By Dr Lazarus L. Maigoro
Just when Nigerians became hopeful that the 9 months old Academic Staff Union of Universities’
(ASUU’s) strike will be suspended the Minister for Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige threw a spanner in the works by his reckless, fallacious and deceitful to ASUU and his principal, Mr President over assertions of an alleged earlier agreement reached with our union on suspending the strike.
It is very sad and painful to hear an appointee of Government who bear the prefix “Honourable” tell lies about issues of National importance like university Education. It must be categorically stated here that Asuu never signed any agreement to suspend the strike but agreed on timelines for Government to implement certain aspects of the issues in contention.
For instance, one of the issue agreed was that all the 6 to 9 months witheld salaries and check-off dues of Asuu members would be released by 9th December, 2020 but the date has passed and nothing has happened.
The N40 billion earned academic allowances and N30 billion funding for revitalization would be released by 11th December, 2020 etc but as at the time of this write up, none has been fulfilled.
The next thing is a very loquacious Ministor of Labour and Emloyment to come out and tell the public that Asuu agreed to suspend the strike.
This, probably is a figment of his own imagination. His attitude is further causing more delays in resolving the strike thereby subjecting students and parents to further hardship and despire.
By his unguarded comments, he is misrepresenting the Government that appointed him and portraying it bad light before the public rather than creating a good image of his principal.
Dr Chris Ngige was quoted to have said Government had fulfilled its part of the gentleman agreement it entered with ASUU on the 27th November, 2020.
He was also quoted to have claimed that payment of the Public University Lecturers’ salaries being withheld would require presidential clearance due to the “No work no Pay” rule.
While I will raise some pertinent questions later as you read on, it is important for Nigerians to note that salaries of Federal University Lecturers who refused to enrol into IPPIS were stopped in February 2020 before they went on strike in March 2020.
It should however be further noted that IPPIS and salary stoppage were not among the demands of ASUU but was introduced by the lkes of Ngige and others as a distraction.
Starting with a warning strike on the 9th March 2020 which did not move the Government to take any positive action, ASUU declared a total, indefinite, comprehensive and this time around, uncompromising strike on the 23rd March 2020, nearly two months after the Lecturers’ salaries had been stopped.
Suffice it to state that prior to the aforementioned, ASUU had written several letters and addressed press conferences to get the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to fulfil its part of the February 2019 Memorandum of Action (MoA) between ASUU and FGN but to no avail.
Therefore, ASUU was left with no choice but to embark on a warning strike that if the FGN fails to fulfil the promises it made, ASUU would resume the strike it suspended in 2019 as a result of the MoA it reached with FGN through collective bargaining.
Furthermore, between 2009 and now, ASUU had shown goodwill, trusted the FGN and suspended its strikes based on promises that the FGN would fulfil its part of the agreement within set timelines.
These timelines have come and gone from the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, Several MoUs and now the February 2019 MoA but the FGN has consistently failed.
As you read through, I am sure you will bear sincere witness to the fact that since the current strike was declared, the Government of made very little efforts towards resolving the lingering issues until the advent of the EndSARS protests across the Nation.
Since the resumption of negotiations, several fruitless, albeit deliberately deceitful meetings have been held with the Leadership of ASUU.
The latest meeting would have taken place yesterday the 9th December, 2020 but it has been postponed indefinitely by the same FGN that claims it had fulfilled its part of the ‘gentleman agreement’.
Just how gentlemanly could this be? If truly, the FGN had fulfilled its part fully, it should have been bold enough to go ahead with the meeting in order to ask ASUU why it has not suspended the strike.
Moreover, the leadership of the National Assembly (NASS) also waded into the matter during the EndSARS protest where they expressed an urgent desire to resolve the issues genuinely.
In fact, the Speaker of the House of Representatives promised that he would not endorse the 2021 unless the funding requirements that would take care of ASUU’s demand to revitalise the Universities are captured.
Let us hope and pray that the NASS would make good its commitments.
Assuming, you have been following and fully understand ASUU’s demands and the antics of the FGN, please join me to ponder over the following questions:
Would ASUU have embarked on the current strike if the FGN had fulfilled its part of the collective bargain in the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreements, several MoUs and the 2019 MoA?
Given the sequence of events and actions that have characterised the FGN – ASUU face off, should we be talking about “No Pay No Work” or “No work No Pay”?
Because ASUU did not embark on a new strike, it simply resumed a suspended action due to failure of the FGN to keep to agreements.
Are Nigerian Students, parents and other stakeholders sincerely expecting ASUU to suspend the current strike based on the FGN’s promissory notes again?
Or would they rise to the occasion and demand that the FGN does the needful in order for the strike to be suspended?
Should we now be talking about MoUs, MoA with timelines or concrete actions based on the timelines agreed?
For allowing the strike to linger thus far, is the FGN sensitive to the plight of Nigerian Students?
Is the Government not aware of its responsibilities towards ensuring equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria, Chapter II, section 18 (1 – 3)?
Otherwise, the president needs to meet with the Leadership of ASUU once more to resolve the issues because the Minister of Labour and Employment Dr Chris Ngige and company have so far shown lack of capacity to resolve the issues.
Are Nigerians surprised that a man who went to a shrine to swear to an oath, would later out rightly deny is able to sincerely lead fruitful negotiations?
When the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu blamed previous Governments for entering agreements it knew it was not going to fulfil, has he forgotten that the current Government in which he serves has signed at least one MoU and one MoA both of which they have not fulfilled?
Should he also be informed that, the previous Government has released more money towards meeting the demands of ASUU than the current Government?
There are so many germane questions begging for answers but I am sure Nigerians are capable of knowing what to do.
Meanwhile, watch out for the forthcoming graduation ceremonies of foreign Universities and see whose children will be participating while our public University remain closed.
Finally, the cards are in the hands of the FGN.
“Where there is a will there is a way” and someone who has been burnt already is not afraid of fire. I believe that the issues in question would be speedily resolved if the lier called Ngige is called to order Mr President.
“Aluta Continua, Victoria Acerta”!
Dr Lazarus L. Maigoro
Chairman, ASUU University of Jos