100,000 and N200,000.Nobody is going on strike for them but we want to embark on strike for students in federal universities who pay lesser school fees that even if fees are increased they may never be up to N100,000.
*Thirdly, Education Bank was created by a law of the National Assembly titled The Education Bank Act, Cap 422 Laws of the Federation 1990. The long title states that it is an Act to establish the Nigerian Education Bank to approve and disburse loans for educational purposes and for matters incidental to it. If there is such a bank and it is not working well, we rather find ways to make it better and not to kill it.
*Fourthly, since we claim to be fighting to protect the interest of students, there should be a vote or referendum on the strike by the students so that the strike supposedly meant to protect their interest can only go ahead if those affected approve it. Students did not send ASUU to go on strike for them.
*Students know how to fight for their rights. ASUU, please count students out of your strike. Look for better reasons to go on strike.
*Fifth, strike, no matter how strong, can never end plans to increase school fees or establish education bank meant for the interest of students.
*There are plans even in the richest countries to increase school fees.
*They may or may not be concrete plans. There are plans to always increase salaries in the same way there are plans to increase school fees not only in federal universities but also in state and private universities and other schools at all levels. Should this deserve a strike that will further destabilize the already destabilized academic calendar? I think it doesn’t deserve strike. But it deserves negotiations without strike.
*Sixth, there are many professors or scholars and experts in arbitration and conflict including labour disputes resolution with extensive skills in negotiation. They can bring their experience and expertise to light with such level of management that there may be no strike to get what you want. Please reason this again and ask yourself whether this strike is worth it.
*Seventh, where negotiations fail, use propaganda to ruin the government. A strong propaganda machine can make even a strong government to collapse. Use your brains in a superior way. You will be surprised more and better things will be achieved by that. Prove to the nation the brains you have.
*I WILL NOT GO ON STRIKE”